Managing Knowledge: A guide to good practice

This web-tool contains guidance in numerous forms to aid public sector organizations in both evaluating and improving practices related to the strategic management of knowledge. It is flexible so that organizations can use the practices, tools and ideas that work for their particular context.

The central feature of the good practice guide is a self-assessment tool that includes two key components, the Self-assessment Guide (left side of the brain) and the interactive self-assessment instrument (right side of the brain).

The other features of this web-tool provide further details and explanations to support the self-assessment process.

In the What & Why section, we have included key concepts regarding knowledge and its management as well as why it is critical to the success of public sector organizations.

The Case Studies and the Good Ideas demonstrate how the concepts identified in the self-assessment guide can be applied in practice.

The Tool Kits include practice guides on numerous topics, definitions and a comprehensive list of additional sources.

Public Sector Governance - A Guide to the Principles of Good Practice

Why the Emphasis on Governance?

Governance deals with the structures and processes by which an organization is directed, controlled and held to account. Proper governance provides the means to help an organization achieve its goals and objectives.

The achievement of good governance is important for every public sector organization, including ministries, Crown agencies, health authorities and school boards, among others. Many of government's programs and services also cut across organizational or jurisdictional boundaries and if they are to be delivered in a seamless way then good governance needs to be in place.

The principles and ideas discussed here apply to cross-government initiatives as much as to individual public sector organizations. You may also wish to read our brochure for an overview of public sector governance principles.

"Government agrees that good governance is essential to the success of organizations, regardless of whether they are in the public, private or not-for-profit sectors."
Government of BC response to the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia report, "Public Sector Governance: A Guide to the Principles of Good Practice" (p. 39)

Where Should We Start?

Good governance is underpinned by five core principles. An organization that uses good governance is one that always, in word and action, demonstrates: accountability; leadership; integrity; stewardship; and transparency (the A.L.I.S.T.).

ALIST

How Can These Principles Be Put Into Practice?

"Regardless of organizational type, corporate governance regimes are unlikely to be effective where there is a lack of clarity about the participants involved, their relationships with each other and their respective responsibilities."

Board Resourcing and Development Office of British Columbia,
Best Practice Guidelines, (February 2005, p. 3)

The elements that constitute good public sector governance, and upon which practices can be modelled, can be demonstrated as the components of a house, Click on sections of the house to find out more.

Governance Outcomes

Source: Australian National Audit Office, "Public Sector Governance", 2003.

1) Leadership, ethics and a culture committed to good public sector governance

The implementation, evaluation and improvement of a public sector organization's governance structures and processes are the responsibility of leaders, and without such commitments, there would be no foundation to build on.

2) Stakeholder relationships (internal and external)

Understanding the various roles, accountabilities and needs of each stakeholder group contributes to strong relationships, and supports the success of the three central components, or "windows", of the "House of Governance".

3) Risk management

This provides a public sector organization with the means to understand and address risks in order to better achieve its objectives.

4) Internal compliance and accountability

An efficient and well-governed public sector organization will ensure that internal controls and accountabilities are clearly defined and consistent with the organization's objectives.

5) Planning and performance monitoring

Governing bodies that review and foster better planning and performance monitoring will be more effective and relevant.

6) External compliance and accountability

External scrutiny is an integral part of work in the public service and meeting these accountabilities is one of the measures of success for public sector organizations.

7) Information and decision support

Information management is critical for a public sector organization to meet its objectives and accountabilities, namely by ensuring that the right information gets to the appropriate people in a timely manner.

8) Review and evaluation of governance arrangements

Ongoing review, evaluation and adjustments of governance arrangements are a key process and this includes the governing body checking its own structures, processes and overall performance.

How Should We Gauge our Progress and Successes?

Good governance requires more than just a checklist approach and it is important that the following not be seen as an end in itself. The items listed below are a starting point for gauging the state of structures and processes that aid public sector organizations in achieving good governance and, in turn, obtaining stakeholder confidence.

Select one of the following areas to find out more:

Leadership, Ethics and a Culture Committed to Good Public Sector Governance

  • Leaders have clearly defined mandates and responsibilities as well as the skills, knowledge and available resources to lead effectively.
  • A formal code of conduct is adopted by the organization.
  • Appropriate structures and processes are in place to ensure the organization is free of influence by prejudice, bias or conflicts of interest.
  • Members of the governing body exercise leadership by conducting themselves in accordance with high standards of behavior, as a role model for others in the organization.
  • Good governance flows from a shared ethos or culture, with this being expressed as values and demonstrated in behaviour.

Stakeholder Relationships (Internal and External)

  • An active and planned approach is taken to defining and understanding stakeholder relationships so they can be developed and strengthened.
  • Appropriate structures and processes are in place to measure and review the quality and effectiveness of service or product delivery to stakeholders (both internal and external).
  • Clear channels of communication are established with stakeholders regarding the organization's mission, roles, objectives and performance.
  • Effective communication is established with stakeholders, including procedures for both internal and external enquiries and complaints.
  • Information in general is shared among key players, politicians, public servants and other stakeholders subject to respecting the confidentiality of personal information and commercial confidences.
  • Communication to stakeholders is balanced, understandable, transparent and timely.
  • Accountability to stakeholders is promoted by publicizing the identity of the members of the governing body, together with information about how and why they came to be appointed.
  • Clear management processes are established and documented.

Risk Management

  • The system is based on a clear understanding of the organization's objectives.
  • Key strategic, operational and financial risks associated with the organization's objectives are identified and assessed, appropriate responses (e.g., implementing internal controls) are determined, and assurance is provided that the chosen responses are effective.
  • Risks are monitored and the responses are evaluated.
  • The effectiveness of the risk management system is reported publicly, referring explicitly to the governing body that holds responsibility for the system.
  • The risk management system considers the full range of the organization's activities and responsibilities, and continuously checks that various good management disciplines are in place.

Internal Compliance and Accountability

  • Staff's roles, responsibilities and accountabilities and how those relate to the rest of the organization are clearly defined.
  • A strong internal control environment with processes and measures that are aligned with the external accountability framework is created.
  • Actions already completed are reported and discussed, and stakeholder input is sought to help plan and carry out new activities.
  • Staff are held accountable to the governing body, but the governing body's responsibilities to staff are also acknowledged.
  • Clear policy is implemented on when and how the governing body will consult and involve staff and their representatives in decision-making.

Planning and Performance Monitoring

  • A clear statement of the organization's purpose is in place, which is used as a basis for planning.
  • Appropriate structures and processes are in place to monitor financial and non-financial performance against the organization's plan.
  • Financial and non-financial performance measures are reported.
  • Suitable and practical performance measures are used as management and accountability tools.
  • The quality of service for users is measured and such information is made available as necessary to review service quality effectively and regularly.

External Compliance and Accountability

  • A clear understanding exists of external stakeholder institutions and the organization's responsibilities and means of accounting to them.
  • Strong and robust organizational structures and processes are in place to comply with and meet external accountabilities.
  • An annual report (including financial statements) is published on a timely basis that presents an objective, balanced and understandable account along with an assessment of the organization's activities, achievements, financial position and performance prospects.
  • A statement is published on whether or not standards or codes of governance have been adopted. This statement should identify the standards or codes adopted, whether compliance has been achieved with them and, if not, in what respect there has not been compliance and why.
  • The interest and confidence of the public and service users are encouraged and maintained through relationship and dialogue building.
  • The organization as a whole seeks and welcomes feedback, and responds quickly and responsibly to comments.
  • The organization has a clear policy on the types of issues on which it will consult or engage the public and service users and clearly explains how it will use the input received in decision-making and how it will report back on these decisions.
  • Relationships with the leaders of other organizations are formed and maintained as a foundation for effective working relationships at operational and strategic levels.

