Category Archives: Blog

Managing Information

Managing information is important to the success of any business. Technology is making information readily available, and more people are accessing information. Information forms the strategies and processes of a company. Managers, at every level, need to organize, acquire, and maintain information in order to make appropriate decisions and ensure that the company runs smoothly.

Why Information Matters

Information determines the decisions that middle managers and senior managers make. With the overflow of information available, it is important that the correct information is included in the decision making process. Middle managers need to seek out, sort, and deliver relevant information. 

Important Information:

  • Technology and Infrastructure: Information regarding changes to or problems with technology or the infrastructure of the organization needs to be addressed. 
  • Customer Feedback: Customer feedback, both positive and negative, needs to be addressed.
  • Finances: Financial information should be constantly monitored.
  • Employee Feedback: Communication from employees will provide valuable information about different business practices.

Strategic Importance of Information

Information is essential to basic business strategies. The success of any business plan is linked to the reliability of the information that is used. It is important that managers use accurate, reliable, and relevant information when creating business plans. Information is used to guide decisions that determine processes that work to achieve goals.

Flow of Information

  • Information: Be sure financial, functional, and mission related information is used to develop the plan.
  • Decisions: Use the gathered information to help make decisions and manage teams and employees.
  • Work processes: When decisions are made, use them to determine important processes that will affect the goals and mission of the company.
  • Goals: The goals need to be clearly defined and performance indicators established to measure the effectiveness of the processes.

Characteristics and Costs of Useful Information

There is an abundance of information available. In order for information to be used effectively, however, it must be useful. There are five basic characteristics of useful information. Information that follows these criteria may not always be free. There are costs associated with finding and using the information. For example, there are often fees associated with hiring market research companies, and there are usually costs associated with making changes according to the information gathered.

Characteristics of useful information:

  • Relevant:  Information that speaks specifically to the topic or problem is relevant.
  • Comprehensive:  Make sure that the information is complete and detailed to prevent miscommunications.
  • Accurate: Double check the accuracy of information, and use only reliable sources.
  • Current: Information is always changing. Only current information is useful. 
  • Economical: Business demands a profit. Useful information will include the economic impact of the company.

Getting and Sharing Information

In order to implement useful information, it must be obtained and shared. Information comes from a variety of sources. The appropriate information needs to be passed on to senior management or employees. 

Sources of Information:

  • Employee surveys
  • Customer surveys
  • Market research
  • Sales reports
  • Productivity reports
  • Meetings and conferences
  • Reviews

When information is gathered from different sources, it must be shared. There are guidelines to sharing information effectively.

Sharing Information:

  • Communicate directly and clearly.
  • Communicate frequently and respectfully.
  • Present information honestly and openly.
  • Answer questions.
  • Encourage feedback and dialogue.

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Ethics and Social Responsibility

Business scandals are ingrained in the public’s consciousness. Many people expect the worst from those in positions of leadership. The truth is, however, that leadership at every level needs to be ethical and socially responsible. Let’s examine the ethics and social responsibility for middle managers.

What is Ethical Workplace Behavior?

Integrity is defined as an essential managerial trait. Ethics goes along with integrity. Most companies have codes of conduct that govern ethics in the workplace. Many of the rules are based on laws governing business ethics. These codes of conduct are usually available in a handbook, and each company will reflect different issues. There are, however, typical ethical standards in a workplace. It is important that managers lead by example to encourage ethical behavior in the workplace. An ethical workplace will lead to honesty, commitment, and loyalty.

Ethical Standards at Most Companies

  • Adhere to OSHA regulations.
  • Pay employees fairly.
  • Provide equal opportunity.
  • No tolerance for harassment of any kind.
  • Arrive at work on time and work as scheduled.
  • Converse respectfully.
  • No tolerance for threats or violent behavior.

What is Unethical Workplace Behavior?

