Friday, 18 August 2017

Lesson learning roles in the RCAF

Roles and Governance are often overlooked elements of KM. Here is a great example of a set of roles and accountabilities for Lesson learning within the Royal Canadian Air Force.


The example is taken from a web page dated 2015 called "Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre, Analysis and Lessons Learned".

The RCAF have the following roles and accountabilities, shown in the diagram to the right, and described below:


  • A senior sponsor, known as the Lessons Learned Command Authority - this is actually the Commander of the RCAF, and is accountable to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff for implementing and overseeing the Lesson Learned Programme. Note that the Chief of Defence Staff requires the RCAF to establish processes that add value to the existing body of knowledge, or attempt to correct deficiencies in concepts, policy, doctrine, training, equipment or organizations, and the Lessons Learned Programme is one response to this requirement.
  • A delegated customer/custodian for the Lesson learned program known as the "Lesson Learned programme Authority". This is the Deputy Commander, who is responsible for all Air Lessons Learned matters, including maintenance and periodic review of the programme. 
  • A leader for the Lesson Learned program, called the Lessons-Learned Technical Authority. This is the Commanding Officer of the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre, who reports to the Lesson Learned Programme Authority for lessons-learned matters, and who is responsible for executing all aspects of the programme with the help of a dedicated Analysis and Lesson Learned team.
  • Clear accountabilities for the leaders of the various divisions in their roles as Lessons Learned Operational Authorities, to effectively operationalize and implement the programme within their command areas of responsibility.
  • Each of these appoint a Lessons Learned point of contact to coordinate the Lessons Learned activities and functions for their organizations as well as to address issues that have been forwarded along the chain of command.
  • Wing Lessons-Learned Officers embedded in the organisation at wing and formation levels, who provide Lesson learning advice to the wing commander related to missions and mission-support activities.
  • Unit Lessons-Learned Officers within the RCAF units who coordinate the documentation and communication of what has been learned during daily activities; liaising directly with their relevant Wing Lessons-Learned Officer. These are like the Lesson Learned  Integrators in the US Army.

You can see how accountability for lesson learning comes down the chain of command (the red boxes in the diagram) from the RCAF Commander right down to Unit level, and how enabling and supporting roles are created at many levels - the LL Programme, the Divisional points of contact, the Wing LLOs and the Unit LLOs.

The principle of delegated accountability down the line management chain enabled by supporting resources is a good one, which can be applied in many organisational setting.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Knowledge Management in the corporate Code of Conduct - Example

One powerful enabler for Knowledge Management is a clear statement from senior management. Here is an example.


Medco Energi is a publicly listed Indonesian oil and gas company, founded in 1980. Winners of a MAKE award in 2007, they have had a KM program in place for many years, led and supported by my Knoco Indonesia colleague, Sapta.

Medco Energi has done something quite unusual in terms of Knowledge Management Governance, which is to put Knowledge Management within their "Good Corporate Guidelines and Code of Conduct"  document, dated 2014. 

Within the Code of Conduct we can find the following:

Knowledge Management Knowledge management is a set of proactive activities with the aim of supporting the organization in developing, integrating, disseminating and implementing its knowledge. 
Knowledge management is a continuous process to understand the organization's need for knowledge, the location of knowledge, as well as the process for improving knowledge. The goal of knowledge management is to increase the organization's ability to perform its key processes effectively.  
Knowledge management requires commitment to advance the organization's effectiveness, in addition to improve opportunities for its members. 

Thie current focus seems to be on sharing knowledge externally, as the code of conduct goes on to demonstrate, with the following guidelines on external knowledge sharing:

Participation in Lecturing, Training, Radio and Television Broadcast 
MedcoEnergi encourages its employee to give lectures or participate in training or radio and television broadcasts. However, prior to engaging in such activity, employee must obtain the approval of his/ her Line Director if he/she use document and information relating to MedcoEnergi. The employee is permitted to receive remuneration from such activity. If an employee acts as a representative of MedcoEnergi, he/she then must report any received remuneration to his/her direct supervisor for further deliberation.  
Publishing of Articles or Books 
Every employee is permitted to publish articles in journals, daily newspapers, magazines, or other print media and/or publish reports and/or books without affecting the working time. Any profit from and copyright of publications that is not related to MedcoEnergi shall remain the property of the employee. In the case of writing, where the employee uses documents relating to MedcoEnergi, he/she must obtain the approval of his/her Line Director prior to publishing the article and the copyright of the published article or book shall become the property of MedcoEnergi.


Even with this purely external focus, it is still good to see KM as a significant Code of Conduct item.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Communities of practice - managed or unmanaged?

Is the best approach to Communities of Practice a managed one, or an unmanaged one?


There has always been a polarity of views between those who see Communities of Practice as something that should be allowed to flourish naturally and unmanaged, springing up as a bottom-up initiative in response to user demand, and those who see communities as more powerful when they are aligned with the business strategy, and managed from the top down to provide a valuable resource to their members.

