Tuesday 9 February 2016

Why are KM roles such a blind spot?

Knowledge Management roles and accountabilities are one of the four legs on the KM table, but receive comparatively little attention. They seem to be a bit of a "blind spot". 

Image from wikimedia commons
As I pointed out in this post, Google finds five times as many hits for "knowledge management processes" than it does for "knowledge management roles". And I had a couple of conversations recently which made me think that roles are just not perceived as important.

The first was with a KM consultant who said "I just include roles as part of processes. They are just about how the people who are needed to do a process". The other was with another consultant who explained that the "people" aspect of his people/tools/content triumvirate referred to behaviours and culture, with nothing related to roles at all.

However accountable roles are required in any management system.

No financial management system would survive without accountable roles such as budget holders, financial clerks and chief financial officers. No safety management system would survive without HSE staff. No HR system would survive without accountable roles for hiring and for staff management. 

Knowledge management is the same; roles and accountabilities are needed. Most organisations will need to assign some of the roles and accountabilities below.

Without such roles and accountabilities, then KM becomes "everyones job" which is the same as becoming "nobody's job".  I shard a taxi last week with Jeff Stemke, who used to be head of KM at Chevron, and he told me "the most important thing we did was to make people accountable for knowledge".

So as you plan your KM implementation, think not just about the technology suite, the process suite and the elements of governance; think also about the structure of roles and accountabilities you will need to introduce, and plan your Knowledge Management organisational structure.

Don't let KM roles remain a blind spot.


Jeff said...

I think you mean to say, Google finds five times more content for "knowledge management processes" than "knowledge management roles"

Nick Milton said...

Thanks Jeff - thats exactly what I meant and failed to say. Post now edited.

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