A high-level plan to achieve organisational goals with a knowledge management system in a nuclear organization
A knowledge management programme can be pursued and successful if there is a clear strategy and benefit to the country/organization. As with any large projects a sound NKM programme must first develop a strategy and set of underpinning objectives. The first step in setting a NKM strategy is to define the problem that the NKM programme is designed to address. To accomplish this, an assessment of current nuclear knowledge in the country/organization should be conducted. The key questions that may apply include the following:
- On a scale from minimal to adequate NKM, where is the position of the country or the organization?
- Is there a risk of losing critical knowledge due to attrition (e.g. retirement from an ageing workforce)? (For nuclear industry please see IAEA-TECDOC-1364 ‘Managing Human Resources in the Nuclear Power Industry: Lessons Learned’;
- How to improve decision making and collaboration?
- How to develop the current human resources to improve performance and bridge the knowledge gap to address challenges and maintain its competitive edge?
A proven tool for conducting a NKM self assessment is contained in IAEA-TECDOC-1586 ‘Planning and Execution of Knowledge Management Assist Missions for Nuclear Organizations’ (2008). Use of this tool will help the country/organization to assess current status versus the desired state and will drive for proper NKM strategy development.
Once this idea is developed, a clearer approach and strategy can be developed. Simplified approach for elaborating NKM strategy is provided at Fig. 1.
Approaches to develop NKM strategy
The following approaches may be considered to develop NKM strategy:
- Top-down: The overall strategic direction of the country/organization is used to identify the focus of the KM initiative. This is reflected in a series of activities designed to meet this broad goal.
- Bottom-up: Research is conducted into the activities of staff involved in key processes. The findings of this research highlights key staff needs and issues, which are then tackled through a range of KM initiatives.
Each of these approaches has its strengths, and in practice, a successful NKM programme must encompass both. The following model focuses strongly on the needs analysis activities with staff, to drive a primarily bottom-up strategy:
- Identify the key staff groups within the country/organization. The groups selected should be involved in the most important activities that deliver the greatest value.
- Conduct comprehensive and holistic needs analysis with selected groups, to identify key needs and issues.
- Supplement this research with input from senior management and organizational strategy documents, to determine an overall strategic focus.
- Develop recommendations based on these findings for addressing the issues and needs identified.
- Implement a series of strategic and tactical initiatives, based on the recommendations. This should result in suitable KM techniques and approaches.
Elements of the NKM strategy
A KM strategy should have the following elements:
- Objectives, problems that will be addressed;
- Business focus (budget, cost benefit analysis, key processes);
- Action plan
- Methods and tools for NKM
Risks to be considered
It is well established that many nuclear power plant operators face a challenge resulting from the loss of experienced workers and the knowledge and skills they possess. Often their very precious knowledge, most of which is tacit by nature and based on skills acquired through years of training and practical experience. As such it is undocumented and very difficult to retain as an organizational resource. Loss of this knowledge may be caused by a variety of factors including retirement of long term employees, internal transfers and promotions, or resignation where employees leave the nuclear industry.
Importance of establishing a KM strategy
Developing a KM strategy provides a unique opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the way the nuclear organization operates, and the challenges that confront it. By focusing on identifying staff needs and issues, activities and initiatives can be recommended with the confidence that these will have a clear and measurable impact upon the organization. Supplementing this ‘bottom-up’ research with a strategic focus then ensures that the KM initiative is aligned with broader organizational directions. Taking this approach to the development of a KM strategy allows limited resources to be targeted to the key needs within the organization, delivering the greatest business benefits while positioning the organization for long-term growth and stability, regardless the status of the organization (owner of nuclear technology or newcomer).