Friday, 19 December 2014

Learning as a Core Competency - KM quote

“One of our core competencies is the rapid realization of new technology into products. We are a learning organization.” 

Gordon Forward, CEO Chapparal Steel

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Quantified KM success story number 85

This quantified success story for KM comes courtesy of Kent Greenes

Accelerating consumer product development in Malaysia  
The research & development group of a major consumer product company used a series of Peer Assists to reduce the time to develop and bring a new product to market. Peers from the product development and marketing organizations were brought together to share their experience and transfer relevant knowledge to a new team designed to ‘fast track’ a new product to market. 
The bottom line: the new product was tested with consumers and brought to market 6 months earlier than planned. This resulted in a significant increase in revenue by beating their competition to the market.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

How to motivate people to share? Don't bother.

Another client has asked us "how do we incentivise  knowledge sharing?" The answer we usually give is "don't bother".

We give this answer, because knowledge sharing in itself achieves nothing. Knowledge needs to be re-used before any value has been added, and before KM has delivered.

And of the two - sharing and re-use - far bigger barriers are present in re-use. The Not Invented Here syndrome is far more prevalent than Knowledge Hoarding.

As an analogue, think of a driver in a car in a strange city, looking for a building which is not on the satnav.  They need knowledge, people on the sidewalk have the knowledge, but the knowledge doesn't reach the driver; not because people won't share, but because the driver usually doesn't ask.

Without an appetite for knowledge re-use, knowledge sharing can actually be counter-productive, resulting in the feeling of the "knowledge firehose".

Better to incentivise knowledge seeking first then knowledge sharing later, create the appetite for knowledge before you create the access, and create the demand before you create the supply.

There will naturally be SOME supply already, as there are people who naturally like to publish. They like to share, they like to write, they were given two ears, one mouth and ten fingers and use them in that proportion.  However if you create the demand and create the channel, the supply will follow. As David Snowden pointed out,
"In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge. A genuine request for help is not often refused unless there is literally no time or a previous history of distrust. On the other hand ask people to codify all that they know in advance of a contextual enquiry and it will be refused (in practice its impossible anyway). Linking and connecting people is more important than storing their artifacts".
Create the need, connect the people, and the sharing will follow.

And how do you create the need for knowledge?  There are a number of ways;

So don't incentivise knowledge sharing - incentivise knowledge seeking first. The sharing will follow.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

12 ways to build trust in a KM system

We all know that trust is a key factor in the success of Knowledge Management, but trust in what, and how do we build that trust?

I think we can look at the issue of trust from two points of view - the knowledge seeker and the knowledge supplier.  The elements of trust described below are independent of the system used to share, store and/or find knowledge, and independent of the relative balance between Connecting and Collecting.

Trust and the Knowledge Seeker

The knowledge seeker needs to be able to trust that seeking for knowledge will not be a waste of time, nor will it bring negative consequences. For example

  1. They need to to be able to trust that use of a search engine will bring useful results without too much effort
  2. They need to to be able to trust that any knowledge they find on knowledge bases is trustworthy and reliable 
  3. They need to to be able to trust that asking a question of a community of practice will bring valuable knowledge
  4. They need to to be able to trust that they will not be ridiculed for asking, nor drawn into unproductive discussions
  5. They need to to be able to trust that attending a Knowledge management process such as a Peer Assist will deliver more value than the time and effort it will cost
  6. They need to to be able to trust that spending time searching Knowledge Management systems will not have negative consequences such as management disapproval

The trust is in the systems, rather than in the individuals (see my blog post on why people trust crowds). Trusting a Knowledge Management Framework is like trusting a vending machine - you put money in, you get chocolate out every time, and it's good chocolate, so you trust it to deliver next time. For a KM Framework, you put in time and effort, you get knowledge back, and it's useful knowledge, so you trust it to deliver next time. 

Trust and the Knowledge Supplier

The knowledge supplier or sharer needs to be able to trust that supplying or sharing knowledge will not be a waste of time, nor will it bring negative consequences. For example
  1. They need to to be able to trust that any knowledge they supply to knowledge bases will be reviewed and used
  2. They need to to be able to trust that answering a question in a community of practice will make a difference to someone
  3. They need to to be able to trust that the knowledge they offer will not be ridiculed, nor will they drawn into unproductive discussions
  4. They need to to be able to trust that attending a Knowledge management process such as a Retrospect is a valuable use of time
  5. They need to to be able to trust that Knowledge offered during a KM process such as a Retrospect will not be ridiculed, and they will not be made to look bad by offering it (especially when learning from mistakes, or from failed projects)
  6. They need to to be able to trust that spending time providing or sharing Knowledge  will not have negative consequences such as management disapproval

Developing the trust

People develop trust for themselves, by trial and error. If they try a community of practice, for example, and find that they get no answer to their question, and that their time had been wasted, they lose trust and don't return (see my blog post on "losing trust in a community").

So we have to make the systems trustworthy.

