Knowledge is one of the most important asset an organization has. Knowledge is irreplaceable, and how this knowledge is generated, shared and used by its people strongly determines the productivity and success of an organization.
Until recently, organizations had little or no processes for managing their knowledge, which increased chances of losing valuable knowledge and did little for encouraging efforts for generating and sharing new knowledge.
Because of the importance for managing knowledge within organizations, ISO 9001:2015 introduced a series of requirements regarding this matter.
On its clause 7.1.6, the standard states that:
- The organization shall determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of its processes and to achieve conformity of products and services.
- This knowledge shall be maintained and be made available to the extent necessary.
- When addressing changing needs and trends, the organization shall consider its current knowledge and determine how to acquire or access any necessary additional knowledge and required updates.
According to ISO 9001:2015 Organizational Knowledge is the necessary information that is used and shared to achieve organizational goals and to make the organization more effective.
Because this is a new subject introduced in ISO 9001:2015, it is important to understand the different types of knowledge there are, these can be:
Explicit – This is the knowledge that is referred to as the Know-what. This knowledge is usually documented or it can be easily documented and shared. It can be found in documents, memos, databases, etc.
Tacit – This is referred as the Know-how and it is knowledge that is personal in nature. It is based on experienced and it depends on context. This type of knowledge is harder to document and articulate because it is found in the minds of the different stakeholders. There are ways to retrieve and share this knowledge (at least some of it), however, the size of the organization and complexity of the structures within the organization will determine the difficulty of this task.
Embedded – This is the knowledge that is found in processes, culture, routine, etc. This is usually the most difficult knowledge to understand and change.
It is important for organizations to implement processes to manage this knowledge and use it to benefit and achieve organizational success. Implementing Knowledge Management processes can assist organization in:
- Benefiting from lessons learned. Accidents and near misses can hold numerous lessons learned. This knowledge should be retrieved, documented (if possible), but especially, it should be shared to avoid future accidents, nonconformities, etc.
- Identifying the experts on any particular area/subject. These experts can be anywhere in the organization, for example, over the years, a machinist can acquire knowledge of equipment that will not be found on manuals
- Implementing programs to conduct on the job training sessions and tutorials
- Retrieving and documenting knowledge for the efficiency and effectiveness of processes
- Developing competency matrixes to improve selection processes, training and competency programs
- Planning succession activities in a way that personal and tacit knowledge can be retained