By Andie Wafzig
It has been said many times – “change is constant”. But for something so common in organizations today, change surely can elicit a myriad of discouraging reactions and responses ranging from fear to doubt to dismay. So, what might be the missing link that can help make a constantly changing environment or organization feel less volatile and even more agile? In a word, knowledge.
I was recently at an amusement park with my five-year-old son for the first time. In the first ten minutes, the size of the crowds and the extreme height of the rollercoasters had my anxiety on alert. We rode some kiddie rides a few times and then decided to walk around to other parts of the park. As we continued to walk, we came across more and more people with soaking wet clothes. Looking toward the direction they were coming, we quickly found the source – a giant, twisty-turny water ride, complete with a looming drop and the consistent, collective screams of ride goers as their log boat teetered on the top of the hill and plunged into the pool below. Much to my surprise came the arm tugging, pointing, jumping up and down and cries of “please, please, PLEASE” from my son. My stomach lurched. No way! This isn’t a kiddie ride. We came for the kiddie rides! He probably isn’t even tall enough. If he is, he will surely hate it, or be scared or heaven forbid fall out. I don’t want to walk around in soggy clothes the rest of the day. I don’t even like thrill rides anymore – I’m a mom!
To make a long and slightly wet story short, I gave in. He was tall enough. I came for the kiddie rides, but he had different expectations for the day. He loved the ride! He wasn’t scared at all. He (thankfully) did not fall out. We barely got wet at all; as it turns out, the soaking wet patrons I’d seen before were likely coming from other, more adventurous water rides nearby. And for the biggest surprise of all, the thrill-seeker in me hadn’t died with my age or my mom-status. I had a blast and we quickly hopped in line to do it all again.
So, what gives? Why the quick rush to fear and judgement?
In the absence of information, fear and doubt always find a way into our thoughts and, if we’re not careful, into our decision-making. This is as true in our personal roller-coaster-riding lives, as it is in our professional lives as employees, managers and leaders. The one way to combat this rush to judgement during times of change is to gather all of the facts, understand what is and what isn’t and grow your knowledge base in order to make more informed and ultimately, better decisions. In organizations, we call this Knowledge Management.
The Gartner Group defines knowledge management as “a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously uncaptured expertise and experience in individual workers.”
More simply put, Knowledge Management is a practice that aims to make sense of all the information and knowledge that flows in, out and through an organization. And it is becoming more and more critical, in today’s world of big data and rapid decision-making.
As a leader, if you don’t know what your organization knows, it can be hard to make a simple decision, let alone plan for the future. In order to innovate or try to stay ahead of your competition, leaders first must have a good grasp on the current state of their business. And, we’re not talking solely about what the numbers say, rather what is the individual and collective wisdom within the organization that can help you assess organizational capability or readiness? When faced with change, how quickly can your organization mobilize, make decisions and implement a new solution?
Let’s come back to the amusement park for a moment. With the proper information, the experience could have been much different. A quick web search would have equipped me with more information than I could possibly have needed to prepare me and my son for the day ahead. Knowledge and insight would have taken the seats at the table that doom and gloom were vying for.
In an organization, however, there is rarely an all-encompassing web search option that can answer any or all business-related unknowns. More likely, an employee’s options for finding an answer to a question are limited to their own knowledge and that of their closest peers and co-workers. Yet the need for information and speed to insight continues to grow. This is why organizations turn to Knowledge Management solutions – to identify the knowledge needs of the organization and connect people to the right resources, at the right time in order to make better and faster decisions.
With a Knowledge Management practice in place, an organization can better address all of the nuances that often accompany a change implementation. And, the people involved and impacted by the change will have a smoother transition from current state to future state, when organizational knowledge is shared and leveraged.