Unethical workplace behavior is the exact opposite of ethical workplace behavior. Sometimes the unethical behavior is glaring, such as stealing or making threats. It is possible, however, for people to cross the line accidentally. For example, a joke or a compliment might offend a co-worker or employee. In order to be safe, employees should refrain from saying or doing anything at work if they feel that there is any way it could be misunderstood.

Unethical Behavior:

  • Breaking rules or policies
  • Discrimination
  • Inappropriate jokes or comments
  • Lack of compensation for work
  • Threats or acts of violence

Unethical behavior can lead to lawsuits against the company and individuals involved. Even if things do not go that far, it could cause resentment and poor performance.

How to Make Ethical Decisions

Managers need to make ethical decision, but it is not always easy. The answer is not always clear in every situation. Fortunately, there are a few steps that will help managers understand the ethics behind their decision-making process. 

Framework for Ethical Decisions:

  • Identify the ethics of a decision.
  • Acquire all of the facts about the situation.
  • Evaluate different options.
  • Monitor the situation after the decision is made.
  • Use the decision to guide new actions.

What is Social Responsibility?

Workplace ethics govern how a company treats employees. Social responsibility is the way that the company treats those outside of the workplace. Other businesses the company works with, customers, the community, and the environment all fall under the heading of social responsibility. 

Social responsibility is important because many people choose to support a business based on its social responsibility. Companies are striving to be more socially responsible, and it is becoming a part of many vision and mission statements.

Social Responsibility Covers:

  • The environment: Going green and saving energy is socially responsible.
  • The community: Find ways to give back.
  • Customers: Determine how to treat customers well and reward their patronage.
  • Business alliances: Make sure that the companies you work with treat their employees well and share your values.

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Introduction to Middle Management

There are middle managers in every field. From accounting and production to marketing and sales, managers ensure that business runs smoothly. Managers implement the strategies of their superiors. They are responsible for motivating people and getting results. In order to be an effective manager, it is essential to understand exactly what management is, what managers do, and why management is so important. 

 

What is Management?

Management is vital to the success of every organization. Management is not about telling people what to do; it is coordinating and organizing the team based on the policies, goals, and objectives of the organization. Part of management is choosing how a business should run, and directing people based on these decisions. Managers need to be both effective and efficient in their jobs. Efficiency involves doing things correctly. In order, to be effective, however, goals are reached and maintained, which may mean changing processes. 

Effective Management:

  • Task oriented
  • Develops strategies to reach goals
  • Uses job descriptions to define how work is done 
  • Goals are based on priorities
  • Predicts and adapts to change
  • Consistently evaluates and looks for ways to improve current methods

Efficient Management:

  • Work oriented
  • Strives to keep the present system running well
  • Adheres strictly to job requirements
  • Avoids change
  • Monitors work and procedures

 

What Do Managers Do?

Middle managers have obligations to senior managers and employees. The job is not easy, and requires juggling many different responsibilities. A target metric is provided to most managers. Each managerial role is different, but most managers share several key responsibilities.

Managers’ Responsibilities:

  • Meet business goals, vision, and objectives.
  • Supervise and be responsible for the performance of team members.
  • Hire, train, and develop employees.
  • Identify problems and come up with solutions.
  • Share responsibility for the growth and success of the company.

With the number of jobs a manager must perform, it can feel like a juggling act. Successful managers are able to perform these roles by prioritizing their tasks. Again, it is important to weigh effectiveness and efficiency.

Prioritizing Tasks:

  • Effectiveness: How important is the task in light of company goals or standards? Is it realistic to achieve?
  • Time: How long will the task take, and what is the affect on labor?
  • Cost: What is the cost of the task in terms of labor, supplies, and other resources?

 

What Does It Take to Be a Manager?

There are many managers in the workforce. Some managers are respected and others are despised. So, what does it take to be a manager? Each manager is unique, but a successful manager will embody certain characteristics.

