The current international Ebola crisis is a “classic” knowledge management case that is found lacking in a major way, said Scott Leeb, managing director: Knowledge Management at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, today.
Leeb delivered a talk to knowledge management practitioners and alumni at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).
Responding to a question afterwards about the use of knowledge management in relation to the Ebola crisis, he said: “The key thing I look at is how information is flowing from countries that are affected to other countries that are affected – and how it is communicated to the rest of the world.”
According to Leeb, there seems to be no central system of handling a crisis like this. “One sees in many cases that the scope of the crisis is not communicated because of concerns of reputation damage [to countries] or due to national pride.”
What should actually happen, he said, was for countries affected to ensure that they gather the necessary intelligence (information) about the extend crisis and then “to share it with the right people at the right time”.
Drawing on his experience of creating and managing knowledge management functions at the Rockefeller Foundation and four Global 1 000 companies, he discussed the central role that knowledge management plays in strategy formulation.
Knowledge management (KM) is an organisation’s IQ; it makes the organisation smarter, Leeb said. Too often the focus is simply on data collection whereas for the system to work one needs to focus on intelligence in equal measure.
The different levels of KM starts with awareness and the different processes, procedures and frameworks put into place. However, the toughest part is change management.
When he joined then Rockefeller Foundation in 2012 the organisation was preparing for its centennial celebrations a year later, but he was also specifically brought in to help ensure that the organisation stays relevant for the next hundred years.
The approach the Foundation followed included:
· Getting the right intelligence (information) to the right person in the right time to make the right decision;
· Putting an end to staff working in silos by introducing “cross talk”;
· Sensitising staff to the importance of knowledge in the brain, or the “B-drive”, and how to share it;
· Countering “knowledge leakage” by ensuring that staff nearing retirement do not leave with the knowledge acquired over the years; and
· Introducing “knowledge management exit interviews, which are different from the conventional HR exit interviews
Leeb believes the sharing of knowledge in a company or an organisation should reach beyond the sharing of data. It should extent to the sharing of relationships that individual staff members have with others outside of the company or organisation.
Caption: Scott Leeb of the Rockefeller Foundation addressing a Leader’s Angle talk at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. Picture credit: USB/Heindrich Wyngaard