Thursday, 17 July 2014

Two alternatives for Knowledge Management Implementation

I was reflecting yesterday, at a workshop with a client, that there are two alternative directions you can take with your Knowledge Management implementation.

The first, which is a common but often unsuccessful approach, is to implement KM through completing and rolling out a Knowledge Management framework.

Here an organisation defines what framework elements Knowledge Management requires, develops these elements, and makes the framework available for the organisation to use. Perhaps they roll out a portal, or lesson-learning, or Yammer for example.

This can sometimes be a successful approach, depending on whether or not they are rolling out a complete framework. When they introduce only a few elements of the framework, this approach can be a disaster, as in the common but discredited "technology roll-out" strategy, which involves bringing in a new technology but without the associated KM processes, KM roles and KM governance. Without these other elements, technology fails to deliver value.

The second implementation approach, which is rarer but much more successful, is to implement KM through addressing a series of business problems.

I discussed the way Mars applied this approach, implementing KM at a rate of two business issues a year. In this approach, you look at specific business problems, and introduce the elements of the KM framework which will solve those problems.

Perhaps you have a business challenge which lots of people are addressing in parallel around the world, in which case a Community of Practice will be the solution. Perhaps you are starting a series of new projects and want to capitalise on the knowledge form each one, in which case a Lesson-learning approach will be the solution. Perhaps you want to standardise on a common "current best" approach, in which case you create and maintain a knowledge asset. Over time you build on these solutions, and within a few years your KM framework is complete.

The reason why the second approach is more successful, is that through this approach, KM rapidly develops a reputation as a successful problem-solving tool. Every implementation step is a solved problem. You quickly get buy-in both from the knowledge workers and from the management.

If you are in the early stages of KM implementation, wondering which approach to take, try the second - it is more likely to succeed in the long run. Contact us if you need more details.

1 comment:

John Donahue said...


It seems approach one attempts to fit the organization into a KM solution, but the second one adapts KM to the needs of the organization. Another description might be "throw money at the problem" vs "slow and steady".
You've really spelled out the core struggle KM has in the real world. Great post.


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