Thursday 25 June 2020

The 10 principles behind successful KM strategies

I blogged last week about the 5 basic principles behind successful Knowledge Management. Let's take that one step further, into the principles behind a KM Strategy.

When Stephanie Barnes and I wrote our book "Designing a successful KM Strategy" we included a chapter on the ten principles behind KM strategies.  These are not just principles about KM, they are principles about how KM should be introduced, so they go beyond the 5 principles in last week's blog post.

Here are our 10 principles.

1. KM implementation needs to be organisation-led; tied to organisation strategy and to specific organisation issues. This is the fundamental behind KM implementation - the number one success factor (if present) and  a common reason for failure (if absent). 

2. KM needs to be delivered where the critical knowledge lies, and where the high value decisions are made. Knowledge Management needs to focus, and to focus on business-critical or business-strategic knowledge. This might be at operator level (the operator of a plant, the driller of a deepwater well, the pilot of a passenger aircraft) or it might be at senior management level.

3. KM implementation needs to be treated as a behaviour change program. Failure to
realise this is failure reason number one for KM programs.  

4. The endgame will be to introduce a complete management framework for KM. Unlike a KM toolbox, a Knowledge Management framework is a joined-up system of roles, technologies, processes and governance. The ISO standard for KM, ISO 30401:2018, describes the framework as a "Management System".

5. This framework will need to be embedded into the organisation structures. If you don't embed it in the business, KM wont survive. KM roles need to be embedded into the organigram, processes into the high level working process, technologies into the core technology set, and governance into the organisational governance structure. Without this, Km remains separate and optional. Many of the high profile failures of KM are due to a failure to embed.

6. The framework will need to include governance if it is to be sustainable. Governance is the combination of structure, expectation, support and monitoring that any management discipline requires if it is to be applied systematically.

7. The framework will be structured, rather than emergent. I explain this here.

8. A KM implementation should be a staged process, with regular decision points. Don't rush in and try to implement KM in one go. Take your time, stage the process, and learn as you go. Treat implementation as if you were launching a start-up, and make sure you have a viable business model.

9. A KM implementation should contain a piloting stage. This is crucial both to test the framework, and to create the social proof you will need for the culture change program. This also allows agile development of the KM framework, informed throughout by user feedback.

10. A KM implementation should be run by an implementation team, reporting to a cross-organisational steering group.  In other words, just like any other change program or project!  Choose the team wisely - they have a difficult job to do.

These are our 10 principles. Many of these are embedded within ISO 30401:2018; the ISO management systems standard for KM. Numbers 1 through 7 will be satisfied if you follow the guidance within the standard. 8, 9 and 10 address the structure of the implementation rocess itself which is outside the scope of the standard. 

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