Too many government regulators are more concerned about their own knowledge needs than those of the people they regulate.
Are government regulators such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Essential Services Commission too busy servicing their own knowledge needs rather than those of the people they regulate? Is it the transference of responsibility rather than knowledge that motivates governments in the 21st century?
The introduction of knowledge management (KM) in this country around five years ago may be regarded by some as a wake-up call from the world of academia to both the private and public sectors to do better at listening, sharing and learning. This passing of the KM "innovation-baton" is a message to develop further the knowledge nation and produce sound methods for sharing and learning.
For years in Australia, managing digitised information (explicit knowledge) was such a challenge that it took some time to understand that we needed to do more than just collect and store information. Fortunately, with the introduction of business intelligence in the mid 90s we moved on to concepts like data visualisation to add value to our outputs.
One way to extend knowledge creation is to have others determine what is needed from what is available. This process influences the transfer of tacit knowledge and value-adds our intellectual capital. As an intangible asset (especially the human capital), knowledge provides the greatest return on investment or effort. This transparent benefit reports the measurement of our intangible assets such as organisation capital, customer capital and human capital on the Balanced Scorecard.
If we agree that knowledge management processes have encouraged a cultural shift in Australia towards sharing and learning, then why not assess what is actually transferred from government regulators to embrace the payback to the private and public sector and further motivate the (knowledge creation, capture, transfer and use/reuse) loop?
A good example is the knowledge transfer from the public sector needed to keep public authorities informed. The regulatory and legislative demands are enormously high in most authorities, and governments tend to expect "one-way only" sharing (upwards).
In this country for instance, enormous overarching changes are presently taking place in the water industry. Apart from more than 70 separate pieces of legislation already being monitored by this industry, there are the regulatory bodies like the Department of Natural Resources and Energy, the Environmental Protection Authority, the Department of Human Services and the Essential Services Commission (ESC) policing quality, pricing and service.
The government's transfer of responsibility in this area will have enormous impact on the authorities that service water and waste water, especially in rural and regional areas. The water industry in Victoria is expecting the ESC to have as much impact on constituents as the amalgamation of Water Boards to Water Authorities in 1994.
There is no doubting that regulators have an enormously important role to play but it must be transparent, two-way and humanised to motivate stakeholders and promote compliance. Transparent knowledge management strategies in the initiation phase will build confidence and promote the partnership-trust concept.
There is an opportunity to act now and determine a common platform of operation to avoid an unacceptable curve-rate of diffusion (the bandwagon effect) that will only widen the communication gap, generate chaos and more importantly fail to meet expectations. For instance, the water industry needs to know now how and when the shift will occur from imposed pricing and performance standards disclosure to a rigorous independent price setting and performance improvement regime.
Mark Davis is chief knowledge officer with KnowledgePoint, a developer of knowledge-based human resource management software and Internet services
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