Thursday, 18 September 2014

7 signs your KM strategy is in trouble

In a great post from , Lucas McDonnell provides 6 signs that your Knowledge Management strategy is in trouble. 

accident waiting to happen
Lucas' signs are as follows, with my comments in brackets.
1. People outside your group don’t understand what you’re doing (a failure in communication)

2. You keep changing vendors/technologies/products (often a symptom that technology alone is not working, which also means that changing technology won't help)

3. You keep layering vendors/technologies/products on top of each other (this seems like a "sweetshop" approach to KM, rather than a strategic view of what technology is needed, as modelled by Schlumberger)

4. You find it difficult to explain what you’re trying to accomplish (because you do not have a business-led strategy)

5. You’re prescribing organizational change (by which Lucas means that change is prescribed, rather than delivered through solving a series of business problems)

6. You’re making big promises (I struggle with this one a bit - but Lucas means "don;t overpromise").

Numbers 2 and 3 make me think there is a missing "sign 7", namely

7. All you are focusing on is vendors/technologies/products

It still amazes me how often you hear "KM is all about people" from teams who are concentrating solely on technology. we have known for Years that Knowledge Management needs a complete framework of Roles, Processes, Technology and Governance

So however much time and money you spend on technology, spend the same on People - coaching people, training people, listening to people, setting people's roles and people's accountabilities, and looking at people structures.

Then spend the same amount of time on Process - work process, knowledge seeking process, knowledge sharing process, community process, team process and project process.

Finally there is the issue of governance, which is often neglected completely. Spend the same amount of time in determining how KM can be embedded into the existing governance processes of the organisation, and how it can be promoted, encouraged, governed, measured, incentivised and quality-assured.

Driving a KM strategy on technology alone and neglecting the other three aspects of people, process and governance, is like driving a truck with only one tyre inflated.

Sooner or later, something is going to crash.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Global trends in KM maturity

How mature is Knowledge Management as an applied discipline, and how does this vary around the world?

The level of maturity of Knowledge Management was one of many variables measured in our global survey of Knowledge Management. It was measured in two ways - an estimate of the number of years that KM had been a focus, and a verbal description of maturity of KM within the organisation.

The diagram on the right shows the results for the verbal assessment.

We can see that Knowledge Management is most mature in India and Pakistan, USA and Canada, and Western Europe.

When you think about the MAKE award winners - Wipro, Infosys, Mindtree, NASA, Shell, Schlumberger, BP, Ford etc - this makes a lot of sense. Big companies from these three areas have led the development of KM from the start.

Lagging at the tail are Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Asia and China. Here KM is largely in the early stages of application.

When we look at the average number of years spent doing Knowledge Management, as another proxy measure for the maturity of the topic (see table below), we see the same Top 4 as in the Figure above,. and the same bottom two. The order is not identical, but it is similar (South East Asia, for example, taking longer to fully embed KM).


Average number of years doing KM

USA and Canada7.8
Western Europe6.8
South East Asia6.5
India and Pakistan5.9
Central and South America5.5
N Africa and M East4.7
Central and S Africa3.7
Central Asia and China3
Eastern Europe and Russia1.5

So what does this tell us?

It tells is that there is several KM heart-lands, with long experience and high maturity, in 
  • USA/Canada
  • Western Europe
  • India/Pakistan
  • South East Asia
It tells us that there are large regions where Knowledge Management has yet to have a real impact, such as China and Russia.

Whether China and Russia can adopt KM practices from the mature heartlands, or whether they need to develop their own, remains to be seen. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

How the Nuclear Industry governs KM

There are some industries where the need for Knowledge Management is so obvious that the discipline has been adopted passionately, and implemented rigorously. Perhaps the type example is the Nuclear industry. 

The international governing body for the industry, the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), has published a host of documents on Knowledge Management, including a guidance note for KM in Nuclear Installations. Regular conferences are held on the topic, and the industry has its own certification program for knowledge managers.