Characteristics of a Manager:

  • Integrity:  A successful manager is trustworthy and will lead by example. 
  • Communication: Middle managers must be able to communicate effectively to senior managers and their employees.
  • Analytical Thinking: Managers need to think analytically in order to make decisions.
  • Focus and Composure: It is important that managers remain focused and composed at all times.

 

Why Does Management Matter?

Middle managers are often what hold a company together. Most employees will never meet the CEO or other members of senior management. Middle managers are the face of the organization to the employees on their teams. Managers determine how a team functions, and how successful the projects are. A bad manager will cost the company money in the form of turnover and training. Even in times of economic change, strong management is important.

 

Closing Thoughts

  • Steven Covey: Management works in the system; leadership works on the system.
  • Robert Heller: Effective management always means asking the right question.

 

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Managerial Ethics

Managers have a responsibility to behave ethically and manage ethically. They set the example for all employees and will determine how effective ethics management can be. Ethical management provides a number of benefits, both to the company culture and financial gain of the organization.

Ethical Management

Ethical management balances the different responsibilities of modern business organizations. 

Responsibilities:

  • Profit: All companies are responsible to make a profit in order to survive and fulfill their other obligations.
  • People: This includes employees, customers, shareholders, and the community.
  • Planet: Sustainability and the preservation of resources is a growing responsibility for businesses. 
  • Principles: The ethics that govern the organization will help the company to act ethically in every area.

Identifying the Characteristics

There are many different characteristics of ethical management. There are three traits, however, that people identify with ethical management:

  • Integrity: The manager behaves with integrity and leads by example.
  • Transparency: The company and its managers are transparent and do not hide their actions.
  • Utilitarianism: The organization and manager considers the happiness of the people involved in the organization.

Ensuring Ethical Behavior

Because ethics and values are extremely personal, it is difficult to ensure that all employees will practice ethical behavior. There are ways to promote ethical behavior, however, by simply instilling a few basic rules. 

  • Develop an ethics management program. 
  • Develop a code of ethics. 
  • Develop a code of conduct.
  • Create policies and procedures that reflect the company ethics.

It is not enough to simply create codes, programs, policies, and procedures. All rules must be enforced in order to be effective and curb unethical behavior.

This post is from April’s topic on Business Ethics, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Implementing Ethics in the Workplace

Implementing ethics in the workplace is a complex but rewarding task. Every individual has a unique set of ethical standards. Allowing each person to follow his or her moral compass will result in varied results. Companies need to focus on implementing uniform ethical standards and rules throughout their organizations. Employees should never have to question whether or not they are doing the right thing. 

Benefits

Implementing ethics in the workplace will also lead to better profits and long-term growth. Unethical business practices can cause immediate financial gain, but they will cost companies customers and employees over time. When unethical practices become public knowledge, it is difficult for a business to recover its reputation. Organizations with reputations for being ethical will also find it easier to earn credit, find investors, and expand into international markets. There are also benefits at the organizational level.

Organizational Benefits:

  • Convinces employees that the company truly values ethical decision-making.
  • Builds awareness of ethical issues.
  • Creates an ethical guideline for employees to follow. 

Guidelines for Managing Ethics in the Workplace

Managing ethics in the workplace requires certain tools. Every organization needs a Code of Ethics, a Code of Conduct, and Policies and Procedures. These tools direct the organization as leaders attempt to manage ethics.

Guidelines for Implementing and Managing Ethics:

  • Give it time: Managing ethics is a process-oriented activity that requires time and constant assessment.
  • Focus on behavior: Do not give vague requirements; make sure that ethics management has an impact on behavior.
  • Avoid problems: Create clear codes and policies that will prevent ethical problems.
  • Be open: Involve different groups in ethics program and make decisions public.
  • Integrate ethics: Make sure that all management programs have ethical values.
  • Allow for mistakes: Teach employees how to behave ethically, and do not give up when mistakes happen.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities necessary to effectively implement workplace ethics will vary with each organization. A manager should be in place to oversee the ethics program, but he or she will need the support provided by other positions. Smaller organizations may not need to fill all of the roles listed below; determine what your company needs before executing an ethics program.  

