By Stephen C Carter Platinum Quality Author
A personal knowledge management system is a recently introduced concept. It is a collection of processes and tools that enable you to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve and share knowledge in your working life. You can think of it as a bottom up approach to knowledge management for knowledge workers such as procurement professionals. If you have an efficient and effective personal knowledge management system, you are more likely to increase your productivity as you will have all of the information you need when you need it to carry out your tasks. Here are seven typical components of such a system.
1. Learning: If you are to improve your productivity as a knowledge worker, you need to be a life-long learner. Skills and knowledge have a shelf-life and can quickly become outdated. You need to adopt a habit of continuous learning and find out what you need to know to become a better and more productive procurement professional. Review web sites that offer training courses and see what is on offer that would fill a gap for you. Read technical journals both for procurement and the industry you are in. Produce a learning plan and talk to your HR department - can you get funding from your organisation to pay for it? After all, it is an investment for them as much as for you.
2. Information triage: there is a global explosion of information available to you both on-line and off-line. This can lead to "paralysis by analysis" setting in. What you need is a process for understanding what information is important for a given task; very much like a triage nurse sorting out which patients need to be seen in what order depending on the severity of their case.
3. Networking: this gives you access to the people who have the knowledge that you need. Networking does not happen overnight. You need to be organised so whenever you meet someone new, make sure that you ask intelligent questions about their area of expertise and listen closely to the answers. When you get home enter the details into a system - a spreadsheet will do. That way you can quickly access the details of the person who can tell you what you need without you having to scratch your head to remember who the person was and where you met them. Also, use online networking groups to build up your links and do not be afraid to ask others for introductions to people they know who could be helpful for you.
4. Research: when you do not have all the information you need to be productive you need to do some research. Start by posing the right questions - avoid closed questions that only elicit a "yes" or "no" answer. Instead ask questions that begin with "how" or "explain". Check that the people you are talking to have the right level of experience and knowledge to answer your questions credibly. Do not base your research on the views of a limited number of people as it may not give you the depth and breadth of analysis that you need.
5. Communications: if you are to be productive it is important that you get your ideas across quickly and efficiently. In other words, you need good communications skills. This covers speaking, writing and presentations. Remember that good communication is a two way process. You not only need to get your points across in a succinct and memorable way but you also need to make sure that your audience has understood you. So, encourage questions and pay attention to body language that may tell you that there is a lack of understanding.
6. Creativity: personal productivity is not about the number of tasks that you complete in a given time period. The effectiveness of your output is the key. This is where creativity comes in. Can you find a better way of adding value? There are a number of tool and techniques generally available that you can use to help release and hone your creative skills. Just look up "tools for creativity" in a search engine.
7. Continuous improvement: no matter how good your personal productivity is at the moment, it can be improved. Set yourself targets to further advance your knowledge in each of the areas covered in this article. Think about where waste occurs in each of them (for example, how you store and retrieve the knowledge you have gathered) and use your creativity to eliminate it.
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Steve Carter is an experienced procurement practitioner and published author and runs online training and coaching courses.
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