Information and Decision Support

  • Governing bodies concern themselves with levels of detail that are most appropriate for their role, while ensuring they still provide effective oversight and scrutiny.
  • Information and decision support structures reflect both external and internal accountabilities as well as major organizational decisions.
  • The organization develops strong and robust record-keeping and file management systems.
  • Clear objectives are stated for decisions.
  • Information is tailored to the functions of the governing body.
  • Information is directly relevant to the decisions the governing body has to make; is timely and objective; and gives clear explanations of technical issues and their implications.
  • Professional advice on legal and financial matters is taken and used appropriately in decision-making and elsewhere throughout the organization.
  • The organization's resources are used to provide the information and advice that is needed for good governance.

Review and Evaluation of Governance Arrangements

  • Reviews and evaluations are carried out on an ongoing basis, and led internally. As well, external reviews should be completed at intervals to give the organization the benefit of outside objectivity and expertise.
  • Controls are reviewed as part of a continuous improvement process.
  • Risks are monitored and evaluated constantly and programs and procedures are established to address these risks.

Is There More to Good Governance?

"In some ways compiling a best practices model for public sector governance is the easy part. The next stage, incorporating the principles in this model, will be much more challenging for some. While the principles involved in our good practices model may appear to be obvious and common sense, considerable effort and commitment will still be required by many organizations to embed these principles in the way they conduct their business and deliver services to citizens."

- John Doyle, Auditor General of British Columbia

Further Information

To download the full report for Public Sector Governance: A Guide to the Principles of Good Practice, please click here - (PDF 1.1MB)

Contact Information

Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia
8 Bastion Square
Victoria, British Columbia
V8V 1X4
250 387-6803

Comments from the Auditor General and Chief Information Officer of B.C.

Comments from the Auditor General

Knowledge is a critical asset to public sector organizations, and successfully managing this asset is essential if governments are to achieve their goals and objectives. Private and public sector organizations have recognized that facilitating the generation, sharing and use of knowledge across organizational boundaries is critical to meeting the challenges of the future. Connecting the right people with the right knowledge at the right time can, among other things, enhance decision making, ensure better-informed policy and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operations through innovation.

My Office undertook this project because we recognize the critical importance of knowledge in the success of the B.C. public sector. We also recognize that there are both risks and opportunities related to knowledge that need to be managed. An aging population means that many public servants will retire as demands on services increase; new technologies amplify the amount and speed at which information is provided; and the business environment is increasingly complex and global. To meet these challenges, organizations need to be resilient and flexible and public sector managers need to optimize the knowledge that exists both within and outside of their organizations.

We chose to produce a guide to good practices and a self-assessment tool to:

  • increase awareness in B.C.’s public sector of the importance of thinking of knowledge as a strategic asset; and
  • assist organizations in gauging their current level of capability in managing knowledge, and to take steps to achieve excellence in this area.
     

I would like to acknowledge the many public sector managers and employees who contributed to this work, especially the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the BC Forest Service. The project team encountered many enthusiastic B.C. public sector leaders — from all levels — who provided us with valuable input and "good ideas" which can be seen throughout the website. This guide provides a mechanism to share these good ideas and success stories to influence improvement in areas where knowledge may not be effectively managed.

To support effective and accountable government, my Office will have a continued interest in the management of knowledge. We expect to use this resource to help us evaluate the knowledge management capability of organizations.

In keeping with the nature of good knowledge-related practices, this project is completely web-based — a new reporting format for this Office. Given that managing knowledge is a continuous process, publishing this report solely on the web enables us to adapt the content continuously. I hope you enjoy the interactivity of the report and make full use of the self-assessment guide to lead your office’s management of knowledge.

John Doyle, MBA, CA
 

Comments from B.C.'s Chief Information Officer

I would like to thank the Office of the Auditor General for developing the guide to good practices. Knowledge is a strategic asset and the effective management of knowledge is an important consideration for organizations as they work to meet the future challenges of our changing workforce and working environment.

As British Columbia’s chief information officer, I am responsible for promoting and guiding the effective management of government’s information resources. The generation, sharing, and use of knowledge supports the strategic management of information, therefore, I encourage organizations to review the guide and use the self assessment tool to identify opportunities to improve knowledge management.

Government has a number of initiatives underway with regard to improving the way we manage knowledge as identified in the good practice guide. As a proponent of innovation and change, I support these efforts and encourage ministries and other government organizations to continue to introduce and expand these types of initiatives. In doing so, we can advance our organizational transformation goals and meet the challenges that lay ahead.
 

Dave Nikolejsin

What is knowledge and why is it critical to the B.C. public sector?

This section is a good starting point for users who are not familiar with the concept of knowledge and its management. It will:

What do we mean by knowledge?

Knowledge is distinct from data and information. People absorb both data and information to develop knowledge. They also transform data into information using knowledge.

Here’s an example of the data-information-knowledge connection:
A policy analyst is asked to determine whether a policy change regarding the marketing of B.C. wines has had a positive effect on the industry. She starts by reviewing a table of numbers on the sale of B.C. wine in the province over the last three years. The table contains data.

The analyst reads these numbers, and creates a trend line that shows that B.C. wine sales have steadily increased over the three year period but most notably after the policy was implemented. The data has been transformed to information.

To come up with possible explanations for the increase in sales, the analyst considers additional information, speaks with known wine producers and distributers, and consults with an expert she met at a conference. After examining all this information and using her own knowledge and judgment, she concludes that the efforts to market local wine expanded significantly because of the policy change and this in turn has positively influenced sales.

In this scenario, the policy analyst used both existing knowledge and generated new knowledge. She applied her “know-how” to reach an understanding of a particular issue. By turning data into information, using her existing knowledge to tap into stakeholders and other information sources, considering the industry knowledge obtained from those sources, and reflecting on all of this, she came to her conclusion. In effect, she generated new knowledge (Davenport and Prusak 1998).
 

Categories of knowledge

Knowledge assets (e.g. the knowledge of a specialist or a research document) can be internal or external to the organization.

Knowledge takes different forms on a spectrum between explicit and tacit. This categorization is useful because to effectively manage the range of these diverse knowledge assets, different tools and approaches are required.

Explicit knowledge

This is concrete knowledge – that is, knowledge that can be easily codified, organized and stored. For example, an evaluation of the Federal government’s employment programs stored on an intranet site is an explicit knowledge asset. A policy or procedure manual is also an explicit knowledge asset.

Tacit knowledge and 'know-how'

Tacit knowledge is more difficult to codify, organize and store than explicit knowledge. Related to tacit knowledge is the idea of “know-how”. This refers to knowledge of the processes and tools required to accomplish something well. Know-how can mean having (Collison and Parcell 2004, pp. 34–35):

  • know-who about networks and relationships in and out of government;
  • know-what about content and specialist knowledge;
  • know-why about big-picture context, strategy and systems thinking;
  • know-where about researching and sleuthing skills; and 
  • know-when about timing of when to take action and when not to, such as deciding to set a project aside.