Roles:

  • CEO: The CEO of every company needs to support business ethics and lead by example. 
  • Ethics committee: An ethics committee will develop and supervise the program.
  • Ethics management team: Senior managers implement the program and train employees.
  • Ethics executive: An ethics executive or officer is trained to resolve ethical problems. 
  • Ombudsperson: This position requires interpreting and integrating values throughout the organization.

This post is from April’s topic on Business Ethics, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

What is Business Ethics?

A human being’s personal ethics determine individual standards of right and wrong. Ethics allow people to determine what they should do in a given situation. Each person develops ethical standards, and it is the responsibility of each individual to examine personal morals and behavior. In business, ethics refers to the behavior relating to the moral problems that occur in business organizations.

What Is Business Ethics?

People often automatically assume that businesses are unethical. Business seems to be constantly linked to scandals. Given the media attention to bad ethical decisions, companies that practice good business ethics can distinguish themselves in the minds of their customers and their employees. The company culture helps determine the ethics of the organization. It is crucial that businesses behave ethically in every working relationship. 

Ethical Obligations:

  • Employees: Companies need to treat all of their employees ethically. Begin by providing employees with the rights guaranteed to them by the United States Department of Labor. Ethical businesses, however, may go beyond the minimum requirements in the way that they treat their employees.
  • Shareholders and investors: There is a moral obligation to pay back investors and meet the needs of shareholders, particularly low level shareholders.  
  • Customers: Every business needs to build ethical customer relationships by providing safe products and honoring warranties. Consumers are growing more aware of which companies treat them fairly, and they will support the ones they trust. 
  • Community: Businesses have an ethical obligation to be involved in their local communities. This includes communities where they interact with customers and beyond. 
  • Vendors and Other Companies: Always deal ethically with vendors and other organizations you work with. 

10 Benefits of Managing Ethics

Operating an ethical business has a number of rewards. The circumstances of each company will determine the results of managing ethics. There are, however, 10 common benefits that all companies have when they manage their business ethics.

Benefits:

  • Ethical companies comply with all legal requirements and are less likely to be fined or sued.
  • Consumers are more likely to support a business with a reputation as an ethical organization.
  • Companies with ethical values improve their communities.
  • Ethical rules save organizations from accidentally violating the rights of employees or consumers.
  • Employees’ personal moral standards will improve at an ethical business.
  • A fair working environment facilitates teamwork and productivity.
  • Many successful financial business practices are reinforced by ethical business practices.
  • Established ethical guidelines will lead a company in times of change and stress.
  • Ethical companies retain employees and save money in turnover.
  • There is personal satisfaction in doing the right thing.

This post is from April’s topic on Business Ethics, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Signs of an Imbalance

The signs of imbalance are unmistakable. We see people suffering from poor health, burnout, and stress every day. For companies, this increases costs in the form of absenteeism, health costs, and turnover. If you recognize these signs in your life or your organization, take action immediately and focus on work- life balance.

Health Risks

Imbalance promotes poor health. Over time, this can lead to devastating, and possibly life changing consequences. 

Effects on Health:

  • Obesity: Not taking the time to exercise or eat well can increase obesity, which is connected to heart disease and numerous other health risks.
  • Exhaustion: Sleeping well can add years to a person’s life. Sacrificing sleep for work will have negative effects on health and increase the chances of getting sick.
  • Emotional problems:  Stress and exhaustion will wreak havoc on emotional well-being. This will affect relationships and personal identity.

More companies are taking an interest in the health and fitness of their employees. It is now in an organization’s best interest to do so. Healthy employees are productive, absent less, and their health care costs less. 

Absenteeism

Poor health increases employee absenteeism and thus is a costly problem for employers. There are hidden and direct costs that must be paid when an employee is absent from work. 

Cost of absenteeism:

Sick pay: Employees with sick days are still paid, which is a direct cost.

