Friday, 3 April 2020

Invitiation to take part in the Knoco survey of global knowledge management, 2020

You are invited to take part in the 2020 global KM survey - the latest in a triennial series of surveys of knowledge management practices and results.


As a thank-you we will give you a free copy of the results from the last survey in 2017, as well as a copy of the 2020 results when they are available.

The 2020 survey is a re-run of surveys we did in 2014 and 2017 which gave some really interesting results, many of which I have covered in my blog.

Just a few of the results are:
and many many more.

This year we are running the survey again, to see what has changed in the last 3 years and 6 years, and also to extend the survey into countries and industries that were under-represented last time. Anyone who takes part will be rewarded with a link to a free copy of the 2017 results, as well as being sent a set of 2020 results when the survey closes.

Note that survey reports can also be ordered here.


Would you like to take part?


If you can answer on behalf of an organisation that does KM, or has done KM, or plans to introduce KM, then please follow this link and take the survey. Bear in mind that the comprehensive nature of the survey means it may take up to an hour to complete, but this also means the results are equally comprehensive and rich, so your time is well worth investing.

Feel free to take the survey now, and/or forward this blog post to any of your colleagues or contacts in other companies.



Friday, 27 March 2020

20 incentives to "swing the KM balance"

People will engage with KM if the benefit to them outweighs the cost. Here are 20 ways to tip the scales in favour of Benefit. 



balance scale
Balance scale, by winnifredxoxo on Flickr
At a purely individual level, people will decide how to spend their time and energy based on an equation of personal value, namely "what I get out of this must exceed what I put into it, otherwise I won't bother". The same is true for Knowledge Management activities - people will do them if they believe the value outweighs the effort or risk. Our job, as KMers, is to weight the scales on the "benefit" side. This is seldom a conscious decision, and they seldom write the equation on a whiteboard, but it's still there in people's minds.


If we think of the personal value equation as a balance ...

  •  On one side of the balance is the personal investment, which will consist of factors such as Time, Effort, Exposure, Change, Peer Disapproval and Management Disapproval.
  • On the other side are the personal reward factors which may include More Money, Less Risk, Less Stress, Peer Approval, Sense of Community, Sense of "Doing the Right Thing", Management Approval, Formal Recognition, the Chance to be Heard, and the Chance to Make a Difference


The corporate culture, and the personal and organisational incentives, can help swing this balance.

Incentives that swing the balance


Lets think about some of the incentives for people to seek knowledge before starting a new piece of work. There are internal incentives, things that drive you from within, and there are external incentives, incentives which management can apply to reinforce the correct behaviour.

Some of the internal incentives for knowledge seeking include

  1. Payback -- if people seek for knowledge, and find useful knowledge easily which they can apply to help them in their work, then this is a very powerful incentive to seek again next time.  In fact this is the number one incentive.
  2. Curiosity -- some people are much more inclined to look for alternative ideas and new approaches than others. Work with these people in the early stages of implementation. 
  3. Familiarity -- if people are familiar with the process for seeking knowledge, the technology to use, or the community to ask, then they are much more likely to do it, so this is where training and awareness raising helps. 
  4. Trust -- if people trust the knowledge source, and trust the process of asking for help (in other words, they trust that they will not be ridiculed or criticised for seeking knowledge or asking for help) they are more likely to seek for knowledge. 
  5. Habit -- eventually, once the culture is firmly embedded, knowledge seeking becomes a habit - something people do without thinking.

Some of the external incentives for knowledge seeking include

  1. Management expectation - people are very good at sensing (and doing) what is expected of them, and management can explicitly set the expectation that people will look for knowledge before starting something new (see "the two questions" management can ask to set the expectation
  2. Management encouragement -- management can reinforce the expectation by encouraging, recognising and rewarding the behaviours of knowledge seeking. 
  3. Example - people follow the example of others. If they see others successfully seeking knowledge, and being recognised for this, they are more likely to follow suit (see blog posts on social proof). 
  4. Mandate - later in the process of embedding knowledge management, or earlier in the process if the softer incentives fail, management can make knowledge seeking mandatory (see how NASA make compliance to their KM policy mandatory).


Lets think about some of the incentives for people to share knowledge after completing new piece of work. This is harder to incentivise than knowledge seeking, because it requires an investment of effort on behalf of others.

Some of the internal incentives for knowledge sharing include

  1. Reciprocity -- people are more likely to share knowledge with others when they expect to get knowledge back again at some time in the future (or have already benefited from the knowledge of others). 
  2. Pride and recognition -- people are more likely to share knowledge when they are proud of what they have accomplished. They are also more likely to share knowledge if the knowledge “travels with their name on it”. Nobody likes to contribute knowledge which somebody else will claim credit for. 
  3. Friendship and Loyalty -- people are more likely to share knowledge when they have built relationships within the community of practice, and feel that the knowledge will be used by people they know, respect and like. 
  4. Altruism -- let's face it, some people are just naturally more helpful, and more willing to share what they know, than others. Work with these people in the early stages of implementation.  
  5. Habit -- eventually, once the culture is firmly embedded, knowledge sharing becomes a habit - something people do without thinking.

