Organizational Knowledge

Our current business environment is characterized by accelerated change, globalization of markets, and the emergence of knowledge as a key resource.

One of the quality management principles described in ISO 9000:2015 is the “engagement of people” to enhance an organization’s capability to create and deliver value, which can be facilitated by open discussion and the sharing of knowledge and experience.

According to ISO 9001:2015, “organizational knowledge” is the knowledge specific to an organization, gained by experience, and used and shared to achieve objectives.

The requirement for Organizational Knowledge in ISO 9001:2015, clause 7.1.6, states that an organization must determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of its processes and to achieve conformity of its products and services. This knowledge must be maintained and made available to the extent necessary.

Organizations are to consider current knowledge, as well as, determine how to acquire or access the necessary additional knowledge, and required updates, especially when addressing changing needs and trends.

ISO 9001:2015, clause 7.1.6, clarifies that organizational knowledge can be based on:

  • Internal Sources (e.g., intellectual property; knowledge gained from experience; lessons learned from failures and successful projects; capturing and sharing undocumented knowledge and experience; results of improvements in processes, products, and services);
  • External Sources (e.g., standards, academia, conferences, gathering knowledge from customers or external providers).

Organizational knowledge has also been called tribal knowledge or know-how, the collective wisdom of an organization. It is the sum of all the knowledge and capabilities of all the people.

Requirements for organizational knowledge were introduced in ISO 9001:2015 to:

  • Safeguard the organization from loss of knowledge, e.g., through staff turnover and the failure to capture and share information;
  • Encourage the organization to acquire knowledge, e.g., learning from experience, mentoring, and benchmarking.

Organizational knowledge can be difficult to transfer and retain. As such, organizational knowledge is prone to waste and loss.

According to ISO/TS 9002:2016, an organization should consider how to determine and manage the require organizational knowledge to meet its present and future needs. People within the organization and their experience are the foundation of organizational knowledge. Capturing and sharing such experience and knowledge can generate synergies leading to the creation of new or updated organizational knowledge.

ISO/TS 9002 also states that a complex organization could choose to implement a formal knowledge management system, whereas less complex organizations might choose to use simpler methods, such as maintaining logbooks on design decisions or on the properties and performance of chemical compounds that were developed and tested.

In determining, maintaining, and making available organizational knowledge, the organization can consider:

  • learning from failures, near miss situations, and successes;
  • gathering knowledge from customers, external providers, and partners;
  • capturing knowledge within the organization, e.g., through mentoring and succession planning;
  • benchmarking;
  • an intranet, libraries, awareness sessions, and newsletters.