Just last week, it was announced that the international School of Nuclear Knowledge Management (SNKM) was celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The school's certificate programme is jointly organized by the IAEA and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) and is held in Trieste, Italy (see picture above).
 "Aimed at preparing the participants for implementing knowledge management programmes in nuclear science and technology, the School provides an opportunity to gain practical and theoretical skills and learn from renowned specialists in the nuclear field. Through programmes like SNKM, the IAEA works with its partners to create opportunities for developing this knowledge and building capacities within Member States, helping to ensure the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy."

Why such success with KM?

 The business proposition for Knowledge Management in the Nuclear Industry is a clear one. The business driver is Safety, as the consequences of safety breaches are so terrible. Also the life of a Nuclear project - from design to build to operate to decommission - exceeds the working life, and the effective memory, of any single person.  Reliance on expertise is insufficient - knowledge must be consciously managed.  Also there is little competitive pressure between the Nuclear operators, and the barriers to cross-industry knowledge transfer are lower than, say, in the Oil, Legal or Consulting sectors.

Knowledge Management is therefore clearly needed, and can be possible at an industry level.

As a result, the Nuclear industry has developed an impressive set of governance elements, including

  • A coordinating body (the Nuclear KM section of the IAEA)
  • The definition document described above
  • Supporting reference material
  • Training and certification
  • Regular knowledge transfer conferences

A model for others

There are perhaps few industries which can emulate what Nuclear has done. However the governance elements used by the industry are entirely appropriate for use within a mature KM organisation. 

If you aspire to fully embed Knowledge Management in your organisation, as the IAEA has done for Nuclear, then you also will need
  • A coordinating body (your own KM team)
  • A Knowledge Management policy
  • Supporting reference material
  • Training in KM
  • Regular knowledge transfer between your different operating units.

Monday, 15 September 2014

KM thought leaders - are they REALLY all from the USA?

Stan Garfield has produced an excellent and comprehensive list of Knowledge Management thought leaders, available here.  But how representative is this list in global terms?

As I read through the list, I was firstly very pleased to see my name there, and also my colleague Tom Young (you always look for your own name first, right?). And I was also pleased to see many old friends and respected acquaintances on the list, such as Kent Greenes, Nancy Dixon, Larry Prusak, Richard McDermott, Etienne Wenger, and many more.

But then I began to notice that the list was largely US-dominated.

63% of the thought leaders on the list are based in the USA.  If you include Canada, that rises to 72%. If you include the UK and Australia (the large English speaking industrial nations) you hit 92%.

Is this real?

Do all the KM thought leaders speak English? And are the majority of them located in the USA?

If so, then why?


I cross-checked Stan's though-leader list with a second list, quoted on Denham Grey's blog, from a thesis by Alex Bennet.

This list is even more USA-dominated, with 71% of the names being based in the USA.

There are fewer names on this list from the UK (my name, and Toms, are both missing); fewer from Australia or Canada, but some extra names from Finland, Mexico, Poland and South Africa.

So who and where are the real thought leaders?

The first question needs to be "What is a thought leader"?

Traditionally a thought leader is someone who has an early and long involvement with a topic, writing some of the key books on the topic. We know that the USA, Canada and Western Europe were earlier on the scene in KM terms than most other regions - Japan being the exception - so it is no surprise the standard texts were in English, and largely from the USA.

But if we search the Knowledge Management texts to find the leading authors, do we also search for "Gestion del Conocimiento", "Gestion des Connaisances", "Wissensmanagement" and so on? Are the Anglophones among us even aware of KM thought leaders in other cultures?

And is it just the early authors that are the thought leaders? You can lead thought in other ways than just writing books.

What do you think?

I could suggest a few extra names for Stan's list - names such as Madanmohan Rao in India, for example, or Prof Eric Tsui in Hong Kong - but I thought it might be better to see what you think.

Who would you put into a Knowledge Management thought-leader's list?