Some of the external incentives for knowledge sharing include

  1. Management expectation -- management can set the expectation that people will capture and share knowledge after a significant piece of work (see the two questions again). 
  2. Example - people follow the example of others. If they see others taking time out to capture and share knowledge, especially from projects that may not have gone well and where there may traditionally have been a reluctance to "wash dirty linen", they are more likely to follow suit (see social proof again)
  3. Management encouragement -- management can reinforce the expectation by encouraging, recognising and rewarding the behaviours of knowledge seeking. 
  4. Recognition - good behaviours in terms of capturing and sharing knowledge can be recognised through awards, through mentions from senior management, or via articles in internal publications. 
  5. Rewards - good behaviours in terms of capturing and sharing knowledge can be rewarded through financial or other material incentives 
  6. Mandate - management can make knowledge sharing mandatory. For example many organisations are now building the retrospect process into their mandated project management framework (see the NASA mandate again).


Not all of these incentives will be appropriate at all stages of your KM journey.  Start with encouragement, use early successes as examples to drive social proof, once KM is defined, use management expectation, and to cement the culture, if you are serious enough about KM, use mandate.  the more you apply these external incentives, the more people will begin to develop the internal incentives as well.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

The 3 main types of KM roles

There are three main types of KM roles in an organition; the business roles with a KM focus, the KM roles with a business focus, and the central roles 

The business roles are focused on the business outcome which KM supports, while the KM roles focus on the effective operation of the KM processes within the business. The central roles design, implement, monitor and continuously improve the KM framework itself.

Business roles with a KM focus 

There is a role we could call the Business Knowledge manager or Business Knowledge Champion for an area of the business such as a department, a division or a project.  This person owns and implements the KM plan or strategy for that area of the business.   They
  • ensure the KM expectations are met, 
  • that the processes happen, 
  • and that KM works for the benefit of the business. 
They don't conduct KM processes themselves, but they ensure KM processes are conducted. In my experience, this is a role owned by a business person, and they may also own risk management, quality management or another parallel discipline.

In the Communities of Practice there is a CoP leader role, who

  • provides overall leadership and direction to the CoP, 
  • works together with the community sponsor to develop community objectives,
  • works with the core community team to develop plans to deliver the objectives,
  • coordinates & follows up the activities of the community, 
  • ensures that the community successfully delivers its goals, and 
  • sets the leadership style of the community
In terms of the ownership and the maintenance of the organisational knowledge, the business role is the Knowledge Owner or Subject Matter expert. This role

  • “owns and manages” an area of critical knowledge for the company
  • monitors the state of knowledge 
  • keeps the knowledge base up to date 
  • validates new knowledge 
  • broadcasts new knowledge 
  •  plays a strong role in the community or network

KM roles with a business focus. 

The business roles mentioned above will have specialist KM support. 

There is a role which supports the business KM champion, which we could call the business knowledge facilitator.
This role is sometimes known as a learning engineer, or a learning historian, and is a role for a practitioner with KM skills.

The CoP leader is often supported by a community facilitator, who
  • ensures effective transfer of knowledge among the community members through facilitation of online discussion and face to face meetings 
  • ensures new knowledge is captured and shared 
  • maintains energy and commitment in the community 
  • ensures the knowledge assets are built and maintained, and
  • maintains the community site
The CoP leader is usually a business role, while the CoP facilitator (who has a much greater emphasis on the mechanics of knowledge transfer within the CoP) could be considered a KM role.

The role of the knowledge base facilitator, or cyberarian, is to
  • determine the customer base of the online library or knowledge base, 
  • carry out market research into customer needs,
  • work with the SMEs to develop and maintain a structure for the online library 
  • work with the SMEs to develop processes for refreshing and renewing content and for removing old material 
  • monitor these processes, prompting for compliance as required 
  • provide a help-desk service to users of the online library, and 
  • provide coaching in the use of online tools and the search engine
The role of the Lessons Learned manager (who might be based in the project management office, if you have one) is to
  • support the lesson learned process 
  • analyse, action and communicate lessons
  • support LL Information Sharing via databases, websites, reports, newsletters, etc. 
  • look for recurring lessons and common threads
  • support the LL Community
  • set up or improve the organization’s LL capability.

So as the diagram above shows, at each level we can see a business role with KM as a focus, supported by a facilitative KM role with a business focus.  The KM facilitation roles bring the KM skills and knowledge of KM theory and process, while the business KM roles bring the business objectives and the business context.

Then we have the central roles

This blog contains many posts about the KM team and its role. In a fully mature KM organisation the role of the central KM team is to monitor and support the application of the KM framework, rather than to do KM work. The team will have a leader (a CKO) who is accountable for the KM Framework and its application in support of business strategy. Then there may be trainers and coaches who work with the KM roles mentioned above, to give them the skills and support they need to do their jobs.