For each of the trust issues above, this is how you deal with them

  1. Make sure you have good search, and well owned and curated knowledge bases
  2. Make sure the knowledge bases are owned, updated  and validated
  3. Make sure that CoPs are well led and facilitated
  4. Make sure that CoPs have a good Charter, which is enforced
  5. Use experienced trained facilitators for KM processes. Ensure that KM processes are applied only to important business issues
  6. Make sure that managers understand their role in supporting an appropriate level of KM activity
  7. Make sure there is a demand for knowledge, and that knowledge seeking gets as much attention as knowledge sharing
  8. Make sure that CoP discussions are focused on problem solving, and addressing business issues
  9. Make sure that CoPs have a good Charter, which is enforced
  10. Ensure that the lessons system is complete and managed, so that lessons are carried through to action
  11. Use experienced trained facilitators for KM processes, especially when learning from failure.  Use a no-blame process. 
  12. Make sure that managers understand their role in supporting an appropriate level of KM activity

Monday, 15 December 2014

Suitable KPIs for your KM team

How do you measure the performance of a Knowledge Management team? What sort of KPIs would you assign to them?

The answer to this question depends on the stage that KM implementation has reached. I suggest some KPIs below, depending on the different stages your implementation has reached.

During the strategy phase

KPIs are difficult during the strategy phase, as the KM team have not yet delivered anything - they are still planning. At this stage there is probably only one objective; "Deliver a well-researched Knowledge Management strategy and implementation plan that has the support of the key business stakeholders". This will be easier to accomplish if your key business stakeholders are acting as a steering team for the KM program. The KPI will be the level of support for the strategy.

During the piloting phase

 Part of the purpose of the Knowledge Management pilots is to deliver tangible business value through operation of KM within the pilot areas, with a secondary purpose of refining the Knowledge Management Framework prior to roll-out. The primary objective during the piloting stage is therefore the amount of value delivered.

This was the primary KPI for the BP KM team during piloting in 1998, when we were charged with delivering $100m of value to the organisation through KM pilots.  The secondary KPI for the KM team at this stage should be the number of elements of the Knowledge Management Framework which have been tested in action within the business, with improvements made as required. The target should be 100%.

During KM roll-out and transformation

During the roll-out phase, purpose of the KM team is to spread the KM transformation across the entire organisation, while continuing to add business value. The team therefore has three primary KPIs,

  • The percentage of the organisation which has reached a defined KM level, 
  • Activity metrics such as number and value of lessons, maturity of CoPs, and
  • The value added by KM to the business.
You can also add activity metrics such as the number of training courses run, the number of communities launched and so on.

During KM operation

After the roll-out and transformation phase, Knowledge Management becomes part of normal business, defined by a set of expectations within a Knowledge Management policy. At this stage, the role of the KM team is to support the business in compliance with the policy, and hence deliver value to the business.  Suitable KPIs for the KM team would be the following;
  • The level of business compliance with the expectations in the KM policy
  • Support activity metrics (such as training courses run, KM roles 
  • Addition activity metrics such as number and value of lessons, percentage of embedded lessons, completeness currency of knowledge bases,  maturity of CoPs, etc
  • The value added by KM to the business

Friday, 12 December 2014

12 principles for KM - US Army example

I blogged yesterday about Knowledge Management Policies and how they take over from Knowledge Management strategies once the implementation period is past.

One step towards this is to develop Knowledge Management principles. The US Army, for example, has both a KM Policy from 2012 and a published set of KM principles from 2008.

A summary of their 12 principles is below.

  • 1. Train and educate knowledge management leaders, managers and champions.
  • 2. Reward knowledge sharing.
  • 3. Establish a doctrine of collaboration.
  • 4. Use every interaction as an opportunity to acquire and share knowledge.
  • 5. Prevent knowledge loss
  • 6. Protect and secure information and knowledge assets.
  • 7. Embed knowledge assets (links, podcasts, videos, documents, simulations, wikis and others) in standard business processes and provide access to those who need to know.
  • 8. Use legal and standard business rules and processes across the enterprise.
  • 9. Use standardized collaborative toolsets.
  • 10. Use open architectures to permit access and searching across boundaries.
  • 11. Use a robust search capability to access contextual knowledge and store content for discovery.
  • 12. Use portals that permit single sign-on and authentication across the global enterprise, including partners.

This is an interesting list, and covers the aspects of Roles and Accountabilities (number 1), processes (numbers 7 and 8), Technology (numbers 9, 10, 11, 12) and Governance (numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).

I don't this it can be used as a standard set of principles for a Knowledge Management Framework, but it is a good place to start from.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

What comes next when your KM Strategy has run its course?

A strategy does not last forever. 

Think of the Allied strategy for the invasion of Germany at the end of World War 2 - once the war was over, the strategy had run its course.  The strategy had to be replaced by something else; a governance system for the conquered country. 

The same is true for Knowledge Management. 

Your Knowledge Management strategy is a strategy for change - a strategy for introducing the culture, behaviours and management framework for Knowledge Management. Once the change is complete, what replaces the strategy?

The answer is a Knowledge Management Policy

The policy defines for the organisation:

  • What Knowledge Management means in practice
  • The expected level of Knowledge Management activity
  • Where accountability for KM will lie
  • The requirement for KM in projects
  • The requirement for the Knowledge Owners
  • The principles that will be applied to KM

Once the implementation team has tested and piloted the components of Knowledge Management, you need to sit down with senior management and decide what the internal corporate KM policy is going to be.

For example, in one company, every project over a threshold value is required, as the KM component of operating standards,

These expectations are written out clearly, and have been rolled out to all staff. They represent a governance element of the Knowledge Management framework.

This level of governance is important once the strategy has been delivered, in order to embed, institutionalise and internalise Knowledge Management in the organisation. Plan to follow your KM strategy with a KM policy.

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