Monday 19 December 2016

How long does it take to implement knowledge management?

Introducing Knowledge Management can take many years. Here are some benchmark statistics 

Over the past few years we have helped many organisations to benchmark their current status of Knowledge Management. They ask for this for a number of reasons. Sometimes they want to see where they need to improve. Sometimes they need to see IF they need to improve. Sometimes they need to set a benchmark so they have something they can measure future improvement against.

Recently we looked back on some of our benchmark data, and looked to see if we could find any trends. Here are two.

The first trend appears when you look at how the overall benchmark score varies with the length of time KM has been addressed by the organisation. The graph above shows the overall KM score (from 1 to 5) for about 50 organisations, plotted against how long they have been deliberately working with KM, in years. Bear in mind when you look at this that not all organisations want to score 5 out of 5, and that 4 out of 5 is a pretty fine score.

Also note on the plot the two red points, which represent the same organisation measured at an interval of 2 years, showing good progress. Similarly the two green points represent a different organisation, measured twice, at a 3.5 year interval, showing a similar rate of progress.  Both of these organizations had an intensive KM program in place with support from teh very top.

The second piece of evidence is from our 2014 KM survey. The graph to the right is a combionation of three questions:

  • How big is your organisation?
  • How many years have you been doing KM?
  • How mature is KM at your organisation?
The three coloured bars therefore represent the average number of years organisations have been doing KM when they are at the three levels of maturity:
  • Early stage
  • Well in progress
  • Fully embedded.
So you can see that small companies at the "fully embedded" stage have been doing KM for 8 years, and large companies for nearly 15 years.

Conclusions from these two plots are as follows;

Firstly, changing the culture to become a knowledge-focused organisation is a long term process. You should be able to see significant progress within a few years, but it may take 8 to 12 for KM to really become embedded in the culture as "the way we work".

Secondly, companies start from different places. There is a big range of scores in the top plot for organisations which are just starting KM implementation. If you already have a collaborative, open and supportive culture, you start at a higher point, and get good pretty quickly. If your culture is hierarchical, blaming and closed, it's going to be a much longer journey.

Thirdly it seems to vary considerably based on company size, As you might expect, smaller companies can change faster, and the lower plot suggests that the KM culture change in an organisation of more than 100,000 staff will take twice as long as in organisations with hundreds of staff.

Fourthly you can transform much faster if you have the right conditions. The red points and green points on the upper plot transformed at more than twice the normal rate, thanks to a concerted KM push driven from the top of the organisation.

Please feel free to use these figures to bechmark your own organisational transformation, and help your management realise that a) KM is a long term culture change, and b) they can help you accelerate it if they give it strong backing. 

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