Maik H. Wagner

  • Maik H. Wagner is a consul­tant, lecturer and author in know­ledge
    manage­ment. After studies and PhD in Munich, Vienna, and Frank­furt he worked for several years at the rese­arch insti­tute of an employers’ asso­cia­tion to improve intel­lec­tual capital with a focus on small and mid-size compa­nies. He deli­vers his clients hands-on solu­tions to tackle know­ledge-based risks and to improve the use of know­ledge for value crea­ting processes.

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Many compa­nies trade on their expe­ri­ence. The word alone trans­mits a sense of trust­wort­hi­ness and relia­bi­lity that makes custo­mers feel secure. However, if you asked a manager to define exactly what that expe­ri­ence is, they might be hard-pressed to provide an answer. It’s a concept that is both powerful and vague, and is hard to pinpoint in dayto-day office work. So, what is real expe­ri­ence, and what really makes a person or team valu­able to a company? How is that expe­ri­ence borne out in busi­ness dealings, and how can a company retain that expe­ri­ence if they can’t even describe it? Maik H. Wagner spends his days answe­ring these questions. He works with compa­nies to help them turn expe­ri­ence into a usable, trans­ferable resource. Through a process known as know­ledge manage­ment, Wagner ensures that valu­able expe­ri­ence is not lost as the company deve­lops, and helps less e›ective teams learn from high perfor­mers. Because expe­ri­ence is often diffuse, highly-indi­vi­dual, and context-depen­dent, it can be hard for internal mana­gers to see the wood for the trees. There-fore, compa­nies can be blind to the wealth of in-house expe­ri­ence that goes untapped. Without a proper system to define and harness this know­ledge, compa­nies simply lose it instead of using it to reach their busi­ness goals. Here, Maik Wagner shares a few tips on how a company can weigh up its expe­ri­ence, turn it into a usable resource, and main­tain it within the orga­ni­sa­tion.

Assess effec­tiveness

Not all of the expe­ri­ence that a person or a team has rolling around their brains will be useful to your company. There­fore, before you start a process of know­ledge manage­ment, it’s important to know the exact kind of expe­ri­ence that you want to gather. Ulti­mately, you need to decide what will end up being econo­mi­c­ally useful to your company. What kind of know­ledge will help your teams to perform better and to provide a better return? Once you have esta­blished strict para­me­ters, it will be easier to define what’s useful infor­ma­tion, and what’s worth­less.

Decide what you need to know

Most expe­ri­ence within compa­nies is accrued over long periods as people and teams work toge­ther and build their know­ledge. While that know­ledge is trapped in the context of an indi­vi­dual or a team, you can’t define what exactly could benefit others across the orga­ni­sa­tion. There­fore, you need to remove the context from the expe­ri­ence to decide what is really an econo­mi­c­ally useful resource. Compa­nies need to ask them­selves where perfor­mance needs to be improved, and what know­ledge can be applied as general infor­ma­tion within the company? Using those answers as a guide­line, compa­nies can analyse and process internal expe­ri­ence to distil the most useful, broadly appli­cable infor­ma­tion.

Explore networks

Make sure not to fall into the trap of belie­ving that useful expe­ri­ence is the sole reserve of your best and brigh­test employees. High perfor­mers work in tandem with other people and teams that all feed into know­ledge processes and how expe­ri­ence is deve­loped. To explore the networks, and thus the entire span of know­ledge, you need to speak with each indi­vi­dual or stake­holder that your star employees interact with on a day-to-day basis. This means you get a broader picture of how the expe­ri­ence is deve­loped and processed, and has the added advan­tage of going beyond the manager’s hunch about who is most valu­able. Mana­gers cannot be aware of ever­y­thing that’s happe­ning within their teams, and so explo­ring the internal networks deepens the scope of expe­ri­ence that you can glean know­ledge from.

Be reali­stic

Know­ledge manage­ment consul­tants have to speak to expe­ri­enced indi­vi­duals, examine complex commu­ni­ca­tion patterns, and assess the vali­dity of expe­ri­ence types against a series of theses and hypo­theses. Perhaps most import­antly however, it’s important for a consul­tant to be reali­stic. Even armed with very detailed know­ledge about manage­ment and team beha­viours, one cannot comple­tely discover ever­y­thing that makes up a perfect expe­ri­ence set. However, from this process the consul­tant can define a set of deri­va­tives that can be used to quickly train succes­sors, rede­velop company processes, and develop compe­ten­cies within teams.

Manage effec­tively

By extrac­ting know­ledge from expe­ri­ence, mana­gers are given a very good foun­da­tion for further deve­lo­ping teams and opti­mi­sing processes. However, now that the know­ledge has been distilled, it needs a good manage­ment struc­ture to ensure the company learns from the process and to put the new-found infor­ma­tion to work. Mana­gers have to decide how teams use the findings, how they should be applied to the best e›ect, and perhaps even most import­antly, decide what should be discarded, or kept for use at a later date.

Start small

Applying what you’ve learned is a chal­len­ging task and it’s important to start small when you begin to imple­ment these learnings. If you over­haul every process based on your findings, you won’t be able to properly assess the extent to which you really need this resource. If you change the overall corpo­rate culture, you distort the impact of the smaller tweaks.

Measure success

As with any internal process that isn’t directly mone­tised, it can be very hard to measure the success of know­ledge manage­ment. However, if an employee can start their new role armed with the know­ledge, processes, network, and best prac­tices of their prede­cessor, it will soon be easy to see if it has paid off. Asses­sing the success of changed processes, or whether a team is deve­lo­ping certain compe­ten­cies can take a lot longer. There­fore, it’s important to remember that know­ledge manage­ment is a long-term commit­ment that requires ongoing atten­tion, and not just a once-off quick fix.

Effec­tive know­ledge manage­ment helps compa­nies operate at peak condi­tion and means that the inevi­table loss of valu­able employees won’t hamper the smooth running of the company. It also means that poorer teams can learn from their stronger coun­ter­parts, with the end result being that each team performs at its best. If your company is struggling to keep up the pace, maybe you should ask yourself if your in-house expe­ri­ence is as reliable as you think it is.

Maik H. Wagner

  • Maik H. Wagner is a consul­tant, lecturer and author in know­ledge
    manage­ment. After studies and PhD in Munich, Vienna, and Frank­furt he worked for several years at the rese­arch insti­tute of an employers’ asso­cia­tion to improve intel­lec­tual capital with a focus on small and mid-size compa­nies. He deli­vers his clients hands-on solu­tions to tackle know­ledge-based risks and to improve the use of know­ledge for value crea­ting processes.

Want to get to know Maik H. Wagner?

Get in touch

Still curious?
There is more to see here:

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