The Knowledge Management Value Chain

Your organization has many assets, and possibly the most important is your organizational cache of knowledge. Tapping into this knowledge, and figuring out the best way to share it in a useable and meaningful way throughout your company can be a difficult task. In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at the idea of the “knowledge management value chain” and discuss how knowledge can pass all the way from the C-suite to the rest of the organization.

The Dutch businessman and professor Mathieu Weggeman developed one of the most frequently cited models of the knowledge management value chain. In his model, the first layer of the chain starts with the fundamentals of your business — i.e. your mission, vision, goals, and strategy. This is an important distinction because it notes that your knowledge management efforts do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, your knowledge management is a production factor just like your actual products and can (and should) be influenced by the same factors that guide the rest of your business practices.

From there, you move directly into knowledge development. This is the most important step in the value chain and the one that makes the rest of the phases possible. In this step, an organization examines three things: its current knowledge inventory, available knowledge, and knowledge needs. This is also the point at which the organizational goals of knowledge management need to be communicated throughout the company. By letting employees know, all the way from the C-suite down, that their knowledge is a valuable asset to the company, employees will feel empowered and more likely to share their knowledge with the rest of the organization. As you establish knowledge management as an institutional goal, you will begin to grow this knowledge inventory.

Now that you are developing your knowledge inventory, it’s a good time to decide how you are going to store and communicate this knowledge. Whether it’s a central file on the cloud or a community knowledgebase, you need a repository to hold this growing knowledge. This moves you nicely into the next step of Weggeman’s model, which is the actual sharing of this knowledge. Often passing the knowledge on is as simple as communicating where it is stored. Initially, your organization will probably need to be reminded of the existence of your knowledge resources, as old habits die hard. However, over time, knowledge sharing can become engrained in your organization’s culture and sharing, accessing and — importantly — applying knowledge will become second nature to your employees. When you reach this point, knowledge management can often take on an organic flow and growth will be exponential.

The final step is evaluating knowledge. The best and healthiest organizations are often the ones that take time to be introspective. Looking inward and doing some self-analyzing keeps you from developing bad habits and repeating mistakes, and this holds true for knowledge management and the knowledge management value chain. Look at your process to redefine any knowledge gaps or inefficiencies and implement them at the top of your value chain to improve your overall organizational aptitude and ability to share knowledge.

A key aspect of knowledge management and the value chain is that knowledge only grows more valuable as it moves through an organization. The title of this article hints at the fact that “knowledge management is only as valuable as its weakest link.” As a tidbit of knowledge moves throughout an organization, it will adapt, change and take on a life of its own as it becomes more suited to the needs of the entire company. In being influenced by an employees’ personal experiences, knowledge will grow more valuable as it is accessed. By encouraging your organization to share, access, and apply knowledge, you will encourage an organic growth process that is truly infectious and will soon be part of every aspect of your organizational structure.

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