Loss of productivity: Even with someone to work the position of the sick employee, the employee familiar with the job will be more productive. This is an indirect cost of sick days.

While most people who take time off are legitimately sick, stressed employees will take days off to catch up with personal obligations, and they usually feel justified doing so. 

Burnout

Most people know that overworked employees eventually burnout. Burnout is the physical and psychological response to long-term stress. 

Signs of Burnout:

  • Loss of interest: Burned-out employees cannot make themselves care about their work, which is the source of their stress.
  • Lack of emotion: Emotional responses are abnormal when someone is burned-out.
  • Loss of motivation: Former motivators no longer are effective.
  • Possible depression: Burnout is closely linked to depression.

Burnout harms companies by increasing turnover. Consider the following: When everything is added together, 150 percent of an employee’s annual salary is the cost of turnover. This number is 200 to 250 percent for members of management.

Stress

Work is the main source of stress for most Americans. Stress’ connection to obesity for workers in sedentary jobs is more significant than diet, according to research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The effects stress on heart health can be deadly.

Signs of Stress:

  • Overemotional: People under stress can find it difficult to control their emotions.
  • Lethargy: The physiological impact of stress can cause lethargy.
  • Restlessness: Stress can make it difficult to focus, causing hyperactivity and restlessness. 
  • Anxiety: Prolonged stress can cause anxiety disorders.

This post is from March’s topic on Work-Life Balance, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Benefits of a Healthy Balance

Understanding the benefits of a healthy balanced life will motivate anyone to make necessary changes. Balance will improve the lives of individual employees as well as the company culture. Learning the basics of work-life balance will also increase employee productivity, health, and morale.

Why It’s Important

A healthy balance between work and home should be a priority for everyone. Implementing proper work-life balance offers many important benefits. There are, however, many hazards linked with an unbalanced work and home life. 

Risks

  • Poor health: Working long hours without taking time to relax will take its toll on health.
  • Unresolved conflict: A lack of balance can create conflicts at work and at home.
  • Poor performance: Taking on too much responsibility will lead to exhaustion and cause performance to suffer.
  • Financial loss: The impact on health and productivity takes a financial toll on both individual employees and organizations.

Benefits

  • Fulfillment: People who successfully implement work life balance improve their sense of fulfillment at work and at home.
  • Health: A healthy work life balance decreases the risk of heart disease and other health problems. 
  • Greater productivity: Being relaxed and well rested increases productivity and improves work performance.
  • Stronger relationships: Personal and professional relationships are strengthened and conflicts are avoided when there is work life balance.

Increased Productivity

While it may seem counterintuitive, work-life balance can actually increase productivity. While it is true that overtime will initially increase production, the surge only lasts a few weeks before taking a destructive toll on productivity. In fact, working long hours for an extended time period will lead to exhaustion and unhealthy habits that decrease productivity. 

Shorter work hours will actually increase productivity in the long-term. Additionally, studies show that people who take short, frequent breaks are more productive than people who only take a single break or work all day. Most people recommend taking a few minutes each hour to regroup. Ways to increase productivity:

Take healthy breaks: You should take time to refresh yourself. Try stretching, walking, or meditating throughout the day. This will also improve your health and overall wellbeing. 

Take enjoyable breaks: A recent study by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore discovered that taking a few moments to surf the internet and mentally change gears actually increases productivity. This fun activity increases productivity by nine percent.

Take time off: Working to the point of burnout is not productive or healthy. Do not lose vacation days, even if you have to spread them out. Studies show that people who take their vacations are much more productive than those who do not. 

Improved Mental and Physical Health

It is common knowledge that stress is directly linked to different diseases. Numerous surveys have discovered that work is a leading cause of stress related illness and injury, such as stroke, heart disease, and mental breakdowns. A balanced life will improve both physical and mental health.

How to Improve Health

Awareness: A balanced lifestyle increases personal awareness, allow individuals to identify potential health problems early.