Why think of knowledge as a strategic asset?

A focus on knowledge as a strategic asset is important because improving the management of this asset can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector organizations and help these organizations meet the challenges of the future.

Many experts argue that an organization’s ability to perform well in the information age depends on its ability to use knowledge effectively. In the private sector, knowledge has become a critical source of comparative advantage as companies increasingly draw on factors such as employee knowledge and innovative capacity to remain competitive (Stewart 2001, p. 5; Usoff 2002, p. 9; Pertson 2009, p. 2).

For public sector organizations, improving the generation, sharing and use of knowledge leads to many real benefits, such as:

  • Enhanced strategic decision-making
  • Better-informed policy
  • More cost-effective services
  • Engagement of citizens and stakeholders in new and better ways
  • Innovation
  • Reduced redundancy for routine tasks
  • Better knowledge flow across organizational boundaries
  • Enhanced transfer and protection of corporate memory
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Better quality of information and services provided to citizens

 

But it is not just about benefits. Successfully managing knowledge is essential for government to achieve its goals and objectives. Senior managers we interviewed suggested that managing knowledge is, in fact, a core business of government and important for supporting public sector values. In this way, knowledge is a strategic asset.

The public service should be a trusted source of information. Government plays a vital role in informing the public on a wide range of topics. Child safety, flu prevention, nutrition, wildfire risks and floodingare just some of the areas where information and knowledge must be shared to protect the public.

Given the provincial government’s shifting role toward decision-making and policy and away from direct delivery of services, generating, sharing and safeguarding knowledge is fundamental. Oversight, coordination and decision-making require knowledge of – among other things – how services are delivered, what impacts or trends place these services at risk and how well citizens are being served.

For example, consider the area of highway engineering and maintenance. It is the know-how of highway engineers, maintenance managers and others that is essential to ensuring roads and bridges are well designed, can meet future demands and are adequately maintained to support public safety. Simply hiring more people to do the work, or bringing in extra equipment will not automatically lead to safer highways. Ensuring that highly qualified and knowledgeable employees are in place to develop policy and oversee contracts is important. But ensuring that there are effective ways to generate new knowledge, share existing knowledge and apply that knowledge to meet business objectives and improve practices is critical.

The challenges of managing knowledge

While the importance of knowledge assets increases, knowledge remains difficult to manage effectively. In KPMG’s European Knowledge Management Survey, for example, 78% of respondents reported feeling that they were “currently missing out on business opportunities by failing to successfully exploit available knowledge” (KPMG 2002/2003, p. 4).

It is likely that management of this resource will become even more challenging in the future. The world is becoming more connected and complex. Change is rapid, and organizations are seeing losses of experienced staff at a time of higher demands on agency services. Along with all of that, the rapid expansion of information and communication technologies means that managers and staff are having to cope with ever greater amounts of data and information.

Making sense of these complexities, adapting to change, effectively capturing and sharing relevant knowledge, and developing knowledge-savvy employees all require deliberate effort (Bontis 2000; DeLong 2004; Handzic et al. 2008).

What is the strategic management of knowledge?

Traditional management practices are often focused on tangible assets such as inventory and equipment. Managing an intangible asset such as knowledge requires a different approach: a specific set of practices and tools aimed at harnessing and maximizing the use and mobilization of knowledge.

Knowledge management has been described as strategic work to enable organizational learning (McElroy) or to create common context (Snowden). Under that umbrella, there can be many knowledge-related activities. Organizational learning, intellectual capital and human capital management are terms often associated with the management of knowledge.

While information and data management as well as library sciences are also considered complementary to the work of managing knowledge, they shouldn’t be considered knowledge management. The strategic management of knowledge is broader and includes human and social connections and contexts.

Our definition of the strategic management of knowledge

For the purpose of this guide, we have defined the strategic management of knowledge as a systematic approach to maximizing the generation, sharing, and use of knowledge to support organizational learning, resilience and, ultimately, performance.

Such work includes strategies, tools and processes that can be employed to ensure that people are connected, that learning occurs at a team and organizational level, and that appropriate supports – including access to expertise and technology – are in place to enhance decision-making, achieve operational efficiency and effectiveness, and promote innovation.  

Self-assessment guide

Overview

The self-assessment guide contains two elements: the knowledge management capability model and the maturity matrix.

The knowledge management capability model provides an overall framework for assessment, including good practice statements and some general questions to help organization’s identify potential areas for improvement.

The maturity matrix, whose elements and good practice statements mirror the capability model, provides a means for organizations to gauge their level of maturity in managing knowledge.

We recommend that this guide be reviewed prior to taking the interactive self-assessment.

The self-assessment guide is based on several similar tools designed by successful public and private sector organizations and has been developed with feedback from across the BC public sector. However, no single method can be applied in all contexts. Because the nature of work varies from organization to organization, certain elements may be more important for some agencies than others. Customization of the self-assessment tool is also appropriate.

For example, if a work group does repeatable, predictable work that lends itself to standard operating procedures, emphasis on documentation, storage and retrieval of information is important. If work in another unit is complex and relatively unpredictable, involving many interactions and systems, peer-to-peer and community approaches will be effective. And in another unit, a specific program may not have control over all elements within the matrix, so it will be important for the unit to focus on the elements that fall within its span of control.

Thus, each organization will have its own distinctive path that unfolds as success is experienced and supported, counter-productive activity is discouraged, and learning occurs as a result of setbacks and failures.  

Steps in conducting the self-assessment

This self-assessment process has three elements to help organizations assess their level of capability in managing knowledge. The following are the recommended steps for the self-assessment.

Step 1: The knowledge management capability model provides an overall framework for assessment. This is a good place to start. By reading through the descriptions and questions in each capability area, organizations can begin to identify strengths and weaknesses in their practices. At the bottom of each section are links to practical how-to examples and further guidance to help organizations understand how they could improve current initiatives or begin new ones.

Step 2:  Organizations can also compare their current state with the measures in the maturity matrix, to gauge where they are starting and what areas to focus on to enhance their knowledge management capability.

Step 3:  The interactive self-assessment tool is based on the questions in the capability model and the maturity matrix. It will provide a report card, and suggested actions to increase your organization's knowledge management capability. 

In identifying gaps, remember that knowledge management is to support business priorities and outcomes, not to improve knowledge generation and flow for its own sake.

The capability model

The model has five key areas, as shown below. Each area is distinct from the others, but all work together. Success in one area can have significant positive impacts in other areas.

The area of Leadership and Strategy works together with the area of Culture to build overall organizational capability through an iterative process. The other three areas – Networks and Communities, Experiential Learning and Knowledge Base – are supportive processes that contribute to this overall development.

Over time, as organizations continue to develop these areas and staff and managers begin to value the generation and sharing of knowledge, the strategic management of knowledge becomes second nature – simply the way an organization carries out its business. 

Exhibit 1: The knowledge capability model                                                                                                 Source: Developed by Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia

Capability area 1: Leadership and Strategy

Strong leadership and effective strategies are critical to success. The shift from work with tangible assets in predictable environments to an emphasis on mobilizing knowledge to deal with complexity and change requires a shift in perspectives and values as well as tools and practices. In other words, it is a change initiative that requires vision, direction and energy when starting out.

