Within Knowledge Management (KM) there are two approaches, each with their specific view on how KM can succeed. First there is the human resources (HR)-approach which focuses on HR related solutions to KM, like training and work culture. Second there is the IT-approach which sees knowledge sharing as a question of IT solutions like knowledge databases, search engines and collaboration platforms. After my experiences, I don’t think one approach is better than the other. Instead, I want to embrace both approaches for a successful implementation of KM within HealthNet TPO.
This means that we should first put in place the required organisational and human conditions in order for knowledge sharing to occur, like a climate of trust and recognition of staff’s contribution for sharing or developing intervention programmes. Therefore a real cultural change must be put in place with support from the management team and the HR manager. On the other hand, a good KM plan will also rely on adequate knowledge sharing infrastructure and robust KM processes. This infrastructure functions as a catalyst which facilitates the sharing of knowledge by allowing staff to have easy access to relevant information through a user friendly KM system, social media or (virtual) Communities of Practice.
In order to succeed, a knowledge management system must combine both approaches. Isolated, each approach only gives a partial answer to KM requirements. KM must first be accepted throughout the organization and requires both soft (HR) and hard (IT) approaches.
On the soft side HR should help the organization articulate the purpose of the knowledge management system. Too often, research shows, organizations embrace technologies to solve problems before they have identified the barriers within the work culture. For facilitating a KM implementation process, help is needed from the management team and HR manager to ensure alignment among the organization's mission, conditions of employment and work ethics. These should ideally all be directed toward creating an environment of sharing and using knowledge.
The KM coordinator together with the programme coordinators, the HR manager and the IT officer must nourish a culture that embraces getting the right information to the right people at the right time. A good HR policy can help in that by transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge through education; organizations must build employee’s skills, competencies, and their careers. On the hard side the IT systems can support this work culture by creating the infrastructure to access information and to find each other in the virtual space to actively exchange information and knowledge.
An effective KM plan pays equal attention to both the HR and IT departments, together with staff that deals with the content of our programmes where most of our knowledge is actually gained and created. KM thus has a cross-organizational function and links the different departments, as I see it. In the new organisational chart for the Burundi office my position has been placed in the middle, between the content and HR and close to IT. I foresee that it will make the ‘linking’ easier and will improve for the ‘learning’ to take place.
With kind regards,
Marieke van der Vliet
Marieke van der Vliet - Knowledge Management Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region at HealthNet TPO
Background: Marieke has a background in International Relations (University of Groningen) and Development Studies (CIDIN, Nijmegen). Before she started within HealthNet TPO, she worked for the Dutch NGOs Maatwerk bij Terugkeer as a Programme Officer and for VluchtelingenWerk Nederland as an International Officer.
Currently Marieke is stationed in Bujumbura, Burundi, to coordinate a PSO funded Knowledge Management project that covers the HealthNet TPO programmes in Burundi, the DR Congo and South Sudan.