Monday 10 September 2007

Improving “Knowledge Flow” within an organisation

By “Knowledge Flow” – I am referring to the speed and efficiency by which communications are delivered to the employees in an organisation.

Often, information is fed along a human chain of Executives, Senior Management, Local Management and eventually to team members. This is often determined by the scheduling of respective monthly team meetings or circulation of bi-monthly/quarterly internal magazines.

An example:
  • A new scheme for employees is going to be launched (educational/promotional) etc. It is discussed by and agreed upon by the executive team.
  • Each executive circulates this news to their senior managers at their monthly update.
  • Each senior manager then relays the news to their local team managers at their monthly update.
  • Each team manager “announces” the new scheme to their team.

Notice the emphasis on new. Depending on the circumstances, be it availability of individuals or indeed the occurrence of any of these meetings – the news could take up to a month to reach the people who it really affects. Laurence Prusak describes it as follows:

Knowledge flows along existing pathways in organizations. If we want to understand how to improve the flow of knowledge, we need to understand those pathways.

I like the idea of internal blogging to deliver non-confidential information to employees. To make it even easier, the name for your blog can be “The [YOUR DEPARTMENT NAME HERE] Blog”.

Once people get over the “new-toy” aspect of reading a blog, they will see how easy it is to get the latest news, find relevant past posts (using categories and archiving) and how simple they are to use.

The problem I see with monthly or quarterly internal magazines is that they end up in the trash, and you would be hard pressed to find that much of what it contained was remembered. In contrast, if I remember that there was a post about Career Opportunities or Training Courses recently on the blog, I can easily search for it and find what I want!

For the executives, it can ensure quick responses to queries and items to be addressed. It also provides an opportunity to link to relevant intranet pages where the full article or policy relating to the topic can be found. It acts as an information repository for all of the communications within the organisation, division, or department. This is in contrast to an email pointing to a policy document which is “buried” deep behind the intranet homepage:

Home->Division->Department->Team->Documents->Polices->Comms Policy

If we want to improve knowledge flow, then we have to ease the information load on our executives and managers (the serial forwarders) to ensure that information is communicated to employees in real time. That way we will have an environment where employees are always receiving information which is relevant and up-to-date.

As part of my dissertation I am going to examine knowledge flows and how they can be improved.


Patrick said...

Interesting post Colin. I'm not sure that blogs are the answer to all knowledge flow needs. Different knowledge types move at different speeds - for example some policies may be stable for many years, even decades, so they would be just as buried in a blog environment. I find blogs are most useful for current awareness and compiling personalised records, I don;t think they do away with the need to have structured repositories of slower moving reference materials related to specific functions or tasks.

Colin Mooney said...

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for your comment. I agree with what you are saying here.

I probably haven't made it clear in the post that the content of the blog posts I was thinking of would be related to "current awareness" only. I would never replace a structured repository (intranet pages) for important policy information.

The blog posts would alert employees to news items (project updates, education schemes, etc) providing a "link to relevant intranet pages where the full article or policy relating to the topic can be found".

It is important to differentiate between the types of announcement or news items that would suit blog posts within an organisation.

For example - An announcement related to the new information security policy would still be best delivered via email as it would be quite detailed and confidential,But updates on enterprise wide projects with a link to the project homepage would suit a blog post?

To succeed as an alternative communication medium within an organisation, I think a blog like the one suggested would have to be fresh, related to employee interests, and deliver up-to-date info.

Patrick said...

OK, got it... then good stuff!