Friday, 20 August 2010
I have been asked to do an email interview for a conference I am attending in Egypt next month, and thought you might like to see the answers, as it's in many ways a succint summary of my views on KM value and implementation.
1. You are recognized as one of the most distinguished KM practitioners, so in your opinion is it easy for organizations to accept the idea of applying KM?
It is not particularly easy at the moment for organizations to accept the idea of applying KM, as there is such a range of views about what KM actually encompasses. KM is a term with a very fuzzy definition, and when you skim through the internet, it is very easy to become confused what KM actually means, and what it can do for you. However when you present KM as being a managed and systematic way of people in the business have access to the knowledge they need to do their work to the best degree possible (and that they actually do use this knowledge), then it makes a lot more sense.
There is a very close link between knowledge (or know-how) and performance. The more you know (as an individual, a team, or an organisation), the better you perform. If you learn from performance you increase knowledge. If you find and apply knowledge, you improve performance. That learning and applying represent knowledge activity, and closing the loop between knowledge and performance in a managed and systematic way represents knowledge management. If you look at it this way, you can see than KM is the engine that drives continuous performance improvement.
2. Based on your experience in British Petroleum (BP), which is considered one of the leading companies in KM, What are the essential elements that would ensure effective KM implementation in the organizations?
There are two major issues here, one is implementation, and the other is embedding. You not only have to introduce knowledge management, you have to make it stick.
For effective implementation, there are some simple rules.
Firstly you need to fully align your KM strategy with the organizational strategy. You are not introducing KM “because it is a good thing” - you are introducing it to help the organization deliver its objectives. So KM needs to align with organizational strategy.
Secondly, the KM implementation needs to be run as a change project. Like introducing any other management system, there will be change involved, and change management will be at the heart of KM implementation.
Thirdly it needs to be led by the right person; someone with influence and a good network, a leader, and an insider, someone with support from a high level sponsor, and ideally someone with a history of influencing change in the organization.
Then for embedding KM, you need to set clear expectations for the use of KM tools and processes within the work cycle or the project management framework, you need to observe the use of these, and you need to make sure that good KM is recognised in the reward system, and that bad KM is “discouraged”.
3. What would you say for people who suspect the future of KM, or who claim that it is just a fad?
If knowledge or know-how is an asset to your organization, and if you believe in managing your assets, then how can you argue against KM?
Like risk management, safety management, brand management, reputation management, stakeholder management - knowledge management is another way to deliver value from your intangible assets.
4. In your point of view what are the organization KM enablers which can stimulate and facilitate the implementation of KM?
I use the word OPEC is an acronym for the cultural enablers that really support knowledge management.
• O is for Openness. Openness within an organization is a great supporter for knowledge sharing - openness to new ideas, openness to learning, looking openly at mistakes and successes from the past.
• P is for Performance focus. A focus on delivery, and in using all available resources (including knowledge) to enable delivery. A drive to continually improve, will only be achieved through a focus on continually learning
• E is for Empowerment. Staff need to be empowered to use the knowledge they find. Empowerment goes hand in hand with knowledge seeking - people need to be given their objectives, empowered to deliver, and provided with access to knowledge. Knowledge also empowers. Knowledge is power, knowledge management is empowerment.
• C is for Conversation. Steven Denning once said that a company's success in KM is related to it's ability to have good conversations. Conversations happen in teams, in projects, in networks, in peer assists and in community knowledge exchange. It is through conversation that knowledge is shared and exchanged.
Organizations with an OPEC culture will find KM straightforward, and have a real head start on the KM journey.
5. Finally, what are the advice that you can provide for organizations to reach a successful KM implementation?
Some of my advice is provided under Question 2, but perhaps the key piece of advice is to be very very clear WHY you want to introduce Knowledge Management. What is the organizational reason - the driver behind KM implementation? What are you trying to achieve? What problem are you trying to solve?
If you do not have a clear answer to these questions, your implementation is unlikely to be successful.