Monday, 21 September 2015

How to recognise a KM opportunity

Implementing Knowledge Management involves identifying opportunities where KM can help the business. But how do you spot these opportunities?


I explained in this post that implementing KM is not just a case of rolling out a Knowledge Management framework, but also need to involve looking for opportunities where KM can help the business. 

You can recognise these opportunities at two scales. The first scale is the "proof of concept" trials -  small interventions with a KM tool or process, so people can see it in action, and realize that "KM is not all smoke and mirrors – it can work here".

Suitable opportunities might include the following:

  • A lessons capture meeting such as a retrospect for a tricky (or successful) project. For one of the companies we have worked with this was a project that had gone disastrously wrong, and they effectively said to us "if you can get learning from this project, then we will believe what you say about KM”. We did gather learning - some very powerful learning - and this opened the door to management support. 
  • A peer assist for a high profile project. This has been the proof of concept for many companies - a straightforward demonstration that valuable knowledge can be shared between project teams, and can make a positive impact to project plans.
  • A facilitated exchange of knowledge on a key topic. In another organization we worked with, the proof of concept was getting experts together from all over the world to build a company best practice on bidding and winning large government contracts. 
  • Creating a knowledge asset on a key topic. Another client we worked with was going through a series of mergers, and compiled knowledge in the form of a set of guidance summarizing "what we have learned about delivering effective mergers." 
  • A retention interview from a departing expert. This has been the proof of concept for many retention-based KM strategies. Management want to see what is possible, and they want to be convinced that KM can generate valuable output. 

In each case, you should seek to create two things from the proof of concept. The first is some valuable knowledge, either exchanged between people, or captured as lessons or guidance. The second is stories, reaction or feedback from the people involved, saying "Hey, we tried KM, it was great, it was not difficult, and it created real value".

KM Pilot projects


Beyond the opportunities for small proof of concept tests, you can look for the big piloting opportunities.

KM Pilot projects are intended to test and refine the KM framework, and so involve more than just piloting one tool.  An effective pilot will deploy a complete (but potentially minimum viable) KM framework, and will  address a knowledge domain or practice area that could cover many business teams and divisions – rather than covering a single business project or team.

A pilot will therefore test the validity and value of the KM framework in a cross-organizational setting. Suitable business problems for KM pilots, where better access to knowledge can significantly help performance, are as follows:
  • A business critical activity which is new to the organization, where rapid learning will deliver business benefits. If the activity is new to only one part of the organization, then transferring learning from where it has been done before may give huge benefits. 
  • Repetitive activity business activity where continuous improvement is needed, where KM can help accelerate the learning curve. 
  • Activity which is carried out in several locations, and where performance level varies, in which case KM can help exchange knowledge from the good performers to improve the poor performers.
  • A business area which is subject to rapid change, where innovation and rapid learning are critical to survival, in which case KM can help by providing team sharing and learning processes, as well as access to relevant knowledge bases.
  • An area of rapid business growth where deep experience and skills need to be scaled up to deliver on projects and services, in which case KM can help by facilitating knowledge capture and transfer and faster learning curves for mid-level staff.
  • A business area where people are stuck due to lack of knowledge.
Pilots require a complete framework - a mix of roles, processes, technology and governance - and are a vital step in your KM programme.

Contact us for help in identifying and ranking KM pilot opportunities.

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