What if we treated organisational money in the same way we treat organisational knowledge?

What would it be like if organisations treated their money the way they treat their knowledge?

Hands Counting $100 Bills
Hands counting $100 bills,
by Hloom Templates on Flickr

This is a simple thought experiment, which you can use with your senior managers to get them to think differently about knowledge. 

We know knowledge is an asset, we know it has value to an organisation, but compared to a different asset – money – we treat knowledge in a naïve and unthinking way.

If we treated money in the same way we treat knowledge –

  • We would allow people to hoard company finances and not share company money with others, just as we allow them to hoard knowledge;
  • We would have no single company bank account, just as we have no single knowledge base;
  • Even if we had an account, nobody would manage it or monitor it;
  • If we wanted to draw on company money, it would be as hard to find as company knowledge;
  • People would treat company earnings as their own property, just as they do with knowledge;
  • We would not create any budgets for our activities and projects, just as we do not do any knowledge budgeting;
  • If we wanted money for our projects, we would assign rich people, in the same way that we assign knowledgeable people as the default way to access knowledge;
  • If we created new income from a project, we would leave it in the pockets of the project team, just as we leave new knowledge in their heads;
  • If someone left the organisation, they would take a whole stack of company money with them, and there would be no attempt to retain this money, just as there is no attempt to retain the knowledge;
  • We would see it as a sign of weakness to ask for funding;
  • In fact people would be suspicious of money from others – “Not Earned Here” as a parallel to “Not Invented here”;
  • We would not report any financial data to senior management, who as a consequence would have little idea of the financial wealth of the organisation (do they know the intellectual wealth?);
  • People would say “we don’t have time for budgeting or financial reporting”, just as they say “we don’t have time for KM”;
  • We wouldn’t audit our finances, just as we don’t audit KM;
  • We would have no roles specifically for the management of money – no financial departments, no CFO, no accountants, no budget-holders;
  • We would have no processes for managing money – no planning, forecasting or accounting;
  • We would have no technology for tracking money;
  • We would have no financial policy, or guidelines, or rules, or expectations;
  • In short, we would have no financial management at all.
Once you have gone through this experiment, ask your managers how much value would be lost if we treated money in the same way we treat knowledge. 
Then ask them how much value is currently being lost through unmanaged knowledge.
Then ask them – 

“isn’t it time we treated knowledge management with the same level of attention we treat financial management?”

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Shared by: Nick Milton