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A front line manager's guide to managing knowledge

By Cranfield School of Management

front line manager

Knowledge management can help employees improve, innovate and direct organisations, but it’s an underappreciated practice which is generally approached ineffectively.

This blog post encourages businesses to nurture a culture of knowledge management in which staff feel comfortable sharing ideas in the knowledge their thoughts are being captured. However, for this to work in the smartest way, individuals need to work according to their area of practice while recognising and acting according to:
  • Their unique specialism
  • The role their specialism plays in the wider business
  • How their specialism works in relation to other specialists.

This is illustrated in more detail in our knowledge management matrix, which you can view in this article.

This blog post will focus on how front line managers can streamline output in relation to this model. If this is not your area of practice you may wish to read how technical specialists, functional managers or senior executives can contribute according to their unique domain.


Contribute from the front line

Performance management is the essential focus for front line managers. As they normally hold the information about operational processes which enable the delivery of strategic goals, their prime activity should be to establish, monitor and manage operational processes using that knowledge.

To add unique value they need to look beyond performance management and communicate subsequent ideas with those who can exploit knowledge in other domains. This can add value and enable effective change that improves personal credibility, influence and visibility.

As an example, in the event of a resourcing problem, a front line manager may choose to detect associated long-term trends and:

  • Share the likely impact with a functional manager who can address the strategic fit

  • Make a relevant specialist (i.e. HR) aware of the trend to engage their support

  • Share the knowledge with those who are formally tracking perceptions

  • Pass information to specialists who are in charge of developing the area concerned

  • Recognise and communicate its fit with strategic direction to senior executives.

It’s worth noting that in order to achieve this, front line managers need to:
  • Work with the bigger organisational picture

  • Have a view about business issues

  • Be able to position their ideas

  • Know who has a managerial interest in the domain

  • Understand what is actionable to people in other roles.

Above all they need to develop an external perspective to help them think and act outside the box to be able to influence others who are positioned to take action. This blog post contains tips on how to develop a personal external perspective.


A smart way to work

Once a culture that nurtures knowledge management is in place, individuals need to recognise their role within it. This will help them share information in a relevant manner which will streamline conduct and generate the most productive results. The knowledge management matrix is a useful tool which can help professionals reach this point as it outlines how connections between specialists can be used to the greatest advantage. 



Cranfield School of Management offers General Management programmes which are designed to offer a comprehensive and integrated personal development experience for people at critical transition points in their managerial career.

Join managers from a diverse range of industries to learn from each other and manage your organisation's knowledge sharing. 

Tags: Cranfield School of Management, exec-feature, developing leadership, executive development, general management, leadership capability, share knowledge, knowledge management, front line management