Work with knowledge is not mechanistic. It involves relationships, trust and connections across boundaries, culture, social systems and free will. A leader who brings a clear understanding of why knowledge is valuable and models effective collaboration is likely to have a great impact in changing the culture of the organization. In high-performing organizations leaders clearly communicate the value of knowledge to their agency.

Effective knowledge-intensive organizations have leaders at many levels. Strong executive leadership is critical at the start since organizational change requires support from the top. However, executive leadership must also be complemented by leadership from line managers, change agents, networkers and those who cross organizational boundaries.

Because this is a change initiative, clear strategies, a resource commitment, champions and the removal of barriers to success are required. When these pieces are in place, then the creation, sharing and use of knowledge takes on a ‘life of its own’ and becomes the way the organization does business.

The assessment questions: Leadership and Strategy

In this capability area, the questions help organizations determine if they have strong leadership at all levels and an effective strategy for ensuring knowledge is valued and managed as a critical strategic asset.

Senior managers should consider the following questions:

  • Is the importance of all forms of knowledge clearly communicated to your organization?
  • Have you identified risks associated with knowledge loss and, if so, developed strategies to mitigate those risks?
  • Have you deliberately committed resources to build capacity for knowledge generation and sharing to meet strategic objectives?
  • Have you supported middle managers and others to be effective champions throughout the organization?
  • Have you identified and worked to remove some of the significant barriers to generating, mobilizing and using knowledge?
  • Are the strategies and practices developed to manage knowledge, aligned with your business objectives and do they match the context of your organization?
  • Have you measured the impact of strategies in place to manage knowledge?

Further guidance and practical examples:

Capability area 2: Networks and Communities

Networks and Communities enhance the mobilization and sharing of knowledge across “silos” (i.e. distinct units within and between organizations). Capable organizations strive to stimulate networks and encourage staff to be part of “boundary-spanning” groups to share expertise and ideas and to generate new knowledge.

All effective leaders have networks of various types. These networks contact each other to share experiential learning and act as each other’s sounding boards, devil’s advocates and problem-solvers. Research shows that even if organizations have great storage and retrieval systems, people still go to people for context, conversation and a sense of how current and reliable information is (see, for example, Cross et al. 2001, pp. 100–112). Often a person can quickly reach others with appropriate expertise, and trusts them because they are recommended through a colleague. In this way, one might discover that work has already been done and so there is no need to “reinvent the wheel.”

Communities of practice (CoPs) are one such network. They are relatively nimble and responsive and can be used for rapid learning across boundaries. In BP, these are the glue that holds different systems in the corporation together. The BC Forest Service also includes a number of strategies to stimulate networks in order to move knowledge quickly across the silos.

Organizations can also support developing expertise networks through business processes and technologies. For example, an expertise locator can be used to identify specialized knowledge that may not be visible in a job description.

The assessment questions: Networks and Community

In this capability area, the questions help organizations assess the extent to which networks and communities are becoming a way of doing business – that is, emerging in response to business needs and effective in sharing and generating knowledge and specialized expertise.

Both senior and middle managers should consider these questions:

  • Do employees with expertise and in need of expertise participate in cross-boundary groups and form networks to generate and share knowledge?
  • Do groups such as communities of practices actively manage knowledge (sometimes explicit, such as body of knowledge repositories; and sometimes tacit, such as relationship-building and cross-boundary problem-solving)?
  • Do you have well-used technology such as an expertise locator or searchable personnel websites to support learning and access to experts?
  • Do you include outside experts such as retirees, stakeholders, customers and researchers in your work on a regular basis to improve outcomes and learning?
  • Do you have policies in place guiding the sharing of knowledge in these communities? (e.g. intellectual property, confidentiality and privacy considerations)

Further guidance and practical examples

Capability area 3: Experiential Learning

Capable organizations recognize that experiential or “on-the-ground” learning is critical to supporting innovation and continuous improvement. If an organization gives almost all its attention to doing things as it has always done them, it is unlikely that innovations and improvements will be identified to enhance performance.

 Experiential learning builds on existing formal education programs. Trainers have long realized that it is difficult to transfer learning from a classroom to workplace processes. Much of the reason is that at least 70% of workplace learning is informal – most is ad hoc and not facilitated (Cross 2007).

The “learning before, during and after” framework from BP has been adopted by many organizations as an easy way of thinking about experiential learning. It involves deliberate learning at different stages of initiatives. Framing these tools and processes as “learning before, during and after” gives needed structure and simplicity to work that is complex and integrative by nature (Collison and Parcell 2004, pp. 35–40).

Many tools and practices can fit into this framework. Some emphasize knowledge sharing and learning from peers, for instance, while others focus more on generation of new knowledge and innovation.

  • Learning before is the work one does before beginning an initiative. It includes learning from external experts and peers who have undertaken similar projects, and through existing research and evaluations. For example, an innovative multi-million dollar project might begin with a peer assist (Collison and Parcell 2004, p. 35).
  • Learning during is the work one does throughout an initiative. For example, a project can include a number of five-minute action reviews (Collison and Parcell 2004, p. 36).
  • Learning after is the work one does after an initiative, evaluating both the failures and successes of the projects. Such learning can be captured with a lessons-learned exercise (Collison and Parcell 2004, p. 36).

The assessment questions: Experiential Learning

In this capability area, the questions help organizations to determine if they view learning as an integral part of business and whether they have taken steps to ensure that people have opportunities to learn before, during and after projects and events.

Leaders at many levels should consider the following questions:

  • Is it clearly understood and emphasized in your organization that learning in the short term can make doing more efficient or effective in the long term?
  • Does learning before a project begins include gathering of explicit and tacit knowledge?
  • Is it expected that your employees will review progress and lessons learned during a project?
  • Is it expected that a post-project review will take place where lessons learned are shared and understood by peers or captured for future use?
  • Are learning processes well used and adopted throughout the organization or are they just occurring in isolated pockets?

Further guidance and practical examples:

Capability area 4: Knowledge Base

Some knowledge assets lend themselves to being captured and stored. These tend to be relatively stable explicit assets such as policy documents. However, systems and technologies to capture, share and use knowledge shouldn’t be limited to documents. Organizations also need to consider ways to share elements of tacit knowledge – lessons learned or specific expertise, for example.

Well-used knowledge bases often have stories, photos, video clips and contact information about recent innovations. With emerging Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis, social networking and blogs, there is potential to enhance knowledge sharing and management. But pitfalls exist too.

Across all systems, there needs to be work to ensure that: appropriate structure and standards are in place; content is refreshed and validated to encourage use; the systems can work across the organization; and the systems are accessible with appropriate search tools to support use.

The assessment questions: Knowledge Base

In this capability area, we ask questions to help organizations assess whether they have appropriate systems, technologies and processes to ensure information and knowledge can be effectively captured, shared and accessed across the organization.

Senior and middle managers should consider the following questions:

  • Does your organization have standard software, hardware and communications to ensure that documents and communications can be shared across organizational boundaries?
  • Are there organization-wide standards guiding the collection, storage, organization, retrieval and archiving of – and access to – explicit knowledge assets?
  • Are search capabilities in place to allow for effective retrieval of key knowledge from remote locations and across organizational boundaries?
  • Is there a well-defined “push and pull” capability? For example, are key knowledge-sharing sites set up both to gain knowledge from others and communicate it farther afield?
  • Do you have the ability to access and exchange knowledge both internally and externally?
  • Do users trust the content because it is validated and refreshed regularly?
  • Have you developed technologies to support the sharing of know-how, lessons learned and expertise that resides with your staff? For example, have you used stories of lessons learned, podcasts or blogs from senior managers to share knowledge?
  • Do you have mechanisms for sharing and capturing the critical knowledge of those who may leave the organization?

