All organizations have mechanisms to reward their best and brightest. These could be awards or recognition, bonuses and other financial incentives or promotions. While these mechanisms are very effective in incenting employees to perform better, they do have the undesirable outcome of pitting peers against each other. While some competition is healthy, it tends to make people unwilling to share the secret ingredient of their success with their peers. This is never a good thing for any organization; therefore senior management should establish measures that will facilitate knowledge sharing. For example, there should be incentives to share knowledge such as recognition during performance evaluations. Emphasis on the benefits of knowledge sharing should start at the very top of the organization. If the CEO and other senior leaders mandate and promote knowledge sharing, employees will recognize its importance and understand that failure to comply could negatively impact their progress in the organization.
Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Issues
An important issue to consider in devising knowledge management programs is the confidentiality and intellectual property requirements of the organization. Some or all aspects of a project might be confidential for a variety of reasons from a corporation point of view, the case may be due to strategic reasons, while consulting firms might face client confidentiality constraints. Again with intellectual property, while it is important to use new experiences to gain a strategic advantage, one needs to be careful about not making the secret ingredient public knowledge that would be easily acquired by competitors.
To tackle these issues, an organization first needs to define what is confidential and what can be shared. Again, this is an element that requires the involvement and attention of the senior management team. Very often an organization takes a tiered approach to knowledge management, with access to confidential material increasing with seniority.
For some organizations, in addition to seniority in the firm and client requirements, noncompete clauses must also be figured into the mix. Once it has been decided what can be shared with whom, steps need to be taken to ensure that confidential information and intellectual property do not disappear completely when employees leave the organization.
An example of effective IP protection is illustrated in a program implemented by a leading consulting firm. This firm developed a set of algorithms to create more effective customer targeting models. While it was imperative for the organization to make the lessons learned available to all their analysts, they did not want to run the risks of their competitors gaining access to this information. To overcome this challenge, they created a process by which everybody outside a very small and core group had a high level understanding of the process and knew how to use the algorithm. The algorithm itself was encrypted and designed not to run outside the organizations environment.
While this approach would work well with algorithms and processes, it would be hard to replicate this success when the knowledge in question is strategic or qualitative. However, implementing controls surrounding the level of details at which the information is shared across the organization could go a long way to prevent leaking the information to competitive audiences.
These are tough issues that a knowledge manager must consider upfront, but working in concert with the senior management team will guarantee that a strong strategy will be developed, supported and put into practice.
Finally, a carefully planned dissemination strategy for the knowledge management framework is the last step in the process to successful implementation. There are several aspects of dissemination to be considered.
A buzz around the importance of knowledge management needs to be created within the organization and supported by regular sessions that illustrate and reinforce the goal of internal sharing.
When planning these sessions, the nature of the organization needs to be considered. Are employees at one location, or are they dispersed across geographies or time zones? For dispersed organizations, it is always beneficial to have employees at each geographic location involved in the process to champion the efforts from each location; for instance, utilizing Web-based tools to organize common sessions across geographies and time zones.