KM – a practical example

In my opinion, the way to embed Knowledge Management in an organization is to a. avoid using the  term “Knowledge Management” as much as possible (like “Employee Engagement”, but that is another topic) and b.  keep it practical and aligned with the needs of the business or team.
That means you will still have to know the theory and do the thinking process, but you need to translate it into one or more products that work for you.

This is a small, but powerful, example of practical knowledge management: a list of good practices. This is one of the Knowledge Products from my earlier post.

In my earlier role, we had a team of 5 people creating Business Solutions, sites that were custom-configured to facilitate processes. Scroll through the tag “Business Example” to see what I mean. We advertised our services as “We have the experience, and we configure all solutions in a consistent, user-friendly, low-maintenance way”. We had expectations to live up to!

What did we do?

One of our tools was our “Good Practices List”. Here we added experiences, common issues, uncommon bugs, workarounds, useful URL’s, and other things we had found,  wanted to share and/or did not want to forget. Examples:

  • We agreed on a standard button from a button-creation website, and stored preferred shape, shadow, colours, typeface and font information.
  • We collaborated on a good explanation of the difference between targeting and permission settings.
  • We discussed the pros and cons of Choice and Lookup columns and as a result created some recommendations of when to use which type. (I turned it into a blog post)
  • We stored code snippets and instructions on how to use them for instance to change text colour on the edit page of a list item.

Everyone was free to add or comment on each item. We discussed new items and changes every two weeks in our team call.
At first, we all felt a bit hesitant. Sometimes we thought: “is this important enough to even write about it, let alone call it a good practice?” But once we got used to it, and we started to re-use more and more ideas from our list, it started to become a game. Who could add the most practices? Who found the next unexpected issue in our rather finicky content query tool? Who would finally find the code to use conditionally coloured texts in list columns?

Good Practices List
This is what the list looked like. Quite simple, right?


What were the results?

  • We became more aware of the benefits of having and sharing good practices. We learned about so many issues, small and large, that with every new solution we created, we thought more deeply about implications of changes over time, common misunderstandings from users, daily and on-demand maintenance etc.
  • We turned out to be complementing each other: one was very good at code; the other with visual design, etc. Each of us had our specialties that the others could learn from. We were stimulated to show our talents. This also resulted in shorter development cycles (we did not have to reinvent every wheel), and a better distribution of projects over the team.
  • Our solutions became indeed more consistent.

I am still using the knowledge from that list. Many SharePoint functionalities have not changed that much over time and some practices are still relevant. I have created a similar list in my current role.

It is not magic. In fact, the list itself was pretty straightforward:

Only 4 fields to fill to submit a good practice.

It was just being practical and realizing that creating and sharing experiences is fun and helped the team forward. It gave us all recognition.
So, this simple SharePoint list supported Knowledge Management AND Gamification! 🙂

4 thoughts on “KM – a practical example

  1. dorjem January 18, 2016 / 7:07 pm


    You’re absolutely right – a simple yet powerful solution. I really liked how your team reflected / reflects on the items in the list all the time. This ensures that the group as a whole grows and evolves even as members come and go.

    Super practical , super useful.
    Thanks for sharing.


    • Ellen van Aken January 20, 2016 / 9:14 am

      Thank you Dorje! Perhaps it takes a certain type of people. Most of us liked to reflect and refine our knowledge but for some people it may be too detailed.

  2. Mike McMinn January 21, 2016 / 4:01 am

    Really cool straightforward process, thanks for sharing. I’ve always found that in organisations that adopt processes like this they are actually able to adapt more quickly and this has a positive impact on the bottom line. For sure you’ll have some members of staff who are will think that it’s overthinking it but from my experience this is positive approach. Thanks

    • Ellen van Aken January 21, 2016 / 9:50 am

      Thanks, Mike! Personally I think that the “overthinking” bit is the thinking that KM should be done by a big complex company-wide “system”. I think KM is more of a mindset and breaking it up into a few simple things that are easy to implement and that work for a certain team is much better than waiting until The System has been implemented.

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