Thursday, 21 March 2013

Knowledge Management - what's most commonly missing?

One of the services we offer at Knoco is an assessment and benchmarking of your Knowledge Management Framework for completeness and maturity.

We do this in two ways, through a high level online self-assessment, and through a detailed diagnostic study where we conduct in-depth interviews and bring an expert eye to bear on your KM approach.

And you know what? There are some interesting patterns emerging from the results. Let's look at the average results from the online survey results first (top right; components are scored from 1 to 5) and look at the factors that, on average, receive the lowest score. These are:
  • Roles and accountabilities (a lack of clear KM roles and accountabilities in the organisation)
  • Business alignment (KM not aligned with business goals and objectives)
  • Governance (no governance, for example no clear expectations, no performance management, no support)
On the other hand, the highest scores are Technology, and Behaviours and Cultures.

Many organisations think that the way to address KM is to address behaviours, and buy technology. The results of the survey suggest that these elements are relatively well covered, and that instead you should introduce some accountable roles, align KM with the business objectives, and get some governance in place, in order that you can deliver value from the technology and behaviours you already have.

If we extract the average scores for the elements of People, Processes, Technologies and Governance as measured by the detailed diagnostic survey (which uses a more detailed analysis, and different scoring levels but the same range), we see a similar pattern. Technology scores highest, Governance scores lowest, and People (roles and accountabilities) scores second lowest.

Technology is not the biggest problem! Governance is the problem, and the lack of Roles.

Finally, from the detailed diagnostic, let's extract the average scores for the four Nonaka elements of Socialisation, Externalisation, Combination, and Internalisation. 

Socialisation (the transfer of knowledge through discussion and conversation, either face to face or through social networks) scores highest, followed by Combination (working with explicit knowledge, combining and storing it).
The lowest score, and significantly lower, goes to Internalisation (the interaction with, and re-use of, explicit knowledge).

Socialising and Sharing, and building knowledge bases, are not the biggest problem! Re-use is the problem.

So what is the learning? The learning is that if you are seeking to improve the effectiveness of your Knowledge management approach, the knee-jerk reactions of "buy more technology" and "share more" may not address where the weaknesses traditionally are. You may need to think more about roles, about business alignment, about governance and about re-use of knowledge. 

Your first step always should be to assess your current state, and identify the gaps and weaknesses that need to be addressed. 


Suresh Nair said...

Yes, it's very important to assess the current level of KM in your organisation. One needs to define what's knowledge for you (organisation) and then identify gaps and then try to bridge it. The real problem crops up when top management asks for RoI.

Nick Milton said...

Don't look on this as a problem, look on it as an opportunity. You can promise them an ROI, but you need their support to deliver it.

Nick Milton said...

I expand on my comment here

Lisandro Gaertner said...

Sometimes I think KM is not a desirable activity in organization because it goes against the powers that be model. So, most of the time, KM champions work like early communist pamphleteers trying to get the word out with a one to many communication strategy. That explains the focus on technology and culture. But I believe these pamphleteers are working wrong about culture and behaviours. Instead of bringing genial mental models that explain the universe and all, why not focus on bringing to light the not yet perceived learning moments? If you make people realise they are already learning from each other, they will came up with roles, governance and reward re-use among themselves, the organization likes it or not. Empower people not for organizations but for themselves. Organizations will profit from it too, but the most benefit will go to the neglected human beings in it. A better world, don't you agree?

Nick Milton said...

I agree with your last statement, Lisandro, that organisations will profit too. There are two stakeholders here, the organisation and the individual. Both can win, and KM is perhaps unique among the management disciplines in bringing value both to the organisation and to the individual workers.

Therefore I would suggest that you engage both, rather than ignoring one or the other. There is a value proposition for both.

The Siemens article referenced here
talks about the "customer trap" - which is ignoring one customer (stakeholder) over the other. It's well worth reading.

Lisandro Gaertner said...

The divergence between our views is that I don't believe there is an "organization" per se. In my opinion you have multiple stakeholders (shareholders, directors, experts, nearby communities, etc). And when I say organization I mean the people who run it (leaders by decree). In my opinion it is always a struggle to benefit individuals (that sometimes work through a group). That's my psychology background talking. Sorry.;-)

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