Further guidance and practical examples:

Capability area 5: Culture

A long-used definition of culture describes it as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society" (Tylor, 1924). Although this definition is not specific to organizations, all of these elements have been important aspects of organizational culture studies.

Developing a culture of knowledge sharing is vital for supporting innovation and the generation of new knowledge, developing staff, preparing an organization for change and improving problem definition and decision-making. Yet, changing culture is also recognized as being one of the most challenging and long-term aspects of this work.

In many ways, culture is an outcome of adopting practices outlined in the other capability areas. But it is also a critical success factor and issues or challenges with culture will always impact the effectiveness of other initiatives. For example, if an organization does not have a good level of trust, people are far less likely to share ideas or try something that runs the risk of failure. In the same way, if people are not empowered to contribute to a Web 2.0 site or are not given clear expectations that knowledge sharing is part of their job, these sites may not be well used.

 So, where leadership provides the spark, it is the culture of the organization that keeps the fires burning. It is very difficult to change culture directly. However, as thinking and acting in a way that values knowledge expands, and as benefits to the organization are recognized, culture can shift. At an executive level, this shift requires consideration of policies, models and innovative approaches for maintaining accountability while mitigating the problems caused by separation of silos, disincentives to learning and work across boundaries. It also requires all managers to champion change and to build trust both within and outside their work units.

The assessment questions: Culture

In this capability area, the questions help organizations assess the extent to which they are developing environments in which knowledge grows and flows easily, thus ensuring effective operations even in complex, and rapidly changing environments.

Leaders across the organization should consider the following questions:

  • Have you established a connected, collaborative workforce that operates through trust?
  • Do employees comfortably engage in conversations across boundaries and across hierarchies?
  • Are staff regularly participating in knowledge-sharing and generating activities? Do many of these activities go beyond the organization into other organizations, communities or sectors?
  • Have areas of mistrust been explored? Are perceived levels of trust improving?
  • If work with knowledge as an asset is still new, are there respected change agents at different levels of the organization?
  • If this work is more mature, to what degree can change agents step back and monitor sustained momentum?
  • Do practitioners select appropriate practices and learn from experience?

Examples:

 

The maturity matrix

The maturity matrix provides a brief description of four different maturity levels (baseline, getting-started, improving and advanced) related to the five areas of the capability model (Leadership and Strategy, Networks and Communities, Experiential Learning, Knowledge Base and Culture). It can be used by organizations to understand where they are starting and what areas to focus on to enhance their knowledge management capability. It is also a useful document to review prior to completing the interactive self-assessment.

Download the maturity matrix.

How the guide was developed

We conducted a review of literature including published academic work, (such as peer-reviewed journals and books), trade publications, resources from conferences and other similar events and forums, and current material from relevant Web 2.0 conversations.

We provide a bibliography for readers interested in further guidance.

To develop the self-assessment tool, we started with evaluation tools from various private and public sector organizations and adapted them to meet the B.C. context. The ‘maturity matrix-based’ approach – the main approach we adopted - has been used for knowledge management work in several organizations including the Pentagon, NASA, US Navy and BP (formerly known as British Petroleum).

We also solicited feedback on areas of importance from several senior managers and practitioners from across the B.C. Government through interviews, a focus group and an on-line survey.

We identified examples of good practices to help inform the development of the self-assessment and provide context to the guide. We carried out two case studies (BP and the BC Forest Service) to illustrate comprehensive examples. We chose BP because it is a well recognized and celebrated example of success in this field. The BC Forest Service has a reputation for being a leader in this field and has taken an organization-wide approach to ensuring knowledge is mobilized to improve performance.

Finally, we also solicited ‘good ideas’ from around the B.C. Government to help inform the guide. These examples can provide managers and staff with ideas and ways to improve their own practices.
 

Case studies

This section is one of two (see also good ideas) that allow users to see what the strategic management of knowledge looks like in practice, using the capability model as a framework.  The BC Forest Service and BP (formerly known as British Petroleum) provide two case studies – one in the public sector, the other in the private sector – of how similar knowledge management concepts and tools can be applied in different settings. 

Note: We did not conduct a full review or audit of either of these entities to learn about their knowledge management practices. Rather, we describe their practices as relayed to us through secondary source research and, in the case of the BC Forest Service, through ministry documentation and discussions with staff. 

 

The BC Forest Service: Mobilizing knowledge in a complex and unpredictable environment

The BC Forest Service, officially referred to as British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range, has approximately 3,600 employees working in 45 offices throughout the province. It is the main agency responsible for protecting the public interest in the use of the province’s forests.

Approximately 95% of British Columbia’s forest and range lands are publicly owned and managed by the provincial government on behalf of the public. The BC Forest Service includes a wide range of business areas such as Fire Management, Forest Health, First Nations, Stewardship, Range, Tenure and Engineering, Timber Sales and others.

Many BC Forest Service employees began their careers working in forests, and have operational, technical or scientific skills. The organization has a high number of long-term staff, and employees we interviewed described the Forest Service as a family. The Forest Service culture was also described as well-established given the high number of long-term staff and the relative stability on the land base as a result of long term tenure arrangements. Many employees consider “real work” to be work in the field, away from boardrooms and computers.

The work across the organization varies. Some work is complicated but predictable and repeatable. However, in recent years the environment and therefore more of the work has become more complex and unpredictable. Several significant trends and issues are impacting the Forest Service, from wide economic swings and increase in globalization of markets, to climate change.

BP: Knowledge mobilized across silos to support success

BP (formerly British Petroleum) is one of the world's largest energy companies, with almost 100,000 employees. BP provides its customers with retail services as well as fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, and petrochemical products for everyday items (BP 2009). For many years, Lord Browne – who joined the company in 1966 – was the CEO. He retired in 2007. Two of his areas of focus were knowledge management and green energy. This case study focuses on BP with Lord Browne as CEO.

Good ideas for managing knowledge from B.C.'s public sector

In this section we identify some good ideas in the B.C. public sector related to the areas of the self-assessment guide. These good ideas provide some innovative ways to improve knowledge sharing, generation and use that may be appropriate to your organization.

Note: We have not evaluated the effectiveness or utility of these practices ourselves. These were volunteered by individuals we interviewed at all levels as actions that they believed were working well or particular projects that they were proud of related to knowledge generation, sharing and learning.
 

1. Ministry of Housing and Social Development Review Boards

Leadership and Strategy: Identifying specialized knowledge and creating roadmaps for future leaders

Context

The Ministry of Housing and Social Development brings together the “responsibility for housing with social development and support to assist all British Columbians in achieving their economic potential” (Service Plan 2009/10) It employs approximately 2,700 people in a variety of roles and settings.

Challenge 

Like many other public sector organizations, the ministry was challenged by the need to identify and develop future leaders, while ensuring that mission-critical knowledge was not lost when staff retired.

