Knowledge workers of all types and across all functions and industries have something in common: their "product" is knowledge. Whether it’s a support professional delivering resolutions to problems, product managers delivering requirements, HR advisors helping employees navigate their benefits choices, or legal council advising on regulatory requirements, they’re all giving people the information they need to accomplish things. In other words, they are delivering knowledge.
Knowledge workers are busy -- they’re responding to requests, answering questions, and creating deliverables of many kinds and often in many channels. It’s easy for this incessant stream of tasks to overshadow the important work of capturing what we learn in a way that benefits the entire organization. KCS integrates the use of a knowledge base into the knowledge worker's workflow. KCS is successful when reusing, improving, and creating knowledge articles in a knowledge base becomes a habit for the knowledge worker. When these KCS activities become a habit, it reduces rework and improves the quality of the knowledge articles being reused. If the KCS practices are implemented properly, it does not add handle time to the task. This is the elegance of the methodology.
KCS asserts that organizational leaders and knowledge workers must resist the temptation to focus exclusively on the transaction or task. The tasks and related interactions are important, but great things happen when the task is done in the context of the bigger picture. Working strategically balances the importance of the task with the potential future value of what is learned from each interaction and what can be learned from the patterns that emerge from a collection of interactions. When we create and maintain a knowledge base of our collective experience, we improve our collective ability to execute our tasks, and in many cases we can eliminate the need for many repetitive tasks. Recognizing that “knowledge is the product” is the way teams work smarter, not harder.
Knowledge comes in many forms and places, all of which can be valuable to organizations. KCS is useful for all forms of knowledge; its techniques are focused on reusing and improving on what is known and capturing what is new. This is done in the course of doing the work. KCS complements, not replaces, content such as technical documentation, design documents, HR policies, regulatory filings, and other collateral. It allows organizations to distinguish knowledge that is simply experience-based from knowledge that has compliance needs such as high risk processes, company policies, or regulatory and legal requirements. KCS recognizes that not all knowledge is equal in importance and impact, and allows organizations to implement the appropriate control mechanisms based on the requirements for different types of knowledge.
Knowledge is the by-product of an interaction or experience. It is best captured in the context of use, which is why we say the best people to create and maintain knowledge are those who use it everyday. Another advantage of this idea of "capture in the moment" is the fact that most of what we know is tacit knowledge: the things we know, but don't know we know until someone asks. Explicit knowledge are the things we know that we can express in the absence of demand or context.
For more on knowledge, see The Attributes of Knowledge in the KCS Practices Guide.