Service business

Harnessing knowledge management in the public sector to improve service

Columnists

Harnessing knowledge management in the public sector to improve service


A story is told about an employee who resigned from an organization after serving for decades, taking with him essential skills and knowledge acquired during his career. After he left, several key work processes came to a standstill.

Management has spent a fortune training and equipping replacement staff to stabilize operations. It is cases like these that illuminate the importance of knowledge management in an organization.

Knowledge management involves the collection, maintenance and sharing of organizational knowledge. The public sector in particular has lost a great deal of knowledge to employee attrition, primarily due to inadequate succession structures, lack of knowledge management practices, and outright inability to appreciate the benefits.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) issued a circular in 2009 raising the mandatory retirement age to protect the government from losing employees with critical skills, especially in technical areas. Ministries, departments and agencies were therefore required to provide succession management mechanisms.

The demand for efficient service delivery by the public sector has increased, hence the need for practices to create, organize, share and store knowledge, as they play a critical role in ensuring process continuity.

These interventions ensure efficiency and productivity, minimize duplication of effort and improve access to the resources needed to generate new knowledge, encourage the creation of innovative systems and, when adapted by the public sector, lead to a improved service delivery and accountability.

In the long term, there is a need to understand the context of knowledge management practices and systems so that officials are able to fully appreciate what might work best in their units.

At the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), we have embraced and prioritized knowledge management to address the above concerns.

There is a need to develop a curriculum in this area to ensure that public sector professionals are appropriately equipped to adapt to the changing working environment.