Knowledge Management

By Laila Pesoa
2019 SUNsource Leader Board Member

What should Super Users know about Knowledge Management? (I): What is in it for me?

I have always seen Super Users as knowledge specialists. Why? Because the Super User is the person who is closer to the team and therefore is the best person to tell: who on the team needs what information, when and how it should be available, not forgetting why it is needed in the first place. But this can sound too abstract if the Super User does not understand the bigger context of Knowledge Management.

Although Knowledge Management is a very wide topic, in which not many Super Users will dig into, there are some concepts that, if well understood, will allow the Super Users to become the knowledge guardian of his team.

Maybe we should start with asking: What is knowledge?

According to APQC Knowledge Management glossary, knowledge is “Information in action. In a business context, knowledge is what employees know about work-related disciplines, products, processes, their customers, one another, mistakes, and successes.” [1] This sound like a long sentence to talk about something simple: knowledge is what you know. But it is not so simple: you can distinguish between:

    • Explicit knowledge: what is written on a manual or stored in some other format.
    • Tacit knowledge: what is inside of people. This may be already formulated or not. All knowledge is
      initially tacit.

Knowledge in the organization is created and transformed through four basic processes, as described in Nonaka’s SECI model.

Nonakas’s SECI model of Knowledge Creation (HILDRETH & KIMBLE, 2002) [1]

The Super Users should be acquainted with this model to understand where they are in the process.

  • When helping to define or improve a process, they are in “Externalization”.
  • When creating training materials, both in “Externalization” and “Combination”.
  • When delivering training and assisting users, in “Internalization”.
  • When solving problems or sharing knowledge with their colleagues and other Super Users within the Super User Network, in “Socialization”.

This is a very important point to understand because companies are having a hard time dealing with the left side of this model. Creating documents, portals and training courses to capture the knowledge and share it is the “easy part”. It may be boring for some (especially the documentation part), but it is not difficult. What is really challenging is to get people to use this knowledge, because the Internalization of knowledge is something so personal. People usually don’t even remember it is all available in the first place! And if they don’t know it is there, it is also not improving Organizational Performance.

Below is represented the Knowledge Management Process. If a company is able to produce training courses and procedures, it reaches the “Memory” step: this knowledge is on the organization’s memory. However, it will only be used if it is properly “Transferred” (one-to-one) and/or “Shared” (one-to-many). Only when the knowledge reaches this “one” or this “many” – and enters his/her head – it will be used, and consequently improve Organizational Performance.

Knowledge Management processes (KING, 2009) [2]

By simply understanding the big picture of how Knowledge Management works, the Super User can see knowledge with different eyes and will be able to contribute to its impact on the team.

Be a “knowledge person”: as a user, the Super User has a clearer view of what information should be available, where, how, why, and when. As a person who uses the information in everyday life, the Super User can decide more precisely what should be made explicit and in which format.

  • Be a “knowledge person”: as a user, the Super User has a clearer view of what information should be available, where, how, why, and when. As a person who uses the information in everyday life, the Super User can decide more precisely what should be made explicit and in which format.
  • Be a “knowledge guardian”: don’t let your department’s knowledge die. By having the full picture of the knowledge that is available, the Super User has the opportunity of observe the team and identify if people are using it or not, try to understand why, and change the format if necessary.
  • Be a “knowledge adapter”: the Super User presents to the team this knowledge “in its own measure”, in a way that will be comfortable and worthy for the team to use it. [3]

The Super Users must know what a powerful catalyzer they are for knowledge internalization. The knowledge should not only be produced but also be internalized by each person so that it is not only on the company’s memory but also in people’s heads. And the more people learn, the more they learn how to learn, and this is the basis for a Continuous Improvement culture.

In future posts, we will talk about some of the tools the Super Users can use to make this happen.

1. Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press
2. King, W.R. (2009). Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning, Annals of Information Systems 4, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-0011-1_1, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
3. Rizoto-Vidala-Pesoa, L. M. The Super User role as a tool to progress in
maturity in Business Process Management–a study case of Cabot Latvia. Master thesis, University of Latvia, 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.