Tuesday 31 January 2017

A CEO's view of Knowledge Management

It is very interesting to see Knowledge Management from a CEO's point of view.  Here is what one CEO said.

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If you are "selling" KM to your CEO, then you need to know exactly how a CEO views the topic.

To my knowledge, there are only two publications by CEOs on the topic of Knowledge Management, one of them is Bob Buckman's 2004 book "Building a Knowledge-driven Organisation", and the other is John Browne's 1997 HBR interview "Unleashing the Power of Learning".

Browne's interview was given when he was CEO of BP in the late 1990s, in the very early days of Knowledge Management theory.  To an extent, he was "communicating out to communicate in" - selling the KM message internally by publishing externally.  His interview is very much a "view from the top", and shows how a CEO of a major multinational thinks about knowledge management.

Here are some quotes which might help you.

The business case for knowledge

"There are a variety of ways you can learn how to do something better. You can learn from your own experience. You can learn from your contractors, suppliers, partners, and customers. And you can learn from companies totally outside your business. All are crucial. No matter where the knowledge comes from, the key to reaping a big return is to leverage that knowledge by replicating it throughout the company so that each unit is not learning in isolation and reinventing the wheel again and again. The wonderful thing about knowledge is that it is inexpensive to replicate if you can capture it". 

Art or science?

"The conventional wisdom is that excelling in incremental learning is a science—a matter of installing the right processes—while excelling in breakthrough thinking is more of an art. I disagree about the latter: I think you can install processes that generate breakthrough thinking. We have". 

Tacit of Explicit?

"Another conventional view is that it is harder to tap implicit knowledge, which is the experiential knowledge locked inside someone’s head, than explicit knowledge, which can be captured in a database. But that hasn’t been our experience. We have had great success in fostering the personal interactions you need to mine implicit knowledge". 

KM challenges

"Our challenge has been getting people to systematically capture the information the company needs in order to be able to use both explicit and implicit knowledge repeatedly. In the case of explicit knowledge, that means recording the actual data. In the case of implicit knowledge, it means keeping a record of the people who have the know-how to solve a problem so that others can find them when the need arises. The trouble is that both tasks are boring. So we’ve got to figure out how to make them exciting and enjoyable. We’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go".

Organisational Purpose as a framework for knowledge

"A business has to have a clear purpose. If the purpose is not crystal clear, people in the business will not understand what kind of knowledge is critical and what they have to learn in order to improve performance. A clear purpose allows a company to focus its learning efforts in order to increase its competitive advantage. What do we mean by purpose? Our purpose is who we are and what makes us distinctive. It’s what we as a company exist to achieve, and what we’re willing and not willing to do to achieve it".

How Management incentivises learning

"By setting competitive and comparative targets and challenging people to achieve them. To get people to learn, you need to give them a challenge. Setting a target is crucial even if you don’t actually know whether it’s fully achievable—because in times of rapid change, you have to make decisions and get people to step outside the box. One process that we employ to promote learning and drive performance is not that unusual. It involves understanding the critical measures of operating performance in each business, relentlessly benchmarking those measures and their related activities, setting higher and higher targets, and challenging people to achieve them".

The role of management

"The top management team must stimulate the organization, not control it. Its role is to provide strategic directives, to encourage learning, and to make sure there are mechanisms for transferring the lessons".


Unknown said...

Thanks Nick to share this interesting article.

Himanshu said...

Makes sense and gives a lot of clarity on what KM is.

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