Lifestyle: A balanced lifestyle automatically improves health. It encourages healthy choices and helps develop the body and the mind. 

Increased Morale

Work life balance is an effective tool to increase morale and improve company culture. Employees seek out companies that support healthy work life balance. The only factor more important than balance to job seekers is compensation. According to several surveys, work-life balance improves happiness and overall job satisfaction. Additionally, employees are more invested in companies that support their work-life balance. Work- life balance typically translates to employees who work harder and are more productive.

This post is from March’s topic on Work-Life Balance, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

You Need to Know These Answers

Running a business is a complex enterprise. In order to look at the big picture in your business, you need to know the answers to some basic financial questions. It is not enough for your accountant to know this information. Business acumen requires you to be aware of these answers so that you will be able to guide your company to success. 

What Makes My Company Money?

The purpose of every business is to make a profit. You need to make money in order to survive, but in order to do this; you must identify what makes your company money. You need to examine your products and services to determine which ones are actually making money for the company. For example, a bakery makes croissants, cookies, and cakes. The croissants account for 80% of the sales, and the cakes make up 15% of the sales. Cookies make up 5%, and some days most of them are thrown out. Knowing what makes your company money will provide influence and help steer the future of the company.

What Were Sales Last Year?

Companies need to grow to stay competitive. You are able to identify growth only when you see an increase in sales over time. Knowing last year’s sales is essential to understanding the current status of your company. For example, you should use last year’s sales to calculate the rate of change.

What is Our Profit Margin?

Every business needs to make a profit. The profit margin indicates how well the company is running. A large, successful company typically has a 13% net profit margin. The higher the profit margin, the more efficient the business is run. There are two types of profit margin: gross profit margin and net profit margin. Both are found when the profit is divided by the total revenue. The difference between the two is that the net profit margin is profit after tax and operating costs. 

What Were Our Costs?

A company’s costs affect other financial aspects such as profits. This is why it is so important to control costs. Many companies choose to increase profits by cutting costs. However, this can backfire when the costs you cut directly affect the customers’ experience. 

Basic Costs:

  • COGS: Cost of goods sold is also called direct cost. This includes costs associated with production, materials, labor, inventory, distribution, and other expenses. The individual COGS must stay below the sale price to make a profit.
  • Operating expenses: Overhead expenses are included in operating expenses, which is any expense necessary to keep the company running that is not COGS. Examples include support function salaries, rent, marketing, R&D, utilities, equipment, travel, etc.
  • Interest and other expenses: Interest on loans or investment losses are not part of running the business from day to day, but they affect the bottom line. Other expenses include lawsuits and selling an asset.
  • Taxes: Federal, state, and local taxes are unavoidable costs of doing business.

This post is from February’s topic on Business Acumen, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Seeing the Big Picture

Business acumen requires an understanding of finance, strategy, and decision making. Most managers and employees, however, are responsible for specific areas and they have little understanding of the impact their decisions have on other areas. When too much focus is placed on one aspect of the business, it is difficult to make decisions for the good of the company. In order to make effective decisions, it is necessary for you to examine the big picture. 

Short and Long Term Interactions

When looking at the big picture, it is necessary to consider long term as well as short term interactions. Short term interactions are immediate, single exchanges, and they are necessary for the company to survive. Without looking at the big picture, however, short term interactions may hinder long term success. For example, you may damage a business relationship by using aggressive sales techniques, costing you sales in the future.

Long term interactions are processes or relationships that are essential to growth. Long term business success requires the long term interactions. The relationships with customers, vendors, and employees need to be carefully cultivated. Failure to cultivate relationships occurs when there is a lack of communication or communication is not respectful. Long term relationships help guide the future of the business.

Recognize Growth Opportunities

It is essential for every organization to recognize growth opportunities to ensure long term success. An opportunity is any project or investment that will create growth. Opportunities, however, can be overlooked when we do not pay attention to the big picture. Individuals with business acumen are constantly recognizing opportunities for growth. If recognizing opportunities does not come easily for you, there are steps to take that will ensure that you do not overlook growth opportunities.

