A Review of Knowledge Management in the Irish Civil Service

O’Riordan, Joanna

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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2009/1094/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: CPMR- Committee for Public Management Research
Schriftenreihe: CPMR discussion paper
Bandnummer: 30
ISBN: 1 904541 27 5
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2005
Publikationsdatum: 30.03.2009
Originalveröffentlichung: http://www.cpmr.gov.ie/publications/discussion-papers/ (2005)
DDC-Sachgruppe: Öffentliche Verwaltung
BK - Basisklassifikation: 88.20 (Organisation staatlicher Einrichtungen, Management staatlicher Einrichtungen), 88.30 (Öffentlicher Dienst)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.7 Verwaltungswissenschaften

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Introduction Knowledge management (KM) is a widely used term, but one that seems to gives rise to a degree of confusion. In part this would appear to be because there is nothing particularly new in the concept. As the OECD suggests, knowledge management is simply using established management tools (e.g. performance management, HR, new opportunities presented by information and communication technologies etc) to improve knowledge sharing within an organisation and the outside world. However, this is not to suggest that organisations should assume that knowledge management will just happen. Some Thoughts on Knowledge Management What KM is: What KM is not: A way of working that impacts on people and culture Just about IT Something that people need to believe in and participate in Something that can be ‘done for’ people by a support function A comprehensive and organisation-wide approach which supports business objectives Discrete interventions Encompasses knowledge creation, management and sharing Only about creating knowledge repositories The management of information with meaning (knowledge) Information management (organising data, files and documents) Reflects the needs of the organisation and its employees A monument to IT Ongoing – changing with the business An isolated one-off project with a start and a finish Sponsored and led by senior management Led by IT or Change Management About well thought out content management A dumping ground for all information A means to an end (to achieve performance indicators) An end in itself A means of supporting staff in fulfilling their roles Another ‘thing to do’ Source: Adapted from IBM, 2004, internal publication Since the early 1990s, leading private sector companies have been developing procedures to guarantee effective generation, capture and dissemination of information and know-how and the promotion of knowledge sharing. Public sector organisations are typically thought to have come later to the concept of knowledge management. However, in response to ever-increasing pressure to improve efficiency and effectiveness, together with a growing awareness of the importance of sharing knowledge across government organisations to maintain a whole-of-government perspective on policy making and service delivery, knowledge management has been given greater priority. Research overview This study seeks to raise awareness of knowledge management and its potential to support organisations in achieving their business objectives. The research also identifies the concrete steps and cultural change required of government departments in order to more effectively use and share knowledge. The paper seeks to enhance understanding in relation to knowledge management and also to provide examples of initiatives being developed across the civil service. The challenge now for the civil service, and more specifically for individual departments and agencies, is to move beyond the level of isolated interventions to developing a comprehensive strategy and approach in relation to knowledge management. The need for this has been given further impetus by the decentralisation programme and the likelihood of significant changes in personnel for many departments. Key learning points Based on the evidence from the case-study organisations reviewed in this paper, a range of learning points emerge in relation to knowledge management. These points can act as a framework with which to develop specific departmental initiatives: 1. Put in the effort ‘up front’ A successful knowledge management initiative is one that becomes a part of organisation culture. For this to happen, KM x xi interventions have to reflect and support business needs and the way in which people work. Time and effort spent understanding processes and listening to staff in order to understand their needs is time well spent. The danger, if this phase is rushed, is that the responses developed reflect what IT thinks staff need rather that what they actually want. Furthermore, there is a danger of technology interventions, which should support knowledge management, becoming an end in themselves (‘the white elephant’ scenario). 2. Senior management support is critical Senior management support, and the championing of the initiative by one or two key individuals is essential, both to get the project off the ground, and also to ensure it becomes embedded in organisation life and part of ‘the way things are done around here’. In practical terms this means that managers may need to overcome fears which they themselves have in relation to new technology, sharing knowledge etc. It also means that they have to be seen to use the resources available and participate in initiatives like Communities of Practice (CoP) (The experience at IBM has been that a guaranteed way of getting staff committed and engaged with CoPs is to have one or two senior managers involved). 