Friday, 8 February 2013


Moving knowledge around on the strategic matrix


This is another useful Knowledge Managament Boston Square, one I first described in this article in KM review in 2007, and which can be useful in developing your KM strategy.

This Boston Square is based on two axes; the current level of in-house knowledge, and the level of maturity of that knowledge (i.e. whether it is new knowledge with a significant rate of evolution, or old established knowledge which is no longer evolving). These two variables allow the knowledge areas to be plotted into one of four boxes on the matrix, as described below.

  • New Knowledge. These are areas of new evolving knowledge which the company thinks will be very important in the future, but which currently they know little about. The KM focus for strategic new knowledge is on experimentation and knowledge creation, particularly from pilot programs. Ownership of Strategic Knowledge may lie with the R&D or technology departments. 
  • Competitive knowledge. These are areas of new evolving knowledge that the company knows a lot about. This knowledge may well give them a competitive advantage – the first learner advantage. In areas of evolving knowledge, the company that learns the best and learns the fastest, has the potential to outperform its rivals.  The KM focus for competitive knowledge is on the development of best practice. As this knowledge is being applied around the business, there needs to be a continuous capture of knowledge from practice, comparing of knowledge through communities of practice, and development of best practice. Ownership of competitive competence probably lies with the communities and networks. 
  • Core knowledge. These are areas of established knowledge that the company knows a lot about. This knowledge is likely to be core to their existing business, and needs to be managed well if the business is to perform efficiently and effectively. The KM focus for core knowledge is on the development of standards. Once the knowledge area is mature and established, best practice can be codified into standards and routines, and embedded in the work practices and procedures of the organisation. In some cases it can even be embedded into software or mechanised processes.  Ownership of this type of knowledge lies with the technical functions and in-house experts.
  • Non-core knowledge These are areas of established knowledge that the company knows very little about. These should be areas where the company has chosen not to apply this knowledge itself. 
However Knowledge Management is (or should be) less about categorising knowledge, than it is about working with knowledge.  This matrix therefore becomes a lot more useful when you use it not just to categorise knowledge, but to plot where you would like knowledge to move to, over time.

  • Imagine some new knowledge, developed in your research centre, which is currently in the “new knowledge” box, somewhere towards the top of the box as well. It is low maturity, and few people in your organisation know about it. You would like it to become competitive knowledge. Therefore it probably needs to increase in maturity a little, but it certainly needs to be a lot more widespread within your company. You move it from the top left box to the top right box, following blue arrow number one. You set up the communities of practice, you begin to deploy this knowledge, discussing it within the community and refining it into good practice through use. 
  • Imagine some competitive knowledge which you would like to be core to your business. It is currently relatively low maturity, but widespread in the company. You would like it to be more mature, so that you can embed it into processes and routines. The community needs to compare practices, choose the best, and come up with a standard company approach, documented in the knowledge base. The knowledge moves from the top right box to the bottom right, along blue arrow number two. 
  • Imagine some core knowledge which you decide, in the future, can be non-core. You need to outsource it. You need to take your definition or specification for standardised knowledge, and the should outside the company so that you no longer have to deal with this area of knowledge. Someone else will manage it for you (which means that you need to make sure they have a good knowledge management capability themselves). The knowledge moves from bottom right box to bottom left, along blue arrow number three. 
  • Alternatively there may be knowledge which is currently non-core, but you need to insource it. You need to learn from those who do it well, develop a standard approach, and deploy this widely within your organisation. The knowledge moves from left to right along blue arrow number four. 


So you can use this matrix not only to plot the current status of your critical knowledge areas, but also plot where you want them to be in future. You can determine how you would like this knowledge to move along the strategic matrix, and you can put in place the knowledge management activities that will move the knowledge to where you want it.

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