Let me know through the Comments

Friday, 12 September 2014

Free KM newsletter - "Do you know what your critical knowledge is?"

Released this week; our latest free Knowledge Management newsletter.

This issue covered the issue of Critical Knowledge

See past newsletters here - sign up for future newsletters here

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Knoco Newsletter; header graphic

September 2014 

What is your critical knowledge?

In This Issue

Other News

Visit our website to order a pdf copy of the full report findings of our 2014 global survey of KM.
Nearly 400 KMers share data on their KM focus areas, KM successes, budgets, team sizes etc.


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Contact us

"What knowledge do we need to manage?" is one of the fundamental questions to get right in your Knowledge Management program.
As consultants, the greatest Knowledge Management insight we bring to client organisations is often this - You don’t have to manage it all! Just manage the 20% of the knowledge that makes 80% of the difference.

This is a great insight, because it gives focus to your KM efforts. We frequently find that when people start thinking about Knowledge Management implementation, they start thinking about the company-wide solutions first. They may research technology, they may seek out some excellent processes, they may think about the roles and accountabilities the company will need, and they may contemplate the use of communities of practice, lesson-learning, and other solution sets.

However thinking instead about "What knowledge do we need to manage" allows you to focus your efforts, and apply them to the biggest and most urgent Knowledge issues within the organisation.

Why Focus is important

Any Knowledge Management strategy, system or approach should be based around, and focused on, the knowledge which is critical to the organisation.

If you focus your effort proactively on the knowledge of highest business value - the business-critical knowledge areas - then your KM efforts will not only be easier, they will deliver far higher benefit. Focused KM systems add maximum value. By focusing on the 20% of the knowledge that delivers the 80% of the value, it maximises the rate of return on your KM investment. People are busy, time is precious, and so it makes sense to spend your precious time on the highest-value knowledge.

A focus on critical knowledge is particularly important when crafting your Knowledge Management Strategy, to ensure your strategy is targeted on the most important knowledge issues.  For example the Ecopetrol Knowledge Management strategy was focused around the question “What knowledge do we need at Ecopetrol that we don’t have?”

A focus on critical knowledge is needed, for example, when selecting Knowledge Management pilots, so that you make sure you address the knowledge of greatest value first. Finally you need to think about the type of knowledge which is most critical, when it comes to developing your communities of practice, as well as the structures and taxonomies that underlie your knowledge management framework.


Finding the strategic knowledge

The link between business strategy and knowledge management is provided by strategic activities. You make this link and identify the strategic knowledge through conversation with senior managers and by asking three questions;
  • What strategic activities do we need to do, in order to deliver our business strategy?
  • What do we need to know, to be competent at those activities?
  • How do we acquire, develop and protect that knowledge?
So you start with your business strategy, identify the activities needed to deliver that strategy, identify the knowledge needed to deliver the activities, and finally think about how that knowledge can be managed.

The activities and supporting knowledge could be at many levels in the organisation, for example;
  • Knowledge of how to enter new markets
  • Knowledge of how to sell products in existing markets,
  • Knowledge of how to operate plants safely and efficiently,
  • Knowledge of how to craft successful bids, or
  • Knowledge of how to interact with governmental and regulatory agencies.
The knowledge can be new knowledge which needs to be acquired, cutting edge knowledge which forms your competitive advantage, or core knowledge which is needed to keep your income stream alive and to fulfil your commitments. It can even be knowledge which is supplied by your partners and contractors, but which is still vital to your business.

If you need help to identify your strategic knowledge, contact us.


Finding the Urgent Knowledge

This is the knowledge which needs urgent attention from knowledge management. There are at least four cases where knowledge can be in need of urgent attention. These are as follows.

1. When knowledge is important to the company strategy, but you don't have it yet (or you don't have enough of it). Here the focus will be on the acquisition and development of knowledge - on innovation, knowledge creation, research and action learning.

