Tonight I attended a Boston KM Forum presentation by Dan Bogaty from Partners Healthcare.
Dan emphasized a three-part formula for KM at Partners:
knowledge + technology + process
Partners is a complex organization, with 1500 people in IS alone, but Dan’s formula looks the same in many of the organizations with whom I work, no matter their size:
Bogaty went on to refine the KM process at Partners as follows:
His presentation underscored the relationship between knowledge management and patient care. This got me thinking about how such a relationship could be said to exist at any business. They may not all involve life-or-death concerns the way doctor-patient transactions do, but knowledge management is a critical component to what any business can deliver.
Most businesses have do-ers and technology systems to support them. The processes that link the two are where it gets interesting. Bogaty’s presentation made me realize that KM processes can influence:
• the speed of response to change (Bogaty gave the example of Merck pulling Vioxx in 2004 – how quickly can an organization comprising eleven hospitals respond to a shift like that?)
• the rate of innovation
• the setting (and amending) of best practices and standards
• the level of service provided to the customers
• the degree of compliance with internal and external rules and regulations
All of which influence an organization’s competitive edge and company culture. Which means that knowledge sharing processes and practices can directly influence (and here I’m paraphrasing the core principles from Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth” series) a business’s ability to:
• Attract customers
• Attract employees
• Deliver uniformly predictable service
• Act distinctively differently from other businesses.
• Be so predictably responsive to customer’s needs that the customers return.
I think my clients would see a clearer path to implementing a knowledge management system if they asked themselves these questions: Do our organization’s knowledge management processes and practices align with the way our organization envisions itself? Do our employees adopt standards and deliver the product to the customer in a consistent, predictable way? Is knowledge and methodology shared across the organization? Can the organization absorb changes and react quickly? What restrictions are placed on content creation and visibility – and are these restrictions seen as appropriate governance, or as frustrating roadblocks?
An audience member asked: how can the customer’s feedback be brought in to these processes and systems? This was not germane to Bogaty's presentation, but it was a good point – knowledge management doesn’t have to be a closed internal system. The questions here could be: Do our customers have a means to submit feedback? Do they receive follow-up surveys? If they do, does our organization review the data and use that information in a purposeful way?
Finally, I was left with this question for myself: how can I help my clients see that knowledge management is not just a cost center or low-priority administrative function, but a critical input to the business?