The Practice

The ministry had adopted the process of using “review boards” through which to conduct performance evaluations of managers and supervisors. In 2008/09 this practice won a Premier’s award. The review board starts with, supervisors who assess their staff. This performance evaluation is then brought forward to a ministry-wide committee. What is unique about this process is that it:

  • identifies what knowledge the employee has and whether or not there is a need to transfer this knowledge;
  • provides the ministry with an organization-wide perspective of their specialists, their senior high performers and those with potential for future leadership positions;
  • allows the ministry to identify where knowledge may be at risk;
  • provides an opportunity to build capacity for the future; and
  • allows staff and managers alike to think beyond their particular work units.

 

2. Ministry of Transportation

Leadership and Strategy: Working to be knowledgeable owners of highway design

Context

The Ministry of Transportation has responsibility for the planning, engineering design and maintenance of the transportation infrastructure across the province. This includes geometric, highway safety, electrical, traffic, bridge and geotechnical design. Prior to 2002 the majority of highway engineering design work was carried out within the Ministry by public service employed Professional Engineers (P. Eng) and technicians. However, in 2002, as part of an overall reduction in the Public Service, a decision was made to reduce the capacity of internal engineering design capability and to contract a good portion of this work to the private sector.

Challenge

In addition to the move to contract-out services, over the next decade, the Ministry was expecting a high rate of retirement and were challenged to recruit and retain professional engineers.

In order to effectively manage its engineering services contracts the ministry recognized the need to retain the ability to be ‘knowledgeable owners’ of the transportation system. For highway engineering design this meant retaining and training, as required, design engineers with enough experience to effectively oversee the work of the engineering services consultants. As one ministry employee stated:

“If you are going to criticize someone about how they play the piano – you better have some idea of how to play that piano yourself’."

The ministry recognized that it was at risk of losing key professionals with the knowledge to oversee the highly technical projects related to highway design. It currently takes at least four years of post-graduate experience for a graduate engineer to obtain her or his professional certification (P.Eng). The ministry has an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) program whereby newly graduated engineers are hired to work in a variety of situations and projects for four years to gain sufficient experience so they may apply for their professional certification. However, with limited in-house design work it was difficult at times to provide these young professionals with enough exposure to engineering design work.

The Practice

As part of their succession and strategic planning, the ministry recognized that it had to find ways to establish opportunities to provide more engineering design experience than was currently available. To do this, the ministry set up or expanded in-house engineering design teams operating out of the Kamloops and Prince George regional offices. In addition to recruiting design engineers, the Ministry was now also able to provide more design experience to those in the existing EIT program.

Although there remain challenges in ensuring that the ministry has the right level and breadth of engineering technical expertise, having some expanded design in-house is helping the organization better oversee the work of engineering consultants.

3. Financial Key Stream Project

Networks and Communities: Risk assessment process

Context

The Financial Key Stream Project was initiated in 2006. It is a cross-government project that is jointly led by the Office of the Comptroller General and the BC Public Service Agency to build the internal capacity in government’s financial positions. It includes a number of inter-related strategies to support recruitment, retention and performance in financial roles across government. One of the critical aspects of the key stream project is looking at financial roles from a cross-government perspective and viewing people in financial positions as a community that work both for a ministry and collectively for government as a whole. In that way, the project works across organizational boundaries to target critical positions for succession, recruitment, retention, training and career development through mobility and other activities.

The nature of financial roles across government varies considerably. Positions range from the financial clerk with responsibility for transactional processes, to chief financial officers responsible for strategic financial and organizational management as well as specialists providing technical support and advice. With this variety comes variability in terms of the knowledge required to ensure business objectives can be achieved. Some of these positions require years of specialist education and on the job experience, while others require people to have both technical competencies and a high level of tacit strategic knowledge.

In 2007, a workforce analysis for key financial positions identified trends that will significantly impact the financial capacity of government. For example, it identified that upwards of 850 new staff will be needed to maintain the current numbers. At the same time, the skills and knowledge of many financial staff were and would be sought after in the open market.

Challenge

The B.C. public service was facing a significant challenge in being able to recruit, retain and develop financial staff to meet future demands. However, the variability and breadth of financial positions made it challenging to target scarce resources to strategies that would have the greatest impact. In other words, the key stream project needed to identify where to focus efforts to ensure that critical technical or specialist knowledge as well as those in senior strategic positions was managed to ensure continuity and performance into the future.

The Practice

Among other initiatives, the key stream project developed a risk assessment framework to help identify the significance of potential losses of knowledge. The framework helped to identify the risks associated with specific positions or groups across government by identifying:

  • the immediacy of the threat of loss, e.g., whether someone was expected to depart within 1 year or over 5 years; and 
  • the significance of the impact, e.g., the nature and importance of the knowledge the person had and whether or not that person was actively engaged in knowledge-sharing.

This tool was used to help identify where both immediate and long-term action could be undertaken to mitigate the risks associated with knowledge loss in the government’s financial roles.

4. Policy Community of Practice

Networks and Communities: Building knowledge and relationships across organizational boundaries to improve policy work

Context

Over the years across the public sector, several large and small communities of practice (CoP) have assembled to discuss topics ranging from performance management to policy work – meeting in places as formal as board rooms and as informal as pubs. The Policy CoP has been a fairly long-standing group that is recognized by many as a success. It was first launched in 2003, chaired by Joy Illington, who at the time was working as a Deputy Cabinet Secretary.

Challenge

Policy analysts across government were isolated and had little interaction. As well, with government downsizing, it made sense to reduce duplication and share resources to be more efficient. There was also an identified need for analysts to increase their experiential learning. As one interviewee said:

 “There is only so much that formal educational programs can teach you about policy work. You need to learn from others who have done the job before.”

It was also clear that Cabinet and the deputy ministers expected more consistency in cabinet submissions and that cooperation amongst policy staff was needed.

The Practice

To launch the CoP, all ministry policy units were sent an invitation to attend. It was recognized that whether an analyst was working on childcare or fish policy, he or she shared basic skills with other analysts. It was also recognized that there were common tools and approaches that could be shared to improve policy work across government.

The group met in various venues and worked to set a tone of empowerment. There was space for each person to speak about his or her interests and opportunities to find issues that spanned multiple ministries. Said Joy Illington:

“It didn’t matter if you were an ADM or a junior policy analyst; we worked to reduce those traditional hierarchies – because often those hierarchies are an impediment to innovation and learning.”

The CoP is still active in its sixth year partly because of a recognized need to rotate the convener role among interested volunteers. This has helped to keep meeting agendas fresh as the community engages in learning and problem-solving around topics including consultation strategies and legislation development. It meets on a regular basis and has an active SharePoint site for members to access. The membership now includes more junior level analysts than when it first began, but as one member put it:

 “This is excellent, the group has changed to address an identified need.”

5. Interior Health Authority

Experiential Learning: Learning after to enhance the culture of care in a regional hospital

The following is an example of using storytelling and narrative capture as a way of learning after an event. Following a sentinel event in a regional hospital at Interior Health Authority (IHA), a project was initiated to better understand the culture of care and compassion being practiced at the hospital and to find ways to improve patient care.

Context

Across B.C.’s health system, many people receive high-quality care. However, there are times when a patient may experience an adverse effect. Learning from these events is part of developing a culture of trust and continuous improvement. In 2006, a sentinel event occurred at IHA, which brought the health authority under intense scrutiny. Several investigations were undertaken, all in the spirit of improving decision-making and building a culture of care and compassion.

