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Insights and articles related to knowledge management, information security, technology, data and analytics, business process automation, platform management, and other related topics, from our experienced team of consultants.

Levels of Knowledge Management

A look at four levels of knowledge management (KM): personal or individual; department, project or team; organization-wide; and inter-organizational.
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Abby Clobridge

Abby Clobridge is the founder of FireOak Strategies. She works with clients around the world to enhance how organizations manage, secure, and share their knowledge. You can reach Abby at [email protected].
Levels of Knowledge Management

For an organizational Knowledge Management (KM) strategy to be most effective, it should hit various levels:

  • Personal or individual
  • Department, project, or team
  • Organization-wide
  • Inter-organization

Level: Personal Knowledge Management

What KM Looks Like:

  • Individuals effectively and systematically manage their own information, data, and knowledge assets using organizationally-authorized tools, platforms, and processes
  • Personal knowledge curation is in effect: individuals find, discover, and apply information they need to be effective and continually grow their expertise, knowledge, and skills
  • Personal reflective learning: individuals take it upon themselves to reflect on their work and seek to continually refine how they work

Questions to Consider:

  • How can I improve my workflows?
  • Where can I improve?
  • How can I use technology to better manage the flow of knowledge?

Level: Departmental, Project, or Cross-Functional Team KM

What KM Looks Like: 

  • Departments, project teams, or cross-functional teams such as committees use organizationally-authorized tools, platforms, and processes
  • Within a particular group, individuals are using the same processes and technologies/platforms for creating, capturing, securing, sharing, and re-using the data, information, and knowledge they produce
  • Groups are comfortable sharing their information, data, and knowledge in locations that can be accessed by others within the group

Questions to Consider: 

  • Is the group disseminating information and knowledge in the most effective manner?
  • Are processes and tools being used appropriately to ensure that information and knowledge aren’t lost when members leave the group?
  • How quickly, efficiently, and effectively can new members join the group? How can we eliminate hurdles or streamline processes so new group members can access the group’s collective information, data, and knowledge?
  • How can we collaborate more effectively and efficiently using organizational tools?

Level: Organization-Wide KM

What KM Looks Like: 

  • Individuals across the organization are all using coordinated, systematic, and organizationally-sanctioned processes and tools for managing, securing, and sharing information, data, and knowledge
  • Shadow IT is not pervasive
  • Individuals are expected to share their knowledge; knowledge sharing is the norm, not the exception

Questions to Consider: 

  • Does senior management support the organization’s KM efforts?
  • Do employees have the necessary motivation to support or engage in KM efforts?
  • Are efforts, processes, and tool adoption consistent across departments?

Level: Inter-Organization KM

What KM Looks Like: 

  • Extending the KM strategy to address connected or affiliated individuals — partners, members, vendors, customers, clients, Board members, stockholders, etc.

Questions to Consider: 

  • Are those outside of the organization able to exchange knowledge with members of the organization in the most effective, efficient manner?

Depending upon an organization’s strategy — specifically, the goals and objectives for knowledge management — different tactics should be used to implement KM in a meaningful way. The set of tactics will depend on which level(s) of KM are being targeted as part of the overarching strategy. Efforts can occur at any or some combination of these levels, but in most organizations, particularly large, complex organizations, it is important to consider all four.

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This article was originally published on April 15, 2017; it was updated on August 6, 2019.

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