A knowledge sharing policy?

Patrick Lambe asks What Would a Knowledge Sharing Policy Look Like?  And he has a sample policy (Word) based on discussions with clients and ActKM.  [And he gives me credit, along with several other KM thinkers.]

Much of the current literature on knowledge sharing is either very high level general encouragement of sharing or mainly focused on the constraints to be placed on knowledge sharing between agencies ie the things that may not be shared for information security purposes.

It's so strange to see a knowledge management document written up this way, but I suppose companies like to have certain structure.  And procedures and policies are rife throughout business.  The policy contains the general idea behind the policy, some detailed principles, responsibilities (KM committees, KM function, training, managers, staff), and guidelines for staff and departments.  The policy statement sets up everything else:

All staff have a responsibility to share the knowledge and information at their disposal, consistent with information security, confidentiality and privacy guidelines, wherever there is an opportunity to enhance or support the organization's effectiveness and performance goals by doing so.

I'm not sure where it would fit into this policy, but what about aspects of creating a trusting environment?  It's embedded throughout, but doesn't appear to be called out directly.  This probably has to do with the nature of creating a policy.

5 Comment(s)

That's a fascinating question Jack! I think this links to a post I made yesterday basically saying we shouldn't set policies for things we can't observe. Can "creating a trusting environment" be described in terms of observable behaviours that one can legitimately expect from staff? Maybe it can... but policies are tricky things!

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Yep, it is hard to measure and observe trust directly. A lot of what is in your policy suggestion hints at "trust each other," but sets it out in the form of a policy. The struggle, as I am sure you know, is that setting out the policy almost implies that the trust isn't there. Or that people are somehow going to be checked against / measured against these specific actions, which destroys the trust implicit in their design.

I'm still trying to decide whether the policy "makes sense" from a KM perspective or not. Maybe it should be more of a "terms of employment" statement in conjunction with the values of the organization. "This is how we work here. If you don't, then you might expect to be happier elsewhere."

Ah! I knew I'd seen these discussions before. There are all those "values" discussions that test the real values of a company when they ask if they'd fire the guy who is a jerk (doesn't uphold values) but still brings in the big money. My impression is that most companies let it slide, and therefore show their true colors. I have the came uncomfortable feeling when I read this proposed knowledge sharing policy. "What if the policy is ignored?"

It's a tough question. It's probably the reason why there aren't many very specific knowledge sharing policies around. To go back to first principles, I wrote this because I felt it was important to get a handle on what specific guidance and reasonable expectations for knowledge sharing might be - just telling people that knowledge sharing is good doesn't help people figure out what they should be doing in specific situations.

I think the "terms of employment" idea and association with corporate values is a good idea, but to my mind that has less force than a policy. But a policy may be "over-regulating" an impossible-to-regulate domain (cf Dave Snowden's post that you linked to recently). So it's a hard balance to maintain between giving clear guidance and setting common expectations that everyone can refer to, and attempting to over-legislate what is always going to be a voluntary, largely unsupervised activity.

I think a final point in favur of a policy is that if implemented well, it's never just the document setting out the rules... it should ideally be accompanied by training, be integrated into employee orientation and induction, be used to guide related decisions and poicies (eg staff departure/handover procedures), and should have some kind of regular review on any worrying gaps in compliance. The availability of a policy makes all that possible.

I'm sure health and safety policies in their early years must have had similar challenges.

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Good stuff, Patrick.

Many (big) companies have layers of policies and procedures, where the high level policies set out the ground rules, possibly referencing relevant regulations and the like. While the lower level policies / procedures (when needed) speak about the day-to-day implementation of those things. Health and safety is an excellent set of examples.

William Sheridan said:

Knowledge sharing involves issues of both quantity (how much to share) and quality (what to share). Even more controversial than quantity is the issue of quality. As a recent critique of the Web and Wiki said, if the knowledge you are accessing is of questionable quality (intentionally or unintentionally wrong), it doesn't really matter how much is available or how much you get. But in this post-modern age, no one wants to propose any kind of standards for ascertaining quality - not that is, until now. I have created a "template" whereby to assess knowledge qualitatively. It's at http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/unpan/unpan031277.pdf

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