The leadership of firms in our profession is aging and firms across the country are concerned about where the next wave of leaders will come from. Unfortunately, who will take over is not the only issue firms need to be planning for today. Equally important is what will happen to all the wisdom, experience and knowledge that these partners have built up in their heads over the years when they call it quits. If Knowledge Management hasn’t hit your firm’s radar yet, I’d suggest you take a look at your firm’s strategic priorities.
Knowledge management is a process to embrace knowledge as a strategic asset to drive sustainable business advantage and promote a “one firm” approach to identify, capture, evaluate, enhance and share a firm’s intellectual capital. In other words, it is your firm’s system for capturing, managing and re-using the knowledge that resides in electronic documents on your network or, more important, the tacit knowledge that is in your employees’ heads.
As today’s leaders inch closer to the door, capturing the tacit knowledge becomes critical. It’s natural to take for granted the widespread awareness of this information – “I know that, why doesn’t everyone else know it?” The challenge is transforming this into explicit knowledge that is formal, documented and can be easily shared, organized and re-used. Explicit knowledge typically takes the form of documents that are stored in digital or hard-copy format and are accessible well after the individual that authored them.
Even if you find the people to fill the leadership pipeline in your firm, you need to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be successful. So, again, if you haven’t started thinking about Knowledge Management in your firm, you need to move it to the top of your strategic initiatives. It will help not only with succession, but also with the long-term success of your firm.