3. Establish a knowledge management team As with anything worthwhile it will not happen without resources. The team should reflect all areas of the organisation and, while not required to be experts in the area, it is important that they are committed to the exercise. While knowledge management should never be regarded as an IT project, specialist IT experience is required in order to ensure that technological possibilities are exploited fully. Experience from the case-studies discussed in this paper suggests that it is critical that at least one senior management representative is part, though not necessarily chair, of the team. The guidance of someone with a background in the area (a professional librarian, information manager, researcher) is also very beneficial. 4. An important starting point is the carrying out of a knowedge audit A knowledge audit is a formal evaluation of how and where knowledge is used in business processes. Through an audit, organisations can identify and evaluate the critical knowledge and information used by staff. It also helps to identify enablers and barriers to knowledge and information sharing. It is also critical that organisations at the outset get some idea of the current situation and also the level of good will towards the concept. A framework for carrying out a knowledge audit is described in Chapter Four. 5. Develop a comprehensive approach to knowledge management, not just discrete interventions Because knowledge management reflects a new approach to working, it has to involve a comprehensive approach. Furthermore, as indicated in particular by the private sector case-studies, it will not happen unless systems are put in place. While organisations may need to start with one single initiative (for example, developing a knowledge repository), it needs to be explained to staff that this represents only one part of a broader agenda. A useful way of achieving this is through the development of a knowledge management strategy, setting out the specific resources, systems and priorities for an organisation, given its own unique environment and operating context. An approach to developing a knowledge management strategy is discussed in Chapter Five. The strategy reviewed includes recommendations in relation to knowledge creation (e.g. through recruitment of staff with sought after skills or training and development), knowledge capture (i.e. how to review, edit, package and ‘store’ knowledge) and knowledge sharing (e.g. newsletters, discussion data-bases, communities of practice, briefings). It is the responsibility of the knowledge team to ensure that these recommendations are progressed. Further guidance in relation to these areas emerges from the two private sector companies reviewed. xii xiii 6. Establish knowledge management milestones and indicators It is important that there is some benchmark of what the organisation wishes to achieve from its knowledge management strategy. Milestones and indicators should be set in relation to specific projects or initiatives. In general, it is the responsibility of the KM team to identify these. Examples might include: · demonstrable time-savings and improvements in the way people fulfil their tasks and responsibilities · use of KM systems (as measured, for example, by resources most often accessed or downloaded) · a shared sense (organisational and stakeholder) that the project is a success and represents value for money (as measured by surveys of management, staff and key stakeholders). 7. Show the benefits of knowledge management In other words, answer the ‘what's in it for me’ question. This is dependent on having effectively managed steps one to six. People will very quickly engage with something if they see it as supporting what they do rather than an extra obligation. 8. Develop incentives and reward mechanisms If staff see that KM is given a high priority by senior management they are far more likely to engage with it. However, this needs to be observed in actions as well as words. As noted above, managers taking a lead in relation to KM initiatives is one way of emphasising its importance. This can also be complemented by recognising and rewarding staff who support and contribute to knowledge management and sharing initiatives (as discussed in section 8.4). 9. Do not underestimate the cultural/behavioural challenge Knowledge management represents a new approach to doing business and as with any change has a high risk of failure. The classic ‘carrot and stick’ approach is recommended. People need to be supported in learning and engaging with new practices. However, equally, knowledge management needs to be linked to appraisals and rewards. Concluding comments This paper has sought to enhance understanding in relation to knowledge management and also to provide examples of initiatives being developed across the public service. The challenge now for departments and agencies is to move beyond the level of isolated interventions to developing a comprehensive strategy and approach in relation to knowledge management.


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