In this blog post from 2009 I described a quantified success story from De Beers in South Africa; a highly successful Proof of Concept for KM, where the Finsch diamond mine was able to save 80 million Rand through reusing knowledge shared at a Peer Assist.
The story comes from a paper that Ian Corbett and I wrote for the now defunct Knowledge Management magazine in 2003, called "Mining for gems of Knowledge KM at De Beers; the story so far".
In the article, we explored WHY the success was a success, and one of the lessons identified was that the character of the Knowledge Manager or Knowledge Champion is important. Here is some text from the article, reproduced from the 2012 mid year retrospect of the De Beers KM program.
“The success factor at Finsch mine is that Dieter, the general manager, was passionately committed. He knew he wanted to manage knowledge, but he did not know how to do it. That is why the [De Beers global KM strategy] workshop in December was so powerful; suddenly we put in place a Toolkit.
Bruce Emerton [the KM champion] went back to Dieter and said "I now know how to do this". It nearly faltered when they were democratic about who should be the knowledge manager, and they nearly chose somebody who was not confident about working with knowledge. If it I had gone that way, it would have died. However Bruce was put full-time on it until the strategy was in place.
The learnings are
1) You have got to find the right [business] managers. In a way, they find you; they have identified the benefit and want to make it happen. You can come in and turn the situation into a win fairly quickly.
2) The knowledge champion has to be somebody who emerges, not a forced representative. That is happening more and more, and many people feel very energised. You have to look for the motivation first, and then the opportunity.
3) You need to define fairly well the profile of what a knowledge champion should be”.That second learning point - that champions emerge, rather than being assigned - is a key learning for the early stages of KM that we have seen to be true time and time again.