If you get the KM accountabilities right, the rest of KM structure might just follow.
Peter Senge once pointed out that never mind arguing about the definition of Knowledge, we can't even agree on the definition of Management. He proposed this definition
'Being a manager means taking accountability for the work of others'
Now, this is a definition of a manager, rather than a definition of management, and we could extend it to say
"Management is a system of assigning accountabilities, and ensuring people deliver against these".
What if we took that idea, and applied it to Knowledge Management? We could come up with a statement such as the following:
Knowledge Management is a system of assigning accountabilities for Knowledge and for Knowledge related activities, and ensuring people deliver against these.I was speaking recently with Jeff Stemke, one-time CKO for Chevron, and he said that the major breakthrough for KM at Chevron was getting the accountabilities right. This was also the experience we had at BP in the mid 2000s. Once accountability was clear, and people knew their role, then they would look for processes and technologies to support their role, and you could apply the governance to make sure they delivered against their role.
So maybe we can follow up our definition of KM above, and look at the subject from an accountability view?
What are the KM accountabilities?
Ownership, organisation and maintenance of the company knowledge base is the accountability of the functional organisation (orange). Individuals within the functions have accountability for developing and deploying best practice, in order to sustain the capability of the organisation. The chief engineer, for example, is ultimately accountable for the engineering competence of the organisation, and therefore for the state of the company engineering knowledge base. He or she will delegate components of this to individual subject matter experts. In addition, he or she will delegate accountability for coordinating the communities of practice which cover engineering topics.
The line organisation (green) is accountable for the application of the knowledge in the work of the business, and for the creation of new knowledge. If the organisation has clear KM expectations for project or business activity (e.g. that every project should have a knowledge management plan, or that each project stage should be closed by a Retrospect) then the accountability for the line organisation is to meet these expectations. The accountability will probably lie with the project managers, though he or she may delegate some of the KM activity to a delegate (a project knowledge manager for example).
The KM support team (yellow) is responsible for ensuring that the KM system itself (the tools, the processes, the technologies) are fit for purpose, and are well understood.