2. Where vital knowledge exists in the company, but cannot be accessed because it is siloed, not shared, or otherwise not properly managed. Here knowledge is used inefficiently - advances in one part of the business are not shared with other parts of the business which need it. Multiple and inefficient solutions exist, where one or two best-in-class solutions would be better. Here the focus will be on the elements of knowledge sharing and knowledge improvement, such as communities of practice, lessons learned, and development of knowledge assets, best practices, and standardisation.

3. Where crucial knowledge is at risk of loss (perhaps through the retirement of key members of staff). Here the focus must be on developing and deploying a Knowledge Retention Strategy.

4. When critical knowledge is held by a contractor, partner or supplier, and they don't have Knowledge Management. Here the focus is on defining a Knowledge Management Framework for them to apply, to keep your knowledge safe.

We can aid you in Finding the Urgent knowledge.

Finding the knowledge that most needs attention

The discussions above have mostly been about top-down identification of critical knowledge. However by using a Knowledge Scan, we can identify our critical knowledge from the bottom up.

A knowledge scan takes a Topic view of an organisation, and asks
  • Which knowledge topics are well managed?
  • Which knowledge topics are at risk, through poor Knowledge Management?
  • Which knowledge topics are at risk, through potential loss of personnel?
  • What actions need to be taken to improve the management of these knowledge topics, and so reduce the business risk?
The topics to be scanned are identified through a workshop, through knowledge mapping, or through using your existing taxonomy of processes, products and knowledge areas. Individual interviews or small group interviews are use to identify the attributes of these topics in KM terms, such as the criticality of the knowledge, its level of documentation and ownership, and a number of other factors.

The knowledge scan spreadsheet then ranks the topics into a priority order of required attention. A series of cross-plots allows us to determine the KM interventions most likely to be needed to reduce the KM risk.

Through addressing each knowledge topic in their order of attention priority, you can make sure that your knowledge Management program is tackling the biggest problems first.

Contact us if you are interested in a Knowledge Scan.

KM Implementation based on critical knowledge

There are two alternative directions you can take with your Knowledge Management implementation.

The first, which is a common but often unsuccessful approach, is to implement KM through rolling out your Knowledge Management framework across the whole organisation all at once. Here an organisation defines what framework elements Knowledge Management requires, develops these elements, and makes the framework available for the whole organisation to use, regardless of business need or knowledge priority. This company-wide roll-out can sometimes be a successful approach, depending on whether or not you are rolling out a complete framework. When you introduce only a few elements of the framework, this approach can be a disaster, as in the common but discredited "technology roll-out" strategy.

The second implementation approach, which is rarer but much more successful, is to implement KM through addressing a series of business problems, tackling the critical and strategic knowledge areas one by one, rolling out the framework in order to address critical business needs. Mars, for example, implemented Knowledge Management at a rate of two business knowedge issues a year.  In this approach, the Knowledge Management Framework is preferentially applied in the areas of greatest business need.

In this approach, you look at specific business issues or problems, identify the critical knowledge, and introduce the Knowledge Management framework in order to solve those problems, prioritising those elements which will solve the problem fastest. Perhaps you have a business challenge which lots of people are addressing in parallel around the world, in which case a Community of Practice will be the solution. Perhaps you are starting a series of new projects and want to capitalise on the knowledge from each one, in which case a Lesson-learning approach will be the solution. Perhaps you want to standardise on a common "current best" approach, in which case you create and maintain a knowledge asset. Over time you build on these solutions and join them together, and soon your KM framework is complete.

The reason why the second approach is more successful is that, through this approach, Knowledge Management rapidly develops a reputation as a successful problem-solving tool. Every implementation step is a solved problem. You quickly get buy-in both from the knowledge workers and from the management.

If you are in the early stages of Knowledge Management implementation, wondering which approach to take, try the second - it is more likely to succeed in the long run. Contact us if you need more details.