  • Identify market trends: Monitor changes in the market such as technological advancements.
  • Actively research customer needs: Conduct market research and anticipate customer needs, which you will fulfill. 
  • Pay attention to competitors: Take advantage of a competitor’s weakness and learn from their strengths. 
  • Monitor demographic changes: Changes in demographics indicate potential shift in customer base or needs.
  • Consult employees: Do not overlook employee ideas; encourage brainstorming.
  • Monitor abilities of the workforce: Pay attention to employee skills. Offer training or hire new employees in response to growth opportunities.

Mindfulness of Decisions

Decisions need to be made carefully and mindfully. In stressful situations, it is easy to make decisions based on emotions or external pressure. Recognize these events which increase the risk of making a poor decision that can have long term consequences. Mindful decision making combines reason with intuition to come up with decisions that are based in the present. 

Everything is Related 

In business, it is necessary for each person to perform specific roles and functions. Every business role is related to each other. For example, poor production and poor customer service will affect sales. Too many sales returns costs the company money, damaging the profits. Each aspect of the business relies on the others. Most people only focus on their specific roles, without considering how they affect the other departments. Looking at the big picture allows you to see how everything is related, and it begins with the leadership. The leadership of the company is responsible for the culture and values. These guide the other aspects of business, which are: operations and marketing, finance and governance, and information and people.

This post is from February’s topic on Business Acumen, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

The New Knowledge Management Paradigm

With the advent of information technology, knowledge management has evolved into a technological based program. Understanding what knowledge management is today requires review of what it was in the past. What and how it is applied is the overall goal of knowledge management. Understanding these concepts will allow you to understand the principles behind today’s knowledge management model. This in turn, will allow you to be more knowledgeable about the program you are about to introduce to your organization and recognize if you already have a knowledge management system in place but is outdated.

Paradigms of the Past

Knowledge management does have a past and there are models out there that rely on knowledge collection and storage as the design for a knowledge management system. What resulted from this strategy is usually a query database that employees used to search for knowledge.

Research an old-style knowledge management system that was previously used. Get lessons learned from those who were involved and incorporate this information in your newer knowledge management system proposal. 

The New Paradigm

The new paradigm for knowledge management is vastly different from the past. Instead of focusing on data storage and retrieval, the focus is on connections and networks involving employees. There is storage, but this would be more for sharing documents and reference materials. Storage would not be the end-all-be-all system for knowledge management. 

The new paradigm takes advantage of new technologies like sharing programs, portals, intranets, etc. 

Of course, no system is perfect and the next lesson will discuss the implications of establishing a knowledge management system. 

Implications and Applications

As you contemplate the introduction of knowledge management to your organization, you should consider the implications that applying knowledge management brings. If your organization is not used to sharing information and learning, this could become an obstacle to your knowledge management project.

Another consideration is the effect of technology on the organization. The new programs and communication tools present some issues to address in your project plan. It is not wise to make your knowledge management project a technology project. 

Finally, you also have to consider who will be the agents for championing and managing the knowledge management program as it develops within your organization. Who will do what? Choosing the wrong people could doom your project because of association with the wrong people. Think globally. If you are not a project manager, you should consider having one on your project. They are trained to watch for these types of risks. 

The Knowledge Management Endgame

The most important message you should convey about knowledge management is what it will do for the organization. Simply suggesting knowledge management on its own merits will not gain the support you need. You must remember that knowledge management involves the entire organization and the benefits should span the entire organization.

Therefore, you should clearly communicate the knowledge management end game. Your knowledge management project should address one or more of the following areas to help ground it to a more common business strategy:

  • Change management
  • Best practices
  • Risk management
  • Benchmarking
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Increased quality

Placing knowledge management more on the back burner then the front will take the focus off the knowledge management project itself and place it on the business strategies that get the interest of managers, creating more support for your project. 