Challenge

Understanding and finding ways to truly understand and improve workplace culture is not an easy task and requires novel approaches. In this particular case, the environment and the decision-making processes were complex. Ultimately, the staff, managers and professionals involved needed to see the whole picture before they could find ways to improve their approaches, attitudes and behaviours. Different groups (e.g., nurses and physicians) had different perspectives on the countless number of interactions that occur on a day-to-day basis. It became clear that the environment and decision-making was not formulaic, but dependent on circumstances. In other words, applying simple rules and policies was not going to solve the problems or support a change in culture.

The Practice

 Working with an external consultant, an organization development consultant within IHA collected approximately 400 stories from staff, managers and various health care professionals involved. They also collected stories from patients and families. Each story-teller was asked to analyze his or her own stories by answering a number of questions about the stories. A software tool was used to help people see patterns that emerged from the stories. A proxy group of approximately 60 people from a variety of backgrounds was then brought together in a large workshop where the participants collectively made sense of the data, including the narratives and the patterns that the individuals had played a role in formulating. The process provided physicians with key insights into the perspective of nurses when it came to care planning.

From this work emerged 30 action items that were “owned” by management, staff or both jointly. Some of these items were aimed at improving decision-making processes, while others were quick fixes related to equipment or facilities. Many of the action items were more relational in nature – for example, how to behave and speak with each other.

The long-term outcome of this project was a shift both in the styles of senior leaders and in the staff themselves, who became more engaged in developing and organizing ways to improve clinical care. As Terry Miller, the organizational development consultant, stated:

 “Which do you think would be more effective? An external consultant or an administrator saying ‘you need a code of conduct’ – or a group of employees who say ‘we need to develop a code of conduct for ourselves?'"

6. Climate Action Team

Knowledge Base: Enhancing information on land use through networks and technology

Context

The Canadian Forest Service (CFS) is tasked with fulfilling Canada's mandate under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to measure the change of land status from forestry to other uses.

Challenge

To build an inventory of land status, the CFS was using satellite imagery and a Geographic Information System (GIS) to then delineate the areas of interest. The challenge was that it was sometimes difficult to determine why the land had been cleared. For example, was it for timber, harvest or agriculture? The information required to confirm land use was located in different databases that within organizational boundaries.

The Practice

A B.C. government manager who works with the Climate Action Team in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has built positive working relationships across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries. Thus, when the CFS needed to improve their inventory of land use, they turned to the Climate Action Team manager. This manager was also able to use standard software and technology to enhance the knowledge base of the CFS.

The CFS sent Geographic Information System (GIS) files in a Google Earth format to the team as e-mail attachments to outline their areas of interest. The manager set up a collaboration using Live Meeting to include CFS and ministry staff, and started up Google Earth on his computer. With Live Meeting, the others could see the GIS e-mail attachments on his screen. As he clicked on each outlined area, all participants could see what CFS was asking for. As they spoke, the manager opened map layers from sources including the GeoBC public website, and layered information such as Agricultural Land Reserve, lot lines and different types of ownership over the Google Earth imagery. Some questions were answered immediately.

Later, building on what he had learned, the same manager heard that a provincial agrologist in Kelowna needed key information within 20 minutes. The manager used the “link” button on the phone to call out to a CFS specialist who might help. The “invite by e-mail” function on Live Meeting brought the agrologist into a brainstorming session and the three of them were able to assemble accurate information within the 20-minute timeframe – something that would not have been possible without the networks that bridged the organizations and the knowledge-sharing technology in place.

7. GovSpeak@Work

Knowledge Base – The use of a wiki in the B.C. government

Challenge

Governments around the world are famous for their use of acronyms. Most public servants have experienced the feeling of missing out on part of a conversation because they couldn’t keep all the acronyms straight. An estimate on the B.C. government’s @Work site suggests there are more than 14,000 acronyms in use across the public service.

For new staff, being asked on the first day of work something like “Do you have the BN for the ADM regarding LDB regulations?” or “Can you find the GLE for PHSA?” can be particularly challenging. For administrative staff, keeping up with changes and circulating new acronyms is a time-consuming task.

The Practice

The idea came from a director in the Ministry of Finance, who recognized that there were many employees keeping and updating lists of acronyms all around the province’s offices. Recognizing that valuable administration time was being taken up by this task he had the idea to develop a wiki for acronyms:

 “Even though this is a simple example, my philosophy is that every little bit helps and I particularly value the time and purpose of our admin staff.”

The site is called GovSpeak and is made available across the B.C. government through the internal @Work site. GovSpeak provides one central location for access and uploads of new acronyms, their definitions, related links, sources and contacts. This simple tool can potentially save hours of administrative time and support staff in learning or keeping up with this language.

8. Office of the Chief Information Officer – Knowledge and Information Services Branch

The Bridge and EBSCO Pilot – Improving access to explicit knowledge assets to support evidence-informed policy and decision-making

The Context

The Knowledge and Information Services Branch (KIS) in the Office of the Chief Information Officer is promoting the development of ‘evidence-informed policy and decision making’ across the B.C. Government. Explicit knowledge assets like academic and government research along with the know-how of skilled policy analysts play an important role in the development of public policy. Quick access to these knowledge assets can help policy analysts define a particular problem, identify the type of interventions that have been successful and develop attainable solutions.

The Challenge

The challenge for the B.C. Government is in supporting policy analysts and decision makers alike in having quick and easy access to the valuable knowledge assets available both within and external to the public service. For example, policy makers have limited access to academic research to inform policy. In addition, explicit knowledge assets developed by government, such as program evaluations and research/policy papers, may only be accessible to a particular program area or Ministry. Both of these limitations can create barriers and inefficiencies in the development of evidence-informed policy.

The Practice

It was recognized that facilitating the sharing of research and policy papers on particular issues across organizational boundaries would have benefits. These benefits include reducing duplication of cost and effort, as well as enhancing the speed at which evidence is available for policy-making. To support more evidence informed policy the KIS branch has developed The Bridge (a government-wide on-line knowledge base to support access to knowledge assets critical to good policy making).

The purpose of the Bridge is to link policy-related publications and organizations on issues that have a significant impact on citizens and the Province. The Bridge includes a collection of resources for evidence-informed policy. It links to research organizations and notices of policy-related upcoming events, as well as to research articles including scoping reviews and other research and decision support information and resources.

It also acts as a gateway to an assortment of corporate subscriptions, including the EBSCO Academic Search Premier pilot subscription. This pilot subscription provides access to a large, full-text database including nearly 3,500 scholarly publications and approximately 2,600 peer-reviewed publications on a range of topics from the humanities to social and medical science. A corporate approach that will enable permanent access to this valuable resource for evidence-informed decision making is currently underway.
 

Tool kits

This section, includes a number of tools to support organizations in understanding ‘how to’ implement specific practices. We present users with practice guides that provide further details and explanations of specific processes and practices related to the self-assessment guide. We have also included a list of useful definitions as well as a list of potential barriers and disincentives to the generation, sharing and use of knowledge. In this section, there is also an extensive bibliography to aid users in finding additional sources related to particular concepts or practices included in this guide.

Practice guides

The following practice guides provide further details of how to implement many of the actions and suggestions in the self-assessment guide.

