Monday, 6 October 2014

The Knowledge Management Policy

There are three main reasons why people don't do knowledge management - they don't want to, they don't know what to do, or they don't know how to do it. This first is solved through governance, the last through training and coaching. To address the second reason, you need a Knowledge Management Policy.

Once you get past the early years of implementing Knowledge Management, when you are doing the testing, training and piloting, you need to be working towards an end state where Knowledge Management is fully embedded as a way of working.

This can be achieved once people know what Knowledge Management means, and know their own role in the process. They need to know what they should be doing, and the part they should be playing.

On way to make these Knowledge Management expectations clear is by defining an in-house standard, or in-house policy, for Knowledge Management.  This clarifies
  • What does Knowledge Management look like in this organisation? 
  • What is an expected level of Knowledge Management activity? 
  • Does every project need to capture lessons, for example, or only the big ones? 
  • How frequently should After Action Reviews be held? 
  • Are Peer Assists a mandatory requirement, or optional? 
  • Are people expected to join Communities of Practice, or are they entirely voluntary?
  • Will there be a practice owner for every area of critical knowledge?
All of these questions are answered in the in-house Knowledge Management Policy.

For example, in one oil company, every drilling project over a threshold value is required, as defined within the Knowledge Management component of operating standards,

  • to develop a Knowledge Management plan
  • to capture lessons during operations
  • to hold a learning review at the end of the well. 
These expectations are written out clearly, and have been rolled out to all drilling staff. Everyone is clear about what they should be doing.

Here is another example; an extract taken from the 2007 Intercooperation KM policy (no longer online). This extract covers the expectations on individual staff members for Knowledge Capture - there are other sections covering Knowledge Creation, Knowledge Sharing, and the Organisational and Project dimensions
  • Staff members use and contribute to our web-based information system as a regular part of their activities.
  • Staff members contribute actively to the documentation of Intercooperation’s field experiences (in written, film, photographic, or other form), especially where this is of a comparative or analytical nature. They are supported in time allocation/other resources (eg. editorial assistance).
  • Persons leaving one position to take up another write a final report, focusing on "lessons learned" (both positive and negative experiences - at the organisational and the individual level).
  • For those undergoing a “reintegration” period after working for Intercooperation, a feedback on this process is given (normally in a short written report).
  • In all report writing, staff members endeavour to highlight experience relating to Intercooperation’s thematic and methodological (process) topics (as used in knowledge mapping under our web-based information system).

A third example, from the Nuclear Decommissioning authority, is discussed here.

The KM standard needs to be set at the right level. It needs to be just sufficient to deliver the required KM value, without loading too much onerous process onto the business. The standard may need to set different levels of KM activity depending on the scale of business activity. The drilling company mentioned above, for example, requires lower levels of KM activity for wells costing less than $10m, than it does for wells over $10m. Production or service areas of your organization might need different KM activities from project-organised areas.

The key, however, is to be clear about what the organization expects in terms of KM activity for each area of the business.

The Leadership of your organisation can be clear about what is expected in terms of Knowledge Management, by publishing a KM policy and by setting clear accountabilities. They also need to make sure that their expectations for Knowledge Management are supported by what they say and do. For example, they must assign the time and resource needed to manage knowledge. They must also make sure that the reward and recognition system in the organization is supportive of Knowledge Management. There is no point, for example, in expecting high levels of collaboration from the business units, and at the same time rewarding internal competition by sponsoring "factory of the year awards".

Therefore once the implementation team has tested and piloted the components of Knowledge Management, you need to sit down with your senior leaders and decide what the internal corporate Knowledge Management policy is going to be. 

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