Tuesday 10 November 2020

KM implementation - knowing when to stop

Knowing when to stop KM implementation - to "declare victory" and stand down the implementation team - is as big a decision as starting KM in the first place. 

Image from wikimedia commons
I am a proponent of viewing KM implementation as a project, and projects have start dates and end dates. When you start you don't know exactly how long implementation will take, and there is a huge risk of stopping your KM Implementation activity too early, before KM has become fully embedded. 

By "stopping KM implementation" I don't mean stopping KM, I mean stopping treating it as a change program, and starting treating it as "Business as Usual" or "The Way We Work". 

Stopping implementation is like taking the training wheels off a bicycle so the rider continues independently. It's like when your child no longer needs arm bands to swim, and they can swim independently. This happens only when KM has become embedded, with KM roles in the organisation, KM processes in regular use, KM technology which has become a "standard tool", and KM governance which services to reinforce and guide. It may take a decade before this point is reached

So if for example you agree with your management a "5 year KM program" then the risk is that you stop after 5 years, no matter how far you have come, and if KM is not embedded at that point, it slides back or tips back to the previous state, despite the best efforts of the KM operational team. 

You can think of a KM implementation project as best approached as a series of 6 decisions, with each decision moving you on to the next stage

1. The decision to investigate what Knowledge Management would mean for us in our organisation
2. The decision that the organization needs improved Knowledge Management, and to find out how much investment is required.
3. The decision to set up a KM implementation program, with a full-time team and budget.
4. The decision to pilot KM in high profile areas
5. The decision to roll out KM as a required discipline to the whole organisation.
6. Once KM is embedded, the decision to stand down the implementation team and hand over to management within the business (with the support of a central KM team to operate and maintain the KM framework).

We are talking here about decision 6. You don't stop the implementation project until you have good evidence to support decision 6.

To do so would be like stopping a bridge-building project until the bridge crosses the river, and has a roadway across it. Ending KM implementation is like commissioning that bridge, testing it, completing and de-snagging it, and then declaring it open.

So if you are to set up KM implementation as a project, then you need very clear deliverables which you agree in advance with management. If you have not yet achieved these deliverables, then implementation needs to continue. Deliverables might be, for example, 

  • a self-sustaining approach to KM in all elements the business,
  • KM processes into the high level process suite,
  • clear governance, including a policy, minimum conditions of satisfaction, and KM metrics linked to the performance management framework,
  • clear chains of accountability for KM within the organisation,
  • a complete, supported and well-understood technology suite,
  • providing a support system, including local support from KM champions, central support and training from a central KM operational team, and self-help support resources,
  • clear evidence of sustainable culture change and sustainable business value.
This is what you are aiming for, and don't stop until you have got there. And even then, plan for a handover and commissioning period, until operational KM is up and running.

That is when you can safely stop your KM implementation project.

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