Capability Area #1 Leadership and Strategy

Practice Guide #1: Strategy Design
Practice Guide #2: Metrics

Capability Area #2 Networks and Communities

Practice Guide #3: Networks and Communities
Practice Guide #4: Community of Practice

Capability Area#3 Experiential Learning

Practice Guide #5: Peer Assist
Practice Guide #6: Informal Action Review
Practice Guide #7: Storytelling and Work with Narrative

Capability Area #4 Knowledge Base

Practice Guide #1: Knowledge Repository
 

Definitions

Boundary-Spanning Groups 

In organizations with distinct divisions, boundary-spanning groups can serve to establish links among them. These groups can also be used to build relationships with groups outside the organization. (Source: Levina & Vaast, 2004)

Champions and Change Agents

Champions or change agents are defined as individuals who influence others or work in a direction deemed desirable by the agent, in this context, knowledge management .(Source: Jones et al, 2003)

Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice (CoP) describe a group of people who share an interest, craft, and/or profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members’ common interest or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other and have an opportunity to develop themselves both personally and professionally. These groups commonly renounce the adoption of hierarchical structures, opting instead for a very flexible working arrangement. (Source: Lave & Wenger, 1991)

Comparative Advantage

Originating from the school of economics, a comparative advantage is created when a company or individual is able to produce something at a lower cost than anyone else. (Source: Library of Economics and Literature, n.d.)

Explicit Knowledge

This is concrete knowledge – that is, knowledge that can be easily codified, organized and stored. For example, an evaluation on the Federal government’s employment programs stored on an intranet site is an explicit knowledge asset. A policy or procedure manual is also an explicit knowledge asset.

Expertise Locator

This is a tool that enables people to identify knowledge experts located across the organization. It categorizes knowledge experts according to their area of expertise, interests and a little personal information and sometimes acts as a skills database repository. It is sometimes referred to as the “corporate yellow pages.” The purpose is to connect people to each other. (Source: BC Forest Service, 2005/06)

Human Capital Management

Human Capital Management, also referred to as Talent Management, is the ongoing process that organisations use to recruit appropriately skilled and motivated employees, integrate them into their organisations, develop their competences and retain their commitment. (Source: StepStone, 2010)

Intellectual Capital

Intellectual capital is knowledge that can be leveraged to produce value. It can include the skills and knowledge an organization uses to refine its business cycle or the knowledge and skills employees apply to enhance organizational operations. Irrespective of the source, intellectual capital is critical to a company’s continued success.

Organizational Learning

Organizational Learning is school of thought that examines the various models and theories used to explain the methods by which an organization adapts and learns. (Source: Argyris & Schon, 1978)

Push-Pull Capability

This capability allows organizations to both absorb knowledge from others as well as communicate knowledge out.

Silos

Organizational silos are created when units act and think independent of one another. In turn, information sharing is often thwarted, work is commonly duplicated and individual goals are typically advanced over broader, organizational ones. (Source: WikiAnswers, n.d.)

Strategic Asset

A strategic asset is a value-added resource that can be used to inform decision-making. In this context, it is the combination of explicit and tacit knowledge, skills and experience which exist within staff. Strategic assets are often the critical determinants that enable an organization to maintain a sustainable advantage over its competitors. (Source: Othman, n.d.)

Strategic Management of Knowledge
 

For the purpose of this guide, we have defined the strategic management of knowledge as a systematic approach to maximizing the generation, sharing, and use of knowledge to support organizational learning, resilience and, ultimately, performance.

Such work includes strategies, tools and processes that can be employed to ensure that people are connected, that learning occurs at a team and organizational level, and that appropriate supports – including access to expertise and technology – are in place to enhance decision-making, achieve operational efficiency and effectiveness, and promote innovation.

Strategic Risk Assessment

A strategic risk assessment is one step in the risk management process. The assessment involves assessing and quantifying business risks, then instituting measures to control or reduce them. (Source: Kolakowsi, n.d.)

Tacit Knowledge and 'Know-How' 

Tacit knowledge is more difficult to codify, organize and store than explicit knowledge. Related to tacit knowledge is the concept of “know-how,” this refers to knowledge of the processes and tools required to accomplish something well. Know-how – that is, tacit knowledge – can mean having (Collison and Parcell 2004, pp. 34–35):

  • know-who about networks and relationships in and out of government
  • know-what about content and specialist knowledge
  • know-why about big-picture context, strategy and systems thinking
  • know-where about researching and sleuthing skills
  • know-when about timing of when to take action and when not to, such as deciding to set a project aside  
Web 2.0

Coined in 1999, Web 2.0 is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability and collaboration among web users. This contrasts with non-interactive sites that limit one’s use to passive viewing of information as provided by the host. (Source: Deloitte & Touche, 2008)

Wiki

A wiki is a website that allows users to add and update content on the site using their own web server. Wikis are created mainly through the collaborative effort of site visitors. The term "wiki" comes from the Hawaiian phrase, "wiki wiki," which means "super fast." This is appropriate because with so many users content is added and shared “super fast”. (Source: TechTerms Computer Dictionary)

Potential barriers and disincentives

Disincentives exist for good reason, but may be enforced too strongly, or the rationale for their existence may be outdated. The following may be disincentives to knowledge generation or sharing.

Potential Barriers and Disincentives Comments

Administrative boundaries within and across ministries.

Isolates pockets of expertise in silos. Increases risks of important knowledge loss when employees leave.

Administrative boundaries
around government.

Limits experience and skill development. Limits capacity building through work with the private sector, not-for-profits, other levels of government including First Nations, other provinces or countries, communities, colleges and universities.

Hierarchies

Isolates insights and innovations in different levels of the organization. Connected to styles of formal leaders.

Technological systems

If systems do not connect well, it decreases the likelihood of people communicating and sharing documents electronically.

Technology-related policies & standards

If there are no standards, or people do not follow them, data and information cannot be easily integrated to support decision-making. If employees need to get permission for long-distance calls or cannot use familiar social technologies or media, knowledge sharing will be hampered or will go underground.

Job descriptions and unions

If employees are constrained to work within job descriptions or union levels (self-censorship or others not knowing about their expertise or controls from above) opportunities for innovation and improvement may be lost.

Performance plans ignoring
work with knowledge as an asset

If employees are not rewarded for collaborative, knowledge-sharing behavior and they are rewarded for competitive, knowledge-hoarding behavior, strategies will not translate to improvements.

Performance plans emphasizing
quick decisions and following orders

Knowledge develops through processes such as problem definition and meaningful conversation in no-blame environments. Quick decisions are important for some situations, but quick decisions for the wrong actions implemented in the wrong way or at the wrong time will require extensive repair work.

Punishment or lack of reward

If the employee who sits alone in a cubicle all day is promoted instead of the colleague who enables connections and conversations for better outcomes, word will spread quickly and innovations will decrease.

Lack of policy or information

Even if intentions or strategies are excellent, progress may be stalled through uncertainty. Does a senior manager really want diverse input when she asks for ideas? Can an employee bring ideas from communities of practice in which he participates in the evening as a private individual? Can a manager share lessons learned in a conference discussion?

Limited experience;
unknown unknowns

Does a career natural scientist understand how to work with a policy analyst and vice versa? Does an employee know that he has counterparts with very different job titles in several other ministries? Does an executive know how powerful problem-solving and learning can be across fields disciplines that seem very different?

 

Bibliography

Take the self-assessment now

We highly recommend that users review the self-assessment guide prior to taking the interactive self-assessment.

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