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Using Knowledge Management to Fix a Broken a Process

Kristen Craft | May 2, 2018

The definition of process management can vary from source to source, but in its purest form, it’s a way of assessing and improving current processes to create a more efficient and effective organization.

Aiim, the information management specialists, suggests that process management “covers how we study, identify, change, and monitor business processes to ensure they run smoothly and can be improved over time.” Appian expands that notion a little further and suggest that process management can also be about aligning processes with an organization’s strategic goals.

So, you might be thinking to yourself, “wait a second… I’ve done at least some of this before!” You’d be right to think that; every organization has its own set of processes that it follows on a daily basis. If you didn’t have at least some processes in place, it would probably lead to mayhem and might cause you to suffer from things like:

  • Time wasted, (inefficiencies)
  • Increased errors, (individuals making regular mistakes)
  • Increased blame, (finger pointing)
  • Demoralized employees, (which, when combined with the above means sad employees)

Even with good process in place, it’s valuable to think about how existing process can be improved. Thankfully, applying some principles of process management to your organization will help you reduce inefficiencies and keep the business flowing at an optimal level.

How to mitigate process management problems with better knowledge sharing

Managing your business processes to make your organization more efficient sounds like the logical thing to do, right? However, as with anything, it can come with its troubles, and organizations who attempt to implement process management can face a few problems.

1. Lack of control/guidance

You’re going to struggle to introduce any new process without someone leading it, never mind trying to manage multiple processes. The process management of an organization will suffer if someone isn’t dedicated to overseeing it and feels able to make decisions when required. Use process mapping to clarify all steps in a process, and determine who is the DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) for each step. Document this in your knowledge hub, so that everyone understands how the process works.

2. Limited workforce engagement

If your employees aren’t engaged with your business in general, then you might find that this undermines even the best processes. Additionally, if people feel as though they weren’t part of the team that developed the process, they may feel less ownership, and therefore less “bought-in”. Conversely, engaged employees feel a connection with the work that they do, and they’ll bring more passion and energy to processes.

Good knowledge management can help mitigate employee engagement issues. First off, do what you can to create stronger connections between employees and the company mission. Encourage your employees to take part in evolving the company’s vision and mission. For a great example of openness about culture, check out Netflix’s Culture Deck.

You can also create a learning organization and encourage employees to take part in out-of-office groups or courses. Don’t forget to solicit regular feedback from your employees on what is and what isn’t working for them. This feedback loop helps to cultivate greater engagement in the company and the processes it uses.

3. Inability to access knowledge

As we’ve discussed in our article on Knowledge Transfer, effective knowledge sharing can make or break an organization. The more an employee knows, the more likely he or she is to make the right choices. In turn, if that employee who has vast amounts of knowledge is out of office for two weeks, who do you turn to when they’re the only one with the answer to a problem you’re facing?

This is just one example of many scenarios where employees not being able to access knowledge can severely hinder otherwise well-intentioned processes, and in due course can cause inefficiencies across the organization.

With good knowledge management, processes are less likely to be hindered by someone on vacation. All employees will feel more empowered to make decisions  and keep the trains running on time.

Process Management Best Practices

  • Encourage collaboration when setting up new processes: nurture a culture of sharing to make sure that teams know how to transfer procedural knowledge
  • Solicit input on existing processes; those closest to the process may not be able to see the stumbling blocks as easily as those who have a little more distance
  • Encourage experienced employees to show their work: You can use various techniques to share knowledge with colleagues, e.g., ‘speaking out loud’ or recording notes/speeches. An effective way to store this knowledge (and to share it more easily) is through the use of a knowledge management platform
  • Use a process infographic like the ones from Venngage to help convey even the most complicated processes in a clear way
  • Foster trust and openness: The more you create a culture of openness, the more willing people will be to share the knowledge they have.