A sidebar e-mail conversation with some thoughtful readers of my earlier post, Is Your Knowledge Management Strategic, raised the following interesting question: How do you find out if you have the necessary content and processes without doing a full-blown knowledge audit, yet how do you avoid the dangers of the knowledge audit?
Dangers, you ask? In the wrong hands, a knowledge audit is a bit like that old definition of a sailboat (i.e., "a hole in the ocean into which you pour buckets of money"). Knowledge audits have a way of absorbing and squandering resources. And they can go on and on.
Perhaps the right approach is more triage than audit. Once you know your business strategy, and have determined with the business folks what knowledge (both internal and external) is necessary to implement that strategy, then do a quick and focused check to see if you have the required content in logical places. Contrast this with a full-blown knowledge audit, which tends to be more like a comprehensive inventory of all your content and processes -- whether or not they are pertinent to your business strategy.
The full-blown organizational knowledge audit is probably best undertaken just before you switch jobs or retire so that you at least will know the scope of the legacy you leave to your organization. At any other time, does it really matter how much content you have in your knowledge management system if you don't have the critical bits of content that are required for operational success?
PS: If you're still tempted to tackle a full-blown comprehensive knowledge audit, start with the interesting resources provided via the ever-helpful Knowledge Flow.