Thursday, 10 July 2014


How Ecopetrol built their Knowledge Management Strategy



photo by Nancy Dixon

Creation of a Knowledge Management Strategy requires the collection of views from a diverse range of sources, then synthesis of these into a common view. 

There are a number of ways you can structure the creation process, and in this excellent story, Nancy Dixon described how Ecopetrol, the Colombian state oil company, were able to build their KM strategy within three days.

Nancy describes a session in Colombia, where 100 people were brought together using (among other processes) World Café and Open Space.
"The morning of day two was convergent - a search for useable ideas, common ground, and limiting the many options they had heard the day before. These were multiple small group meetings using the world café format and focused around the question “What knowledge do we need at Ecopetrol that we don’t have?” The room was set up with 25 tables with a facilitator at each table with participants. There were several rounds of discussion with people moving from table to table to talk with a new set of people about their ideas. Ecopetrol’s president, Javier Gutierrez, participated in the small group discussions. 
"This act of humility was significant to the participants, it said he was interested in hearing what others had to say and also was interested in giving voice to his own thinking, but not from a position of authority. He was willing to let his ideas rather than his position influence the thinking of the group. 
The afternoon of the second day was about constructing actions that Ecopetrol could take. Open Space Technology was used for this section. The ideas from the knowledge café were summarized and posted and participants chose a small group they had the most interest in and worked with that group to identify improvement actions that Ecopetrol could to take to make KM a reality".
I would like to highlight three things from this story.

  1. The divergent/convergent approach is crucial to the creation of a KM strategy. We generally do this through a series on interviews; what was impressive about the Ecopetrol approach is that they did it in a mass meeting within three days.
  2. Input from the strategy is needed from the most senior people. What was impressive about the Ecopetrol story is the involvement of the company president.
  3. Every KM strategy needs to be based around the critical knowledge of the company. Ecopetrol asked "What knowledge do we need that we don’t have"?  Other key questions to ask include What knowledge is critical to our operations, but is not reaching the people who need it"? and "What knowledge  is critical to our operations, but is at risk of loss"?


2 comments:

Sonia Helena Castro Dávila said...

This is not a true story. The forum existed and it was wonderful (I was the technical leader of the 3 days event). The purpose of the forum was to review and complement KM strategy for Ecopetrol (stratey already existed, and a good ongoing implementation program too). We invited Nancy Dixon and Larry Prusak as experts to open and close the forum technically and to participate with others 10 guests in the different sessions to identify and propose reviews and supplements for strategy and program. One of the main causes of overwhelming success, besides the excellent technical level of the guests (and of course the presence of the President and senior management), was the innovative (for a petroleum company) methodological design and facilitation of the forum, which was in charge of international facilitator Iñigo Retolaza. Now I am retired from Ecopetrol and writing this story to tell the truth. Best regards

Nick Milton said...

Thank you Sonia

I look forward to reading your story

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