Something happened when I was managing that struck me about the importance of knowledge sharing, knowledge management and knowledge transfer and the value of local wisdom developed through organisational history.
I’ll share the story with you. We were working in a team and getting organised for a team meeting. One of the GenY staff said to another GenY staff member, “You know, we should have a secretary. We should have people who can do our typing and filing and stuff for us so that we can get on with the real work.” She turned to me and said, “Jane, why can’t we all have secretaries?”
I said to her, “In 1986, there was a Second Tier Wage Agreement in the Commonwealth employment which amalgamated a couple of job classifications. The effect of this was that different types of work were joined together, so from that time on we all had to do our own keyboard work and filing. The people who had been doing this work, got to do some of our real work.”
One of the other GenYs responded, “See I told you she would know, and I told you that it would be something last century before we were born.”
That is a true story but it struck me at that point that I just took this situation for granted – I just knew why it happened and understood that it is part of the fabric of work. These young people, however, did not have a clue why these things were happening. So that little bit of knowledge which influenced how I went about my work and why I worked the way I did, was a complete mystery to them.
Then they wanted to know about how this change occurred. So this was only a tiny bit of knowledge sharing but I was able to share some of that knowledge and history so that they could better understand what they do and why they do it.
When we talk about the knowledge element of knowledge sharing we are looking at five key questions:
1. What knowledge are we talking about?
2. Why would we share knowledge?
3. Who has this knowledge and how do we know they have it?
4. When should we share knowledge?
5. How do we undertake knowledge sharing successfully?
These questions help us to understand the import of knowledge management, including knowledge transfer. The “what” and “who” assume that it is not possible or practical to share all knowledge – there is an element of strategy and planning that comes to the fore. The“why” brings into focus both individual and organisational benefits. The “when” reinforces the importance of timeliness and the “how” raises the issue of managing priorities effectively.
I will explore each of these questions in turn in subsequent articles. Meanwhile, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowledge sharing for individual and organisational development as well as for the survival of the organisation.