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A functional manager's guide to managing knowledge

By Cranfield School of Management

functional 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 functional 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, front line managers or senior executives can contribute according to their unique domain.


A functional contribution

The focus for functional or operational managers is coordinating and implementing strategy via their specialism. As holders of information about functional requirements, performance expectations, resource and technical capability and potential, their prime activity should be to use that knowledge to maintain the strategic fit.

To add unique value they should use their knowledge to facilitate coordinated business effort, keep operational activity in line with strategic requirements and keep the discussion of future strategic direction informed by emerging trends. This can provide a vantage point from where decisions about investment in technical, product or people development activities can most reliably be made.

As an example, managers in these roles would need to:
  • Focus their activity and exploit ideas with peers to maintain the strategic fit

  • Generate and share ideas about organisational performance against aspirations and internal competencies

  • Actively seek, understand and exploit development knowledge from technical specialists to engage senior executives

  • Translate strategic objectives to performance requirements for front line managers.

It’s worth noting that in order to achieve this, functional or operational managers need to:
  • Be able to think and act from a more general management viewpoint

  • Know which managerial knowledge is critical to future strategic direction, performance management and potential

  • Appreciate what other functions bring to the table and how they can add value to the organisation

  • Be critical about how their specialism makes a difference to others.

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, functional managers