Knowledge management is often based on the notion that knowledge is socially constructed. Consequently, organisational knowledge management (OKM) programmes tend to focus on techniques and approaches such as peer assists, after-action reviews, project retrospectives, knowledge retention, communities of practice, storytelling, and innovation jams – all of which involve multiple people…But there’s a snag… Since these KM techniques first came into being, something happened: Employees got busier than ever.
Organisations now do a lot more with much less – and modern knowledge workers feel the squeeze! Employees are so busy these days, that they’ll tend to naturally resist organisational change initiatives, including OKM. They simply lack the time to get involved. They have no spare capacity left. They’re constantly “in the red” and many are in a perpetual state of crisis (work backlogs, under-staffing, overtime, stress). So, people focus on the bare essentials of their jobs – and, frankly, OKM often isn’t a part of that.
However, personal knowledge management (PKM) can make a big difference. We can use PKM (how people use, interpret, shape, consume knowledge as individuals) to free up people’s time. We may use it to improve personal productivity by working and thinking differently. When space opens up in people’s working days as a result of that, there’s more room for engaging in the (social) learning initiatives. PKM is a toolkit and set of behaviours that will help the busy knowledge professional to be more efficient, effective, and creative. It’s not too hard to imagine situations where PKM acts as a prerequisite for OKM.
By its very definition, PKM is a personal journey of enlightenment. It requires the individual to recognise the benefits of KM processes and skills within the context of personal development. The journey starts by having an awareness of what KM is, and how it can be of personal benefit, a ‘what’s in it for me’ mindset. This is Level 1 on the PKM maturity model described below. The idea of the model is to both encourage and measure personal progress up the various tiers to Level 5.
I would advise against using this as a management or HR tool to use as stick to beat employees with as part of annual performance appraisals, though of course it could be used that way. In my opinion, it’s likely to be more effective if the knowledge worker embraces this as a their own personal development plan. I can almost guarantee that if/when they are at, or close to Level 5, they will be noticed by their colleagues and their managers and will be rewarded appropriately. How could they not be? They will be demonstrating all of the skills of the consummate knowledge management professional!
I would posit that the success of any organisational knowledge management strategy (OKM) will depend on a PKM component. In my experience this is quite often overlooked.