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Knowledge Management Best Practices: Conducting an Organizational Audit in a Not-for-Profit

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Fri Oct 04 2013

Knowledge Management Best Practices: Conducting an Organizational Audit in a Not-for-Profit
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As mentioned in a previous post, managing intellectual capital usually includes the development of wikis, communities of practice, expertise databases, and other repositories. But let’s pause here and not get ahead of ourselves. Your next step is to conduct an organizational audit, which will reveal how your organization currently is capturing, storing, using, and sharing data, information, and knowledge.

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Step 1: Design protocol. It is critical to take key stakeholder preferences regarding information collection, storage, and utilization into consideration—stakeholders hold the most valuable insight for defining a successful strategy for your organization. These roles will vary from organization to organization, so select a group that is most relevant for you, and design protocol accordingly. There are many ways to collect data on the current practices of your organization; common best practices include surveying and interviewing.

What Wyman did: We designed interview protocol consisting of 10 to 15 questions for staff, board members, and donors. (The interviews took approximately 30 to 60 minutes to complete.)

Step 2: Administer a survey pilot. This will depict to what extent your audit protocol will capture all of the vital information you need.

What Wyman did: Our pilot initially consisted of a standard set of questions, but we learned that we needed to ask staff at different levels other questions—in addition to this base set. For example, the executive leadership team held knowledge that others in the organization did not have access to, so it was important to create questions that effectively captured their knowledge. Our initial protocol also aimed to interview significantly fewer individuals, but the pilot revealed the need to widen our interview pool.

Step 3: Conduct the audit. At this stage, administer your protocol. If you chose an interview method (or any method for that matter), speak with as many individuals as you can—you will gain much deeper insight than a small participant group would allow. For a small organization, set aside three months to conduct the audit. A much larger organization likely will need more time (assuming there is only one person conducting the interviews).

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What Wyman did: We completed 50 interviews in an organization with 33 full-time staff. We included staff, key board members, funders, and partners. Our goal was to conduct the most informed audit we could manage.

Step 4: Analyze your results. Complete a qualitative analysis across and within stakeholder levels. If you used interview protocol, first transcribe all responses, and then begin the analysis. If resources are available, certain software (such as Nvivo, for example) will make the early stages of your analysis less time consuming. Either way, begin reading through the data with your initial research questions in mind. Then start identifying, coding, categorizing, and interpreting themes, sub-themes, and contrasts. Always remember that efforts regarding anonymity should be made to protect confidentiality when analyzing and reporting the results.

Communicate the results throughout the organization

After completing the analysis, present findings to your board committee. Discuss organizational assets unleashed from the audit and key findings related to the following: unmet needs regarding knowledge sharing; cultural barriers inhibiting the fluency of knowledge sharing across the organization; and current strategies for data use and retention, data capture and analysis, and the management of innovation and knowledge generation. Also, explicitly show your audience the specific technology your organization is implementing, and what information is stored in each system.

After presenting audit findings to your board, share the conclusions with your executive leadership team and—shortly thereafter—the entire organization. It is important that the organization receives the same message; therefore it may work best to hold a required meeting for all staff. Getting everyone in the same room will exemplify the importance of the audit and show that you value the time they spent providing you critical information.

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Determine goals and indicators to address key findings

Since you now have a clear understanding of your organization’s strengths and challenges, you can begin focusing on where changes need to be made. Your final step is to identify the key areas for your organization to address and create action plans. Remember, it may be unrealistic to solve every challenge immediately, but by setting indicators and goals, you already are on the road toward real progress.

To read the prior blog post in this series, go here.

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