Knowledge is defined in the Free Dictionary as the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned. I really like this definition because it speaks to the importance of both strategy (forward thinking) and experience (recollection).
The field of “knowledge management” was really big about 10-15 years ago. This wave of technology in search of a problem introduced words like “taxonomy”, “collaboration”, and “codification” to the IT lexicon. Companies rose and fell based on ideas such as whether an enterprise really needed to get two “experts” within its far-flung employment to talk to each other and how they found each other.
The point of managing knowledge in order to manage transition is to make documentation about what an enterprise does and why and where it wants to go and how available to the people who need it. This documentation is not a single book, it’s a library of books and those books aren’t just written prose. They’re narratives, manuals, pictures, diagrams, and presentations. Most enterprises have these things. The problem is that they’re not organized and not readily available. These artifacts are strewn all over each enterprise’s network as unstructured documents in shared and unshared folders. A third problem is that they aren’t integrated.
Many enterprises overcome the organization and availability issues through the use of a content management system (CMS). This allows the employees who follow those transitioning of other responsibilities to more easily learn the nuances of their new responsibilities because the knowledge of the previous workers is made available to them. This is of course dependent of whether the previous person documented appropriately and placed his documentation in the CMS with the proper indexes and key words.
But content management systems don’t force this knowledge to be integrated in a meaningful way. It is up to the new employee to determine what he needs to know at a given period and why he needs to know it. Integration of an enterprise’s knowledge is also important for the the other part of transition management – changing what we do. I’ll write about this topic next time.