The purpose of this new standard is to define the requirements for knowledge management (KM) systems and to support organizations to develop management systems that effectively promote and enable value creation through knowledge. Competency is key in optimizing value of organizational knowledge. The standard forms the basis for auditing, certifying, evaluating and recognizing competent organizations by internal and external auditing bodies.

Knowledge is intangible and complex. It is created by people. It serves organizational objectives, strategies and needs. KM should include interactions between people, processes and technologies, where appropriate, and focus on managing not knowledge directly, but rather the working environment, thus nurturing the knowledge lifecycle.  Culture is critical to the effectiveness of KM. It should be adaptable and iterative, incorporating learning and feedback cycles.

ISO 30401 provides terms and definitions. It emphasizes understanding the context of the organization.  It defines the following as parts of any KM system:

  • Knowledge development – acquiring new knowledge, applying current knowledge, retaining current knowledge, handling outdated and invalid knowledge
  • Knowledge conveyance and transformation – human interactions, representation (demo, document, codify), combination (curation, classification)
  • Knowledge management enablers – human capital (cko, km lawyers, etc…), processes, technology/infrastructure, governance, culture

Leadership and commitment must be integral. This way policy and intended objectives are established and reviewed. Integration into the business and project processes is ensured and management of the process of change is driven towards adoption and application.  Leadership also provides motivation, inspiration and empowerment for people to contribute and share knowledge as it applies to their roles and areas of responsibility. Continuous improvement occurs when leadership and commitment is present.

Having a KM policy that is appropriate to the purpose of the organization and provides a framework and guiding principles is critical. It signals a commitment to satisfy applicable regulatory and other requirements and is communicated, understood and applied within the organization. Roles, responsibilities and authorities ensures engagement of people, conformity to the standard and reporting to top management. Planning and operations should address risk and opportunities, criteria and control of processes. Specific KM objectives should be spelled out with a plan to achieve them.  What will be done and by whom; who will be accountable; what resources will be required; who will be responsible; when it will be completed; how the results will be evaluated are all questions you should be asking and answering.  Support should define the resources (technology, people, funding, management commitment) and the competency of people (creators, users, designers, etc.) in various roles.

Other areas highlighted in the standard include communications (what, when, with whom and how to deliver communications relevant to KM), control of documented information (distribution, retrieval, use, storage, preservation, version control, disposal), monitoring (measurement, analysis and evaluation / internal audits / management reviews), and continual improvement and corrective actions.

There is a final word on what constitutes a healthy KM culture. People who feel comfortable openly discussing issues and offering advice.  Sharing, feeling empowered to act, self-directed learning and collaboration are also mentioned.  Key values and factors include leadership, trust, engagement, diversity, policies, training and competence.

-Jennifer McNenly, Director, Knowledge Services, Fasken

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