Once a gigantic ship carrying loads of merchandise broke down. The ship engineers worked day and night to fix the problem. But all their efforts went in vain. The Captain decided to call in an expert. He found an expert and requested him to diagnose and fix the break-down. The expert – an old man in his sixties – arrived at the ship. He spent a few minutes inspecting the engine. Then he brought out a hammer from his tool box and tapped on the engine a couple of times. Believe it or not, the ship started working. The Captain and his team were super excited and they thanked the expert profusely. The expert went back home and sent the bill to the captain towards his fees. The bill amount was a $ 10,000. The captain was taken aback seeing the whopping bill amount. He wondered how this old man can charge him $ 10,000 for just tapping on the engine a couple of times. He wrote to the expert and asked him a for detailed break-up of charges in the bill. The old man replied to the Captain:
- Tapping on the Engine- $ 5
- Knowing where to tap – $ 9,995
Well, what does the story signify? This story highlights the power of Knowledge.
Why is Knowledge so important for an organization’s progress and evolution? Well, knowledge is the sine qua non for an Organization’s existence. We have seen examples of how imperative for an organization’s existence is progress. Organizations that lean faster than competition stay ahead of competition. The famous Leadership Guru, former CEO of General Electric says:
An Organization’s ability to learn & translate that learning into action rapidly,is the ultimate competitive advantage.
In recent times, we have seen two examples. Nokia, the largest manufacturers of mobile phones fell by the wayside because they stopped reinventing. When their rivals went all out in bringing funky smart phones, Nokia continued to stick to the basic models. They failed to leverage the new knowledge emerging in this space.
Some of the knowledge we use today at work or business was never taught to us in the universities where we studied. A lot of knowledge we are going to use a decade from now doesn’t exist today. The pace at which current knowledge is getting obsolete and new knowledge is being created is mind-boggling. Organizations that learn faster than this rate of change are going to survive in the 21st century.
Knowledge Management refers to the practices and strategies that a company uses in an attempt to create, distribute and enable adoption of strategic insights and specific experiences. – O’ Leary
An Organization which learns faster than the Competition, gets ahead and stays ahead.
What KM Practices we can learn from US Army
There is a great KM Practice that we can learn from USA Army. In the US Army, whenever a project comes to an end, the project team memebers come together as a group, sit down and do a very structured review of their project. Their review is always around the following 4 questions:-
- What did we set out to do?
- What actually happened?
- Why was there a difference?
- What do we do next time?
They capture their key learnings from each project around these themes. The learnings are highly valuable to the organization. These structured discussions ensure that successive project teams do not repeat the same mistakes their previous teams made in the past. Successive teams do not have to reinvent the wheel.
For Business leaders and KM practitioners, I would like to add another question.
- Where else in the organization might we benefit from this knowledge?
Transference of learnings and best practices from one project team to another within the same division or business group is not enough. What is of paramount importance is the an organization’s ability to take the learnings from one division or business group to another.