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Staff Pick: Building a Knowledge-driven Organisation

Name: Adnan Haris
Book: Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization
Author: Robert H. Buckman
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
Year: 2004
Language: English

This is the first book to focus on the people side of knowledge management–what it takes to get employees to contribute to a knowledge system. Robert Buckman explains how to orchestrate this culture change, drawing from the lessons learned by Buckman Laboratories–the leader and pioneer in knowledge management–in implementing award-winning knowledge systems.

Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization is a practical primer on how your managers and employees can move from “hoarding” knowledge in order to gain power to “sharing” it – building a global strategy that will allow your organisation to respond faster than your competition to any customer’s need, everywhere. The book focuses the hardest part of knowledge management—the people side—explaining exactly what it takes to get your employees to contribute to a knowledge system. From this book, you will discover what the author did on how to:

  • Be customer-driven and customer-centric in your knowledge sharing
  • Break down hierarchies and build a knowledge-based corporate strategy
  • Motivate and enable employees to share their expertise around the organisation
  • Implement the organisational values and climate of trust required for a knowledge-sharing culture
  • Put organisational knowledge to the front lines to solve customer problems and create new products

Staff Comments:
Knowledge management is the management of an organisation’s knowledge assets in a systematic way for the purpose of creating value to it and meeting strategic requirements which it consists of the initiatives, processes, strategies, and systems that sustain and enhance the storage, assessment, sharing, refinement, and creation of knowledge available in the organisation.

The author gave his own company Buckman Laboratories as an example, a chemical company with 1400 associates serving customers in over 80 countries in early 1980’s, who was at the times under the leadership of the author and then CEO. At the time, a traditional working style were used to cater their customers’ needs and demands. Problems arises when their customers demanded faster services, but the team could not move fast or cover enough places to meet customers’ rapidly changing needs. The solution? They developed a cross-connections platform so that people could interact everywhere and anytime with their customers.

The author took advantage of online interactions or in other words – “open space” meetings, and he realised how technology and knowledge could be used to improve online interactions. At the beginning, they set up a modem bank we they could exchange electronic communications such as emails, and provided everyone with state-of-the-art computers. With this practice of knowledge management, everyone in the company saw significant improvement and efficiency in performing their roles in the company, which resulted in excellent customers’ satisfaction with their sales and services.

To highlight the importance of knowledge management, the author includes a quote by Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking; “Knowledge makes resources mobile. Knowledge workers, unlike manufacturing workers, own the means of production: they carry their knowledge in their heads and therefore can take it with them. At the same time, the knowledge needs of organisations are likely to change continually”.

In conclusion, the use of knowledge as a new driver of economic progress is important. Buckman Labs has broken a traditional culture and adopt new style of achieving organization’s goal by utilising knowledge available in the premise and they did it. Some lessons-learnt could be list down here:

  • Knowledge-sharing should be based on customers’ needs.
  • Create knowledge-based strategy rather than hierarchal.
  • Motivate and encourage employees to share what they know
  • Make useful of knowledge in the organisation to solve customers’ needs.

I also hope this book could be useful for those who wants to learn on how to manage knowledge in the organisation and make it growth continually.

“Knowledge has always meant power: power to survive, power to adapt, power to thrive in a hard environment. Ever since the first human clan enjoyed the warmth of the first tame fire, it’s been true that knowledge shared is knowledge multiplied.”
– Introduction: Pooling your organisation’s knowledge, page vii

“Knowledge sharing is a strategic change of direction that alters the way the organisation will function from now on. It involves all the departments of the organisation, not just the IT department. It is not an IT project but a journey involving the entire company. And even for a company that is already relatively open, it is a genuine cultural change.”
– Chapter 3: How to start leading a knowledge-driven company, page 45

“Anybody in your organisation anywhere in the world can have something to contribute to the solution of any problem in the company, no matter where it occurs. How do you organise the company to recognise the fact? How do you organise around the flow of information and knowledge rather than geography?”
– Chapter 17: The things No one can copy: Speculation for the future, page 243