How to organize knowledge management in a team

Verno, red_mad_robot’s center of expertise, says.


The fact that the leader manages knowledge has been seriously discussed since the last century. Peter Drucker, now classic business management, named rapidly growing segment of office workers “knowledge workers”. This was in 1959. Soon he singled out six factors affecting their productivity:

  • a clearly defined goal of the work;

  • independence – despite the presence of a manager, the employee himself is responsible for his performance;

  • working with the new, creating a new one is an obligatory component of activity;

  • continuous self-education and training of others;

  • efficiency is not measured by quantity or volume, but quality is crucial;

  • motivation or personal choice of an employee to work in a specific position (on a project, in a company).

Subsequently, Drucker himself and other researchers of the information age continued to describe the features of a new type of employment.

For example, the biologist Paul Alfred Weiss devoted an entire article in the journal Science, the nature of knowledge formation (“knowledge grows like organisms, and data is assimilated, not just stored”). Entrepreneur and thinker Alvin Toffler noticedthat workers need a system to create, process, and improve collective knowledge.

Gradually, with the understanding that knowledge is the main asset on which the company’s profit depends, the practice of “knowledge management” appeared in business. Simply put, supporting employee productivity with tools and processes. And the role of the leader has changed.

The organization and control over the introduction of new technologies and the development of employees were added to the organization and control of operational processes.

The practice has come down to us, but, it seems, with distortions. If you ask executives how they evaluate the tasks of mastering new things, many will surely call them an additional burden when the “main job” is off.

It’s good if the leader cares about the competitiveness of the team and from time to time asks her to master a new tool to speed up and simplify the work. Or if employees, on their own initiative, sort out interesting new items. But today the team has the time and desire for this, but not tomorrow, because there is a lot of work to do.

It also happens that the HR department is responsible for all development in the company. The leader in such a system is included superficially or not included at all. Although training is called practice-oriented, it is rarely connected with daily tasks, and employees go through it rather for show.

Let’s be clear. None of these cases can be called manageable. At best, the technological level of such a company grows in uncontrolled leaps, at worst, it does not grow at all.

Here are more signs that knowledge is created and transferred as it will:

  1. No translation of changes from management to employees. The latest news is easier to find in the smoking room. And if the leader gathers a team for a conversation, this is usually not good.

  2. There are no clear production standards or a system for their development. All standards are in the head of managers and senior specialists.

  3. There is no mentoring system for new employees, employees developing new competencies and changing roles.

  4. There are no professional communities (“guilds”) within the company where employees from different teams could develop and share knowledge. For example, a community of developers in areas, designers, project managers, etc.

  5. There are no knowledge bases by departments and/or professional communities. Or the bases are not updatable and messy.

  6. There is no systematic development of new technologies: tracking the agenda (what appeared on the market, what users / clients need), mastering, implementing and testing technologies on projects.

  7. There are no platforms for discussing new knowledge and technologies with an assessment of their feasibility, applicability, limitations, etc.

  8. There are no team retrospectives after the completion of the stage and the entire project with an analysis of the best solutions and mistakes.

  9. There are no project demonstrations where the team shows the status of the project, tasks and solutions, answers questions and listens to suggestions from colleagues from other project teams.

  10. There are no internal schools or courses. For example, in managing people, projects, explaining business to employees, and improving skills.

  11. There is no production of technical and / or business cases – individually or in collaboration.

  12. There are no joint research or group interdisciplinary sprints (hackathons, marathons) to solve non-trivial problems.

What are the consequences of such an arrangement? Technical inertia – for example, in IT tools quickly become obsolete, and its relevance and profit depend on the qualifications and maneuverability of the company. Out of sync – some employees do not know what others are doing, they spend time “inventing the wheel” and making the same mistakes. Unmanaged developmentwhen people do not study for years or study “for themselves”, and new skills cannot be applied in work.

How to fix the situation:

  1. First of all, accept that knowledge management is a business process that needs to be worked on constantly, and not out of necessity.

  2. Don’t try to start all activities at once. Assess what the team lacks the most, concentrate and build work there.

  3. Don’t try to solve everything alone. Just as you do not do all the tasks of the department with your own hands, the work of organizing a knowledge system can and should be delegated.

  4. Prepare assistants for yourself and transfer to them work areas for the development of people and technologies. Form career trajectories in such a way that, in addition to developing “into a manager,” additional areas appear: mentor, project manager, business consultant, expert, etc.

  5. Maintain transparent communication with the team so that everyone understands what is being done and why, who is responsible for what, sees the results and can offer help and improvements.

  6. If the team already has useful knowledge sharing initiatives, support and systematize them. Agree on goals for the period, assign responsibility, distribute resources. Perhaps, for the first time, help the case in the role of an organizer or consultant.

  7. And, of course, managing the development of the team’s competence is the responsibility of the leader. If you delegate the training of employees to the HR service, then you need to set goals and monitor the results yourself.


More about how to organize the work of teams in the telegram channel “Don’t stop people from working”.

To get a trial consultation on upgrading your IT teams, write to Pasha Buntman from Verno.

Text authors: Anastasia Zaltsman, Artur Sakharov. Editor: Tatyana Pavlova. Illustrated by Daria Schegolyutina.

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