Organisations can take two approaches to KM work - they can centralise it, or decentralise it into networks. McKinsey have taken a partly centralised approach.
|Image from wikimedia commons|
A decentralised approach is usually based around networks. ConocoPhillips for example uses networks of expertise, rather than centres of expertise, to manage its knowledge, and much of the knowledge work is done in the business rather than in specific centres.
You would use a centralised approach to KM generally for one of two reasons:
- There is a high turnover of staff, so the business is generally short of knowledge and experience;
- Business staff are heavily incentivised to do client-facing work, and disincentivised to do knowledge work.
A global consulting firm may face both of these issues at once, which may be why McKinsey have taken a partly centralised approach to KM.
1800 knowledge professionalsMcKinsey is an organisation of about 17000 people, providing consulting services to clients around the world. 1800 of those people are knowledge professionals who work alongside consultants and clients to generate distinctive insights and proprietary knowledge. Thats about 10% of the workforce. The knowledge professionals also help develop, codify, sanitize, and manage the Mickinsey global knowledge portal, which includes more than 50,000 documents that form the backbone of the firm's codified knowledge resources.
The role of the McKinsey knowledge professional has two main components:
- Helping clients and client teams resolve challenging issues by conducting research and in-depth analyses, along with pure thought partnership—sitting with consultants and clients to think through issues in a deliberate way;
- Helping McKinsey build intellectual capital by creating internal documents that codify existing knowledge, and by developing and codifying new proprietary knowledge.
Global knowledge centresThe 1800 knowledge professionals are spread round the globe in 90 countries, but a significant proportion are located in six global knowledge centres in China, India, Poland, Costa Rica and the USA. Staff at these centres conduct the following activities:
- Develop new firm capabilities and innovative ways to serve clients;
- Coordinate innovation activities;
- Develop, maintain, and disseminate knowledge,
- Deliver custom research and analytics to client teams,
- Work alongside the firm’s consultants and clients to generate distinctive insights and proprietary knowledge
- Provide diagnostics, benchmarking, and data-management services.
This approach is noteworthy both for the number of staff working in the knowledge area - 10% is a large number - and also for the development of the knowledge centers.
McKinsey take KM seriously. As they say on their website -
"Powered by Knowledge
"We invest more than $500 million of our firm’s resources annually in knowledge development and capability building. We study markets, trends, and emerging best practices, in every industry and region, locally and globally. All consultants contribute time and expertise to developing these insights, because they are integral to our ability to help clients achieve their goals.
Our investment in knowledge also helps advance the practice of management. We publish our findings extensively, and we engage with leading thinkers on the most pressing issues facing our clients and society".