To enhance understanding of KM concepts, tools and practices among development professionals, particularly in World Bank client countries
To build staff skills within development agencies and client governments in the use of KM tools and approaches, particularly through the use of customized Action Plans
To enable development agencies and client governments to develop and implement successful organization-wide, and program-specific KM initiatives
Why Knowledge Management Capacity?
In his groundbreaking article, The Knowledge-creating Company, which appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 1991, Ikujiro Nonaka argued that the success of Japanese companies came from their innovation, or more specifically, their ability to create new knowledge and use it to produce successful products and technologies. It is around this time that the term “knowledge management” began to be used to define a new realm of management science. Though many definitions exist, one which is often cited comes from the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC). It reads:
“knowledge management is the systematic process of identifying, capturing, and transferring information and knowledge people can use to create, compete, and improve.”
While it is difficult to capture the many dimensions of knowledge management, the diagram below identifies some of the critical issue areas to address in implementing KM in an organization.
While the private sector was ahead in adding knowledge management to its global competitiveness arsenal, government and international institutions were not far behind. In 1996, the World Bank launched its “Knowledge Bank” strategy, with other development agencies following suit and networking together via a “Knowledge Management for Development” (KM4Dev) community of practice. The public sector has also explored the potential for KM, with the US government going so far as to create a Chief Knowledge Officer in 1999 for its General Services Administration, and other governments across the world conducting training for their staff in KM and attending conference in Europe and North America for KM in government. One need only run a search on Google or in Amazon.com (3,366 results on January 17, 2006) to see how widespread the field of knowledge management has become over the past 10 years.
There are many reasons cited by organizations to explain why they have embarked on KM initiatives. Some of these reasons include:
- Competition – by drawing more attention to the value-added by an organization’s knowledge
- Downsizing – by putting into place systems for capturing the knowledge of experienced employees before it walks out the door
- Innovation – by initiating processes for creating new products and services
- Speed – by identifying smarter ways of working to save time, and reducing cycle times
- Quality – by applying lessons learned to improve service delivery
- Cost savings – by not “re-inventing the wheel” and making less mistakes and eliminating unnecessary processes
A survey of 132 departments and agencies from 20 countries conducted in 2002 by the OECD found the following additional arguments for KM which more specifically apply to the public sector:
- It is a critical determinant of competitiveness and public sector organizations are competing for talent
- There is competition from the private sector in knowledge-intensive services to the public
- Civil servants are aging, considerable staff turnover
- Knowledgeable citizens have higher expectations of government
- There are more ambitious policy goals, with many cross-cutting initiatives
The KMOC program has established several partnerships in recent years to support the development of programs and content. The following are current, active partners: