“In the world of business, knowledge is an interesting but useless commodity – until it is put to good use.”
A quote from countless clients and customers
Where are you now?
In the 21st Century enterprise, the knowledge game should be well focused on increasing the likelihood that individual knowledge will benefit the enterprise… and do so on a timely basis. Are you doing this now?
From the framework of “where we are now, and where we should be soon”… On the plus side, most enterprises have a variety of policies, processes, practices, cultures, and conventions that are already in place to promote the advancement of knowledge utilization within the organization. On the minus side, whatever the enterprise is doing, it is rarely sufficient… almost everyone will tell you so… and there is not much clarity on how things will get better.
To expand, on the plus side the enterprise will provide a variety of tools email, databases, document libraries, and a variety of software applications that help in the transfer of data and information into potentially useful knowledge. The enterprise will also occasionally provide learning experiences or promote some type of knowledge sharing activities training, lectures, workshops, newsletters, idea forums, etc., that seek to convert individual knowledge into applied knowledge of potential value to the enterprise. And ultimately, the enterprise will provide some structured business processes or best practices project management, decision review bodies, peer reviews, focus groups, etc. – that serve to convert knowledge into executable intelligence.
On the minus side of the knowledge game, the enterprise will readily admit that so much more could be – and should be – done to improve or enhance knowledge utilization within the organization. The enterprise also has likely had a history of less than successful attempts at improving the collection, distribution, and timely usage of its knowledge assets. Further, the enterprise in general has no central executive strategy to improve its performance in the knowledge game… even in areas of the business where it is understood that incremental improvements may mean huge improvements in marketplace or organizational performance.
Playing it safe – and maybe losing the game
For sake of discussion, let’s call it “playing it safe”.
When an executive or leadership team is not quite sure how best to describe the problem, OR what a desirable solution might look like, it typically will just leave the issue alone. There will be some discussion about how important the knowledge game is to the future of the company, but no action will be taken.
To help illustrate this observation, the Intelligence-NEXT team provides a survey on its web site, The top 10 reasons why executives hesitate to initiate knowledge development projects. This survey is the result of 10 years of research, and will help the discerning executive team rate itself in this matter against other leadership teams from global enterprises.The executive team will typically tell you that with all the other priorities on its plate, improving their knowledge game performance – as ultimately important as it may be – will simply have to wait. They have a business to run that has more urgent priorities. And BTW, there will be nine other reasons that seem pretty good in justifying why the “improving knowledge game” project can wait.
So the apparent safe course is to take no action. No worries… history will later reveal how good a decision it is to postpone active improvements in the enterprise knowledge supply chain. And since it takes a while for history to show up, then a non-decision seems OK… it almost always seems OK in matters such as this.
Playing it safe – and winning the game
Is there a better way to “play it safe”? Our answer is emphatically, YES. In fact, for sake of discussion in this post, we will call it the SAFE approach. And we want to strongly emphasize that the reader should not confuse our notion of the SAFE approach with any contemporary market offerings labeled as knowledge management, business intelligence, communities of practice, distant learning, innovation, etc.
Quite simply, the SAFE approach provides the enterprise with a means to establish a well-defined and reasonably structured business process… maintaining a central focus in all cases on the role that knowledge plays in enterprise performance improvement.
As critical content flows through the knowledge supply chain – from data, to information, to knowledge, and ultimately to executable business intelligence – there are many intersecting points where this content is impacted by the people, processes, and technologies within the enterprise. Without judicious management, the knowledge supply chain content can get easily distorted, distracted, morphed, or lost along the way. The end result of a poorly functioning knowledge supply chain often equates to substandard business performance.
The SAFE approach simply takes care to address most if not all of those intersecting points along the knowledge supply chain.
Here is the extremely GOOD NEWS! Achieving a high performance knowledge supply chain does not involve a major, expensive, resource-intensive, long term project. Typically 80% of the ingredients of a successful knowledge-driven enterprise are already possessed by the enterprise… and simply require a bit of restructuring to realize considerable growth in leveraging of enterprise knowledge assets. The following are important points of understanding on the part of the Enterprise Decision Executive or Sponsor who may be considering a SAFE approach to the knowledge supply chain initiative:
- This is not a complex nor an expensive undertaking; the success formula has been well proven
- Once implemented, it requires a relatively short period of time to begin to realize impressive gains in enterprise knowledge and executable intelligence
- The ROI will be readily visible and understandable
- The upside gain will almost always be substantially greater than anticipated
The key message for discerning executive… improving your performance in the knowledge game is clearly not the substantial undertaking that you may have previously envisioned.
Ingredients for success
Once the decision is made to undertake a knowledge supply chain project… there is a straightforward tactical approach, complete with well-defined roles and responsibilities, and with checklist-driven tasking. There are four important points to bear in mind about applying a SAFE approach to the knowledge game.
- You will find out quickly if your enterprise staff and associates are poised and possess the appropriate mindset to drive a knowledge asset enhancement initiative.
- To ensure success, you only need a strategic direction for the knowledge supply chain – not a well articulated, detailed business plan.
- Any reasonable change management approach to project development and implementation can be utilized – you probably already have a process you use that will work quite nicely with the knowledge supply chain model.
- Most of the resources, technology, and competency required for a successful knowledge development initiative, are already in place within your enterprise.
This posting has been classified as a “concept” because it lays the conceptual foundation for a simple yet thorough method developed by Intelligence-NEXT: In upcoming posts we will provide more detail on how to structure an effective knowledge supply chain, using a SAFE approach. It is elegantly simple.