10.3.1 What does management of knowledge mean?

When we want to manage knowledge we first have to define what type of knowledge we intend to manage. Different cultures have different words and we find many definitions. In our context, we will use the term “KNOWLEDGE” for having information about subjects, processes and skills for dealing with them. This includes our acquired experiences. This knowledge – which we want to manage – can be our own, personal knowledge. It is inside us, others do not see it. Than we call it TACIT. Knowledge that we can find in other sources, like books, instructions etc. we call EXPLICIT.
This sounds theoretical but as it is a basic distinction for understanding different strategies in KM. Therefore, we should know the difference.

Tacit knowledge – stored in the individual brain – therefore: difficult to transfer and to make useable to others.

Explicit knowledge – stored in documents (handbooks, instructions) – therefore: easy to transfer and to make useable to others.

It is clear from this distinction, that management of tacit and explicit knowledge requires different concepts and tools!

In a company there is an experienced welder who always is required to do a complicated welding which only he knows to do in a perfect way. He is getting retired in one year’s time. What would you suggest in order to “save” the (tacit!) expert knowledge in the company? Please stop and think and afterwards read the footnote please.1

Knowledge Management aims to organise the acquisition/generation, the transfer and the use of knowledge in the company systematically in order to exploit it. As a consequence better use of innovative potentials, higher degree of involvement and satisfaction of staff and raising competitiveness can be achieved.

Please stop and think: What is the situation in your work environment?

After filling in the check list – have you detected yet any potentials for better knowledge management in your environment?

1 What solution have you found? We suggest building up a “tandem”, in the way that another worker does the complicated welding more and more autonomously guided by the experienced welder over a longer period of time. Sounds simple, but so many companies “forget” to identify key knowledge and to transfer it by time. Often they have to ask retired employees to come back to solve the problem. Building up a tandem to transfer tacit knowledge is a knowledge management tool.