Knowledge sharing (HPO factor ‘Openness and Action Orientation’) is defined as ‘the activity through which the understanding of a subject is exchanged with other people.’ Knowledge is considered to be one of the most valuable assets of present-day organizations as it embodies best practices, routines, lessons learned, problem–solving methods, and creative processes that are often difficult to replicate. People in an HPO therefore actively share information, knowledge and best practices organization-wide. Management makes sure there are infrastructures and a shared knowledge base present in the organization, to collect and translate knowledge and best practices company-wide and to create an efficient sharing process. In addition, HPO managers deliberately cultivate and utilize new ideas and knowledge from everyone anywhere in the firm. They do this by stressing the importance of lateral, cross-division, cross-function, and cross-rank knowledge exchange within the organization. This is important because research has shown that organizational boundaries (i.e. business unit, job function, office location) have a negative influence on who interacts with whom inside the organization. A pair of individuals that shares the same business unit, job function and office location communicates at an estimated rate of approximately 1,000 times higher than two people that are not within the same boundary and who are geographically separated! So if managers do not pay dedicated attention to regular knowledge sharing and exchange of experiences, they run the risk that their organization turns into a collection of organizational silos.
As we are constantly looking for the maximum for our customers, there is a lot of going back-and-forth between teams and with customers, much interaction, asking for advice, sharing of knowledge. Some new people initially have difficulty with this as they are not used to it. At their former company they were sitting alone in their room, being brilliant, trying to solve problems on their own, with nobody seeing their mistakes. Because that is what is central here: you cannot hide your mistakes, you have to be vulnerable and don’t hesitate to ask help when needed. And if you have announced with a lot of bravura that you will fix something on your own and then you don’t deliver, then you are in trouble and will suffer the consequences. Because you don’t have to act this way, everybody here is willing to help you and to accept your help.
IDEAS TO GET STARTED TO PROMOTE KNOWLEDGE SHARING
The effective sharing of knowledge requires an actively managed process, which in this case is called knowledge management. It is defined as a strategy or a framework of systems designed to help organizations create, capture, analyze, apply, and reuse knowledge to achieve competitive advantage. To set up knowledge management in your organization, you need to install the following three processes:
- Knowledge acquisition, during which new information is created and acquired, filtered, interpreted, and integrated with existing knowledge.
- Knowledge dissemination, during which knowledge is transmitted to target receivers for absorbing and achieving better performance, and subsequently is shared between different receivers.
- Responsiveness to knowledge, during which people take action in response to the knowledge gathered, filtered and interpreted. As knowledge is the only resource that increases by its use, this process is very important to constantly increase added value in activities such as continuously innovating products, processes, and services. These activities create new sources of competitive advantage. The more knowledge management is used, the more valuable it becomes for the people and the organization.
For learning and knowledge sharing among the various SABMiller units we use a combination of methods. Sometimes we say that there are some processes which are so important that they should be done in the same way in all units. Obviously, because of our decentralized nature, this doesn’t happen very often and maybe it can be considered more of spreading common processes rather than real knowledge sharing. Then we have portals on the intranet. For example, all our global brewing standards are on the technical portal. They are available to everybody, so if you want to understand our standards on yeast management or on bottle mould specifications you can find them there. We have got a marketing portal. If there are best ideas going around about market segmentation, they are available, and you can contribute and join an internet chat, you can connect with people who developed it. Knowledge sharing also takes place through functional forums. For example, the Marketing Director has a Marketing Directors Forum every four months where all the European Marketing Directors get together to talk about processes that should be common, common problems that they might have, common strategies they might be pursuing, and in that way they are sharing. Another way is that I connect people. When I visit the Poland team which is struggling with a specific problem, I might suggest they should get into contact with the Czech team which dealt with a similar problem. A third way is through networks where people get to know each other over time and develop a bond, a collegial connection. To me that is actually the most effective method of knowledge sharing.
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