The ISO 9001:2015 standard introduces Organizational Knowledge in their 7.1.6 Clause. It defines requirements for the handling of organizational knowledge in the following four phases:
Clause 7.1.6 aspires to raise the awareness of the management team to provide them with adequate and proper knowledge placement for the future. Identifying the four focal points from start to finish provides a path to make this section of the standard really work for you.
Some quick guidance to get started
Complete an assessment of the current knowledge base in order to gain a clear understanding of organizational knowledge as it exists today. As a part of this assessment, it’s important to be able to include the knowledge that exists with regard to customer expectations and requirements.
The goal of this is to answer the question, "what knowledge do we currently have?"
Next, identify the knowledge that is required to adequately and efficiently run the business and fulfill the expectations of the customer base. It is important to do these as separate activities. I have found it to be a rare event where the knowledge a business has is a perfect match for the knowledge they need.
The goal of this is to answer the question, "what knowledge do we currently need?"
In the next phase, work to understand the gaps between existing knowledge and needed knowledge, prioritize those gaps and take action. The action could potentially be through training and hands-on learning, educational courses, seminars, etc.
A second important consideration of this phase is to understand the logistics of the organization's knowledge - how is information that is "known" by some of the organization spread to the rest? Are there "pockets of wisdom" that are not evenly shared with the people who could benefit from the knowledge? Take intentional action to set up a system to share organizational knowledge. This should include specific methods and procedures that should be followed to exchange knowledge internally and maintain the information. Passing off lessons learned from successful and failed projects in the past to colleagues is a great way for managers and employees to share their knowledge.
Because we all know this is an evolving world, it is important to have your "ears to the ground" to monitor changes in your specific market and analyze the extent of how it affects the knowledge the organization requires. Is there a brand new piece of technology available that could be utilized? Are their opportunities in the market to create a new product line? Stay tuned in to the ever-changing marketplace, and make sure to have systems in place to acquire and maintain the necessary organizational knowledge to be successful.
Organizations must continually evaluate their current knowledge and assess if it is adequate to help achieve the company's mission. Like many of the clauses in ISO 9001:2015 there needs to be a system in place to periodically assess, plan and execute. Special note here: this should not be once per year right before the 3rd party auditor shows up! Seriously, though - they can tell if you are faking it.
Not only that, but in the words of my high school football coach, "You are only cheating yourself!" Use this clause of the standard to really drive improvement in the knowledge possessed by your organization.
Christopher M. Spranger, MBA, ASQ MBB
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