In this top down selection , the company decides on strategic knowledge areas, and deliberately selects communities to support these, assigning leadership and core members and securing resources. This allows resources to be spent supporting the communities which will have most value to the company, but sometimes these top down communities may not align with the interests of the workers.

In contract, in the bottom-up selection, the company enables the organizations with community tools, and watches for communities that form spontaneously around an area of business need. These CoPs are often high energy, but may not coincide with areas of knowledge which are strategic for the business. Also it is all too common to find multiple CoPs starting up which cover the same topic as each other, and communities that initially flourish then wither and die.

Given that we have two stakeholder groupings in KM (management and knowledge workers) and both need to be satisfied, and given that satisfying one without the other can lead to instability in your KM program, how do we choose which way to support our CoPs?

Shell's experience

Let's look at some real experience. As part of a Linked-In discussion on "Communities of practice, limited or unlimited", we have a useful story from Arjan van Unnik, who was head of Knowledge Management at Shell.

"In my experience the decision about "limited"or "unlimited" turned out to be an underestimated parameter ... I managed a portfolio with some 35,000 users (no pre-registration - everybody personally requested membership for 1 or more communities).  ....Initially we carefully managed the CoP's, based on skillpools. Than the step was made where everybody via the IT department could request a community. The fragmentation resulted in roughly 35% reduced activity in the communities. I had to implement corrective actions and increase the management of the portfolio." 
 "1 of the biggest breakthroughs was when we combined this unmanaged set of 100+ CoP's into a managed set (15+ years ago, and violating all theories about CoP's). Other companies that are successful in CoP's (Fluor, Schlumberger) also manage their portfolio. I've heard about a company that did not manage their portfolio, ending up in more CoP's than number of staff... Not managing the portfolio indeed implies the risk of ending up in a situation that again staff do not know which communities to join - we had that as well back in 1997, before we started to manage the portfolio".

So Shell tried both approaches - managed and unmanaged. The switch from managed to unmanaged led to a reduction in activity, leading Shell to switch back again.



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Learning by Watching

There is only a certain amount you can learn by reading. Sometimes you have to go and see.

With complex knowledge, there is more going on that can ever be documented, and (if it's possible) the best way to learn is to go and see for yourself. Toyota call this "Genchi Genbutsu" - an approach they apply to problem solving. Wikipedia has this story -

"Taiichi Ohno, creator of the Toyota Production System is credited, perhaps apocryphally, with taking new graduates to the shopfloor and drawing a chalk circle on the floor. The graduate would be told to stand in the circle, observe and note what he saw. When Ohno returned he would check; if the graduate had not seen enough he would be asked to keep observing. Ohno was trying to imprint upon his future engineers that the only way to truly understand what happens on the shop floor was to go there".
In Knowledge Management, these Knowledge Visits have a place in knowledge transfer. If you really want to learn from something complex and truly understand what happens, then go and see and talk to the people who are involved.

See for example the Observer Programme organised by the International Olympic Committee as part of their Knowledge Management framework.


This article describes how more than 100 staff from the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games visited and observed the Rio 2016 Olympics.

IOC’s Observer Programme, which is an integral element of the Olympic Games Knowledge Management, represents a key component of the knowledge transfer process, providing a unique opportunity to live, learn and experience real operations to future hosts, guided by key personnel of Rio Organizing Committee or IOC. 
POCOG will attend the total of seventy-six programmes, including Airport Operations, Look of the Games, Accreditation, Medical Services, Venue Management, Ticketing, Venue Energy, and Transport. 
SEO, Min-jung, the Head of Doping Control Team said, “After closely observing Rio Games, I now know what to do for PyeongChang 2018.” She added, “I can expect what needs to be done to give athletes absolute confidence in the doping control system and uphold the integrity of Olympics and Paralympics Games.” 
POCOG Spokesperson SUNG, Baik-you commented, “Thanks to invaluable IOC Observer Programme, POCOG staffs are here to watch and learn, and every moment and experience from airport arrival to competition venue visit will be a learning experience for PyeongChang 2018.”

Sometimes, in cases like this, you just have to go and see in order to learn.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Meetings about What, meetings about How

Not every meeting or every conversation involves sharing knowledge!

Image from Wikimedia commons
Very often, when we are conducting our knowledge management assessment or benchmarking exercises, or designing KM frameworks for clients, we come across a confusion. This confusion is again a linguistic confusion about knowledge.

We might ask the client "what meetings do you have, which are dedicated to knowledge-sharing?". Often they reply something like this; "we have project meetings every week - people share knowledge with me about their progress, and I share knowledge about their goals for the coming month".

But is this really knowledge sharing? Is "telling people something" the same as "sharing knowledge"? Are Briefing and Knowledge Transfer the same thing?

We think not.

The types of meeting described above are Project Management meetings, not Knowledge Management meetings. The difference between the two types of meeting is that the former deals with What (What has happened, What will we do) while the latter deals with How (How will we assimilate what we have learned? How will we deal with things in future?").

Again this confusion comes back to the fact that the English Language has only one word for Knowledge while other languages have two; one for "Know-what" which deals with facts and information, and one for "know how" which deals with capabilities, learning and insights.