A KM Framework based on critical knowledge

A fully developed Knowledge Management Framework needs to be organised around the critical knowledge areas of the organisation. For example -
  • Each critical knowledge area needs to be owned by a Community of Practice
  • Each critical knowledge area needs to be covered by a Knowledge Asset
  • Each Knowledge Asset needs a Knowledge Owner
  • Lessons within the Lessons Management System need to be tagged according to the relevant critical knowledge area
  • The structure of the wiki should match the critical knowledge areas, with one wiki section per knowledge area
  • Other knowledge items need to be tagged according to the critical knowledge area
In some companies, the critical knowledge areas are related to Practice, in others they are related to Products.

An organisation that most wishes to improve its internal practices - a sales or services organisation, for example, - should use Practice as its knowledge dimension. Because practice improvement is important, a focus on practice knowledge is critical. They should appoint practice owners, communities of practice, and use practice-based taxonomies.

An organisation that most wishes to improve its products - an automotive or aerospace company, or a manufacturer of mobile phones - should use Product as its knowledge dimension. Because product improvement is important, product knowledge is critical. They should appoint product owners, communities of product, and use product-based taxonomies.

Whatever the structure of your critical knowledge turns out to be, this should be reflected in your Knowledge Management Framework.

Contact us for more details on Knowledge Management Framework structures.

Knoco News

Welcome to Knoco Houston!

We are pleased to welcome Knoco Houston to the global Knoco brand.

Knoco Houston is headed by Andrew Barendrecht. Andrew has over 20 years' in knowledge and information management, performance improvement, collaboration and virtual working. Andrew's Career has largely been with Shell, as a Knowledge Manager, and as lead for portal technology, intranet design and records management.
In 2007 Andrew became the KM/IT manager responsible for compliance, KM, Information and data management in Shell research, and also advised Chevron on their global SharePoint Design and deployment.
Andrew has a bachelor degree in information management and collaboration from the Haagse Hogeschool in the Hague the Netherlands.

Welcome to Knoco Egypt!

We are pleased to welcome Knoco Egypt to the global Knoco brand.
Knoco Egypt is headed by Hani Abdel-aziz. Hani has extensive management experience from leading ICT Companies in the Middle East. Hani has a background as General Manager, Regional Sales Manager and Systems-Engineering manager with Cisco Systems & Sun Microsystems (now, Oracle) in Egypt, North Africa, and the Levant countries.
Hani is trilingual. His native language is Arabic, and has very good command of French and English languages. He earned both his B.Sc. degree in Communications Engineering and M.Sc. degree in Computer Networks from Cairo University. He holds an additional MBA degree in Marketing Management from Maastricht School of Management/ RITI; and published a Case Study in Knowledge Management & Organizational Memory retention.

Other news

We have been busy with lesson-learning work recently in the UK and in Myanmar, with KM requirements for a US pharma company, and with a KM Assessment for a multinational chemicals company.

Stephanie and Nick are in the final stages of completing their book "Designing a successful KM Strategy - a guide for the knowledge Management professional". This will be published by Information Today, and released in time for KM World at the beginning of November. Stephanie will be at KM world to deliver a workshop and book signing. Our next edition of the newsletter will be based on the contents of the book.

Knoco France have received some excellent feedback from a client following a pilot of the Vedalis AKH software at AXA Corporate Solutions. The head of the Operational Performance Management Board reported that "The ease of use of the AKH tool and the efforts made by Vedalis teams to fit our context and our problems have helped to make our experiment a success."

Javier has some upcoming activities in Chile. Thursday, September 4th sees a new edition of the course "Knowledge Management, main concepts and tools" that we deliver with the School of Engineering at the Catholic University (contact Juan Gonzalez for details). On 16 and 17 October we will participate in the 7th International Conference on Learning, Education and Neurosciences organized by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile, and on 4 and 5 November we will be in Expoelearning  to be held in Santiago de Chile organized by AEFOL.

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