The goal of knowledge management is to connect employees to one another in an effort to facilitate knowledge in a way that promotes learning and new knowledge that will help the organization gain a competitive advantage through increased efficiency, quality, and innovation. 

Clearly communicating this to your stakeholders will create a solid foundation for support and growth of your knowledge management project.

This post is from January’s topic on Knowledge Management, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Understanding Knowledge Management

The more information you can share with your organization about knowledge management the more apt they are in accepting it. This post explains the principles, history, and application of knowledge management in the workplace.

The words knowledge and management are two very broad concepts when separated. When the two words come together, it speaks of a concept that strives to organize information in a way that produces an advantage for an organization. While anyone would think that harnessing the knowledge of an organization is a positive thing to do, there are many who do not see the value of knowledge management. They may see this as a waste of time. This is true of many other disciplines like project management. Many see planning and assessing risk as time consuming. Therefore, they do not support initiatives that bring this change. In all honesty, change is the real issue. 

What is Knowledge

The word knowledge is often confused for information or data. The online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines knowledge as the following: Fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association. 

What is data and information? Both of these terms are a part of knowledge. Data is raw content, which by itself has no meaning or value. 

When data is grouped together, it becomes information. For example, getting a temperature reading of the climate outside on one day is meaningless without other information to make a comparison.  

Once a database is created, it becomes information because comparisons can be made. In terms of knowledge management, knowledge is information that is in context, producing an actionable understanding. 

Back to our temperature scenario, when the temperature information is placed in context with say agriculture, then knowledge is created. For example, knowing that if temperatures fall below a certain point in January they tend to last for about a week. Orange farmers in Florida must determine if they are going to harvest early or take other precautions like heating the orchard. The decision will be based on how long oranges can withstand cold conditions at a certain temperature. 

Organizations and companies hold and transfer data and information that can be placed into context allowing an actionable event or an understanding to occur. 

What is Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is a program or system designed to create, capture, share and leverage knowledge towards the success of the organization. This is easier said than done because instituting a knowledge management program requires many changes and support at all levels of the organization. Furthermore, there are different forms of knowledge to contend with and understand.

Knowledge can be tacit or explicit, which requires different strategies to capture each type. Another challenge is to distill the practice of knowledge management into one neat concept.

A Brief History

The origins of knowledge management can be traced back to the late 1970s. Everett Rogers and Thomas Allen’s work in information transfer laid the foundation to the concept of how knowledge is created, implemented, and integrated throughout an organization. 

In the 1980s, knowledge became a focal point to increasing the competitive edge for companies. People like Senge and Sakaiya discussed the advantages of creating learning and knowledge based organization. The primary object during this time was improving business in general.

In the 1990s, knowledge management was introduced into mainstream business management publications. Authors like Tom Stewart, Ikujiro Nonaka, and Hirotaka Takeuchi brought formality to the managing of knowledge. In the mid 1990’s, the Internet became the channel where knowledge management expanded greatly. 

The history of knowledge management has many prominent theorists like Karl Wiig, Peter Drucker, and Paul Strassmann. From information technology to improving how an organization learns, knowledge management started in many areas of business. There is no one source of its history. Nonetheless, knowledge management has a history of producing the kind of change businesses desire in terms of improving the communication of knowledge in order to achieve successful outcomes. 

Today, knowledge management has many applications and is useful in most any discipline in an organization. 

Applications in the Workplace

Knowledge management can be applied to many areas of the organization. Remember that knowledge management is not only storing knowledge. The larger focus is on sharing. With this in mind, applying knowledge management in the workplace is nearly unlimited. Areas that can benefit from knowledge management are as follows:

  • Corporate governance
  • Staff training 
  • Operations
  • Human resources
  • Marketing
  • Information technology
  • Research and development

Applying knowledge management in any one of these areas will lead to improved communication and responsiveness to change.

This post is from January’s topic on Knowledge Management, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.