Knowledge Management meetings are the ones that deal with How, and which address building capability in the organisation, and transferring and building Know-how. Examples include:
  • The After Action review meeting, where teams build their know-how about how to work together effectively;
  • The Peer Assist meeting, where a team invites others to share their know-how of how to address a project or a problem;
  • The Retrospect meeting, where a team discusses and documents what they have learned about how to best deliver certain types of projects;
  • The Knowledge Exchange meeting, where people from many teams share their best approaches to certain issues, to determine the current best practice.
If the subject of the meeting is about How (what do we know or are learning about how to do something) then it's a Knowledge Management meeting. If the subject is What (what have we done, what will we do), then it's another sort of meeting - planning, reporting, briefing etc.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Why you may need more than one KM strategy

Complex organisations may be involved in more than one type of activity, and may need more than one KM strategy and framework.


Two of the early activities in any Knowledge Management implementation are to develop a Knowledge Management Strategy (as we discussed yesterday), and start to map out a potential Knowledge Management Framework.  However a large organisation, with many different divisions working in different ways, may need more than one strategy and more than one framework.

Let's take, as an example, a utility company, providing water and gas to consumers.

This imaginary utility company has a Projects division, which installs new pipelines and new processing plants.  They have a maintenance and operations division which maintains the supply of water and gas to customers. And then they have a customer care division, which signs up new customers and manages the relationship and the interaction with the existing customers.

This organisation might need 3 strategies and 3 frameworks. 

The strategy for the projects division will be about cost reduction, and ensuring that projects are delivered on time, to budget and to specification. The KM framework will focus on learning from experience in order to improve project performance, and will involve processes such as Retrospects and Peer Assists.

The strategy for the Operations division will be about operational reliability and the continued provision of service. The KM framework will focus on maintenance methods and best practices, and on sharing tips and hints in communities of practice.  

The strategy for the customer care division will be about customer satisfaction and customer retention. The KM framework will focus on provision of knowledge to customers, either through online self-help or via a contact centre, and the division will almost certainly need some sort of knowledge base software.

Although the whole organisation can share a KM policy and KM principles, each division will need to interpret these in their own context, and will need their own KM framework embedded in their divisional ways of working.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

8 reasons why you need a Knowledge Management strategy

You need a strategy if your KM implementation is to be successful. Here are 8 reasons why.


StrategyImplementing Knowledge Management without a strategy is a risky endeavour. As Sun Tzu is reputed to have said said, in "the art of war",

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat.” 

Lots of books and articles on strategy come from a military point of view or from game theory, and are strategies for competing and winning. Should we think in terms of winning and competing, when implementing Knowledge Management? Surely it's a Good Thing to do - it's a win-win for everyone?

But as leader of the KM program, you are in competition. You are in competition against other programs and initiatives, for internal resources (money, people, time) and you are in competition for internal attention (management support). If you do not have a good strategy, then good tactics are not going to save you.

 We are constantly hearing of yet another KM program closed, and yet another KM leader looking for a job, as the company sought to cut back on expenditure, and found KM to be too far from the front-line delivery - too non-strategic - and thus an easy target.

So what can a good KM strategy do for you?

  1. Your strategy will help you define where you heading, and what the end point should be.  It will define the vision, and the objectives for knowledge management within your organisation, and allow these to be discussed and agreed up front, before you start on the planning.
  2. Your strategy will provide a set of principles or ground-rules to guide your actions, and guide your decision making during knowledge management implementation, in order to deliver the greatest chance of success. Don't forget that 80% of knowledge management programs fail (depending on what you mean by “knowledge management program” and what you mean by “fail”). The reasons for KM failure are well known, and a good strategy will be designed to avoid these reasons.
  3. Your KM strategy will be closely linked to business objectives, business strategy, and business results,  if it follows the principles mentioned above. This protects you from being seen as peripheral to the business, and an easy target for downsizing. 
  4. Your strategy will form the framework of constraints for planning purposes. It will define the areas of focus, the risks to be addressed, and the allies to work with.
  5. Your strategy will guide you in deciding what not to do. If a tactic is outside the constraints, or in opposition with the principles, then it is not strategic, and a waste of resource.
  6. The strategy also looks at implementation priorities and issues. It’s not just a vision; it’s a high level approach for how the vision will be realized. 
  7. Your strategy is a public agreement with your leadership. It represents agreed ground rules for knowledge management implementation, and should have leadership blessing and support. If over time that support does not materialise, then you should be able to go back to the strategy, remind them that it was agreed, and claim their support (or else renegotiate the strategy). The strategy is therefore a key decision point for the organisation.
  8. Your strategy allows managed flexibility. As your business context changes, your organisational priorities, or the competitive or technological landscape, so your knowledge management strategy should also evolve over time, but will need to be renegotiated with your steering group. This is your "Management of Change" process for the KM implementation.
The most important thing for you, therefore, is to get a good strategy in place from the start. Contact us at Knoco if you want a copy of our guide to KM strategy.

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