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Stephen Axelrad on Knowledge Management

My name is Stephen Axelrad.  I am a Human Capital consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton’s Human Capital and Learning team.  I consult with the US Department of Defense agencies on issues relating to human resources program evaluation, employee engagement, organizational culture, and performance measurement/management.  I have had an ongoing interest and involvement with knowledge management (KM).  Unlike most KM practitioners who tend to have information technology backgrounds, I focus on the people/cultural factors of KM, which often drive the success or failure of KM initiatives.  As you may already know from your own experiences, many KM initiatives sound great in theory but often fall short of their lofty expectations.  These repeated failures point to a strong need for evaluators to become more engaged with KM.

Hot Tip: Find roles and commonalities that position you as a valuable contributor to KM initiatives. Evaluator’s knowledge of people and organizational dynamics as well as our methodological expertise positions us well for key formal roles (e.g., needs assessors, knowledge managers, & metrics developers) and informal roles (e.g., informed observers, constructive critics, and facilitators). In addition, the two disciplines share common goals for increased use of data-driven decision making and understanding of how relationships and networks can improve organizational effectiveness. Bringing your knowledge and expertise in these areas will help you to be a valued part of KM teams.

Hot Tip: Help organizations define success for KM interventions. Several organizations equate success with the launch of an intranet or establishment of x number of communities of practice.  As evaluators, we know these results are outputs not outcomes.   We can help KM interventions become more purposeful in helping KM planners:

1)    Define what stakeholder or stakeholder needs are being met by KM

2)    Understand what the intended and unintended consequences of the implementation of KM interventions such as intranets and communities of practice

3)    Distinguish between indicators of performance (e.g., number of hits to an extranet site) and indicators of effectiveness (e.g., increased knowledge sharing across functional departments)

4)    Develop standards for effective and ethical usage of knowledge created as a result of KM resources

Rad Resource: Nancy Dixon is a knowledge management scholar who has developed some useful concepts and resources for helping organizations develop and maximize the value of knowledge sharing initiatives.  You can learn more about her organization at www.commonknowledge.org and her perspective via her blog at www.nancydixonblog.com.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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