Knowledge Management at Katzenbach Partners LLC
Knowledge management is defined by Wikipedia as “a range of practices used by an organization to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness, and learning.” Effective knowledge management is essential to the continued growth and success of all modern organizations. For an organization like Katzenbach Partners LLC, knowledge management is even more critically important since a key driver of its growth is the development of new intellectual capital. Much of the Katzenbach organization’s success in the management consultancy field can be attributed to the collaborative approach used by its consultants. The intellectual capital created by these collaborations can then be applied in future projects. Prior to 2005 Katzenbach had some rudimentary knowledge management systems in place, but in that year the organization launched a knowledge management initiative. The initiative was a fundamental revamp of how the company handled the use and swapping of information. This revamp called HUB+ created several organizational and technical challenges for Katzenbach.
The success of Katzenbach Partners’ new knowledge management strategy would be closely linked to its ability to gain system adoption by the consultants. In addition, consultants would have to be instilled with new behaviors. Prior to HUB+ most knowledge management within the firm had been people-oriented. When information related to certain areas of expertise was needed, consultants would simply ask the other consultant most likely to have the requisite project information or expertise. This method was further embedded by the creation of informal practice areas with the heads of these areas designated as the “experts” in their domain. This sufficed when the number of employees was relatively small and the number of offices was limited. As the firm grew in the number of consultants and geographic locations, this method of knowledge management became less effective. This long-standing method of sharing information had become embedded in the culture of the organization. In order to overcome this challenge, management would need to demonstrate a strong commitment to the success of the new Hub+. This was accomplished in several ways
a. by using the bi-annual review process to positively recognize proper usage of the new system
b. by making the system analytics public, management would promote the system
c. by creating a full-time knowledge director position
A technical challenge faced by the User Experience team was creating a user interface that was intuitive to the user. The team wanted to limit the amount of time needed to input a document and also have the system create recommendations for the user without the user knowing how it happened. This was made more difficult by the fact that there were no comparable models to emulate. This challenge caused the creative process to take longer but was in fact overcome.
The modern organization can benefit greatly from some of the challenges overcome in the Katzenbach case study. Primarily, for a system to flourish there needs to be “buy-in” at all levels of the organization. A knowledge management system is only beneficial if it is frequently utilized by all members of the organization. The system must be relatively easy to use so that employees feel comfortable and confident that it will be of assistance to them. The system needs to be open meaning that employees can upload and tag documents without multiple layers of approval. Finally the system needs to be flexible, allowing employees to use it to create and evolve structures that will make it easier for them to manage information.