Those are the three types of role. Not every organisation will have every role mentioned here (you can see the usage of the more common roles here), but every organisation will have roles that fall within these three types.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

A haystack is no place to store your needles (findability in KM)

If you want people to find your needle, don't put it in a haystack. And if you want people to reuse your knowledge, but it somewhere where it can easily be found.


One of the companies we work with collects knowledge as "case studies". Currently there are over 20,000 case studies in their case study library, and finding a relevant study has been described as like finding a needle in a haystack.

My point, however, is that the needle should not have been put in the haystack in the first place.

One of the key issues in KM is findability.

 People will not use knowledge if they cannot find it. Re-use is the end-game and the primary goal for KM, and findability is one of its main supports.  A massive monolithic database of 20,000 cases is a haystack, and knowledge within it is very hard to find.

So where would you put your knowledge, if you want it to be found?

To answer this, think about where you would put a needle, if you want others to find it.

For home use, you would put your needles into a sewing kit.


The sewing kit is a collection of tools to do a job. The kit is where you will find needles, pins, thread, safety pins, buttons and scissors. It provides you with the resources to do repair jobs on garments, all collected in one place.  The domestic sewing kit is a shared resource for all the needle-workers in the household. My wife uses it, as do her daughters, as do I when I need to sew on a button.

That's also how we need to package our knowledge.

We need to package our knowledge around the jobs that need to be done. Knowledge should be stored based on activity, rather than the type of knowledge. So knowledge on preventative maintenance - to take an example at random - needs to be stored in one place; case studies, lessons, guidance and standards should all be co-located, not hidden away in individual haystacks.  We call these collections of knowledge "knowledge assets" - a collection of the knowledge tools needed to do a job.

We need our knowledge to be a shared resource for the relevant community of practice - the maintenance community, in my example above. The knowledge asset is owned by the community, managed by the community, updated as a result of community discussion and knowledge sharing, and re-used by the community.

Keep your valuable knowledge in shared knowledge resources, whether you call them knowledge kits or knowledge assets.

Never hide knowledge in a haystack.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

What measurable benefits can you get from Knowledge Management?

What are the business metrics where Knowledge Management has delivered value? This is one of the questions we addressed in our recent survey of Knowledge Management, and the results are very interesting. 


527 of our respondents (Knowledge Managers from a wide range of industries, company sizes and geographies) answered the question "What tangible benefits have you seen so far from Knowledge management? Choose all that apply".

The results are shown below in a number of ways, and may be useful to you when discussing the benefits of KM with your stakeholders. 



 First let's look at the overall results, in the figure above. The most common benefit, identified by over 3/4 of those who replied, is a reduction in time to find information. Although this is a relatively small and tatical benefit - perhaps an order of magnitude or two less in value than the other benefits - it should be common to all KM programs. 

However this is not really a benefit that will engage senior managers, none of whow will lie awake at night worrying that their staff can't find information fast enough. 

This is followed by four benefits quoted by over 100 respondents, which are more likely to gain management attention:

  • Reduced time to competence for new staff
  • Reduced project or operational costs
  • Reduced project or activity cycle time
  • Improved customer satisfaction
Each of these should be measurable, and provided you have a good pre-KM benchmark, you should be able to measure the impact of your KM program.

Now let's look at how soon, in a KM program, these benefits are recognised.


In the plot above we show the benefits, as a percentage of respondents, for 3 categories of respondent:

  • Those from organisations just starting in KM
  • Those from organisations well in progress with KM
  • Those from organisations with KM fully embedded.
Note that the benefit of finding information faster is recognised at all stages of KM maturity. Some of the other benefits however, such as improved bid success, improved customer satisfaction and reduced project cost, only become significant when KM is fully embedded. For these more strategic benefits, you may need to be more patient.

Finally let's look a benefits by industry sector. This is a more difficult plot to read, but contains a lot of information. I have removed all sectors where I had fewer then 10 respondents answer this question, and used dashed lines for some of the minor benefits so you can see which line is which.


You can see how "reduced time to find information" is a generic benefit, and the most commonly cited benefit for almost all sectors.

Also "reduced time to competence" is a common benefit for all sectors other than military and emergency services. 

After these generic benefits, things get more complex. 

  • Improves customer satisfaction is a major beneft for IT and telecoms companies, and for legal firms
  • Faster projects are a major benefit for oil and gas
  • Cheaper projects are a major benefit for oil and gas, utilities and construction/engineering
  • Bid Success benefits apply to legal, construction and the professional services
You can probably see other results in this plot. 

Hopefully these results will help you craft a benefits statement for your own organisation.



Friday, 20 March 2020

A CEO's view of KM - the organisation as a knowledge factory

It's always insightful to read a CEO's view of KM. Here's one that might surprise you.


One of the more interesting essays on Knowledge Management in the mid 1990s was written by John Browne (now Lord Browne of Madingley),  who at the time was the Chief Executive of BP.

It is interesting because it gives a CEO's view of KM, which is a view we don't often see.

In the quote below, we read not just what this CEO saw as the value of KM and Organisational learning, but also how the importance of Knowledge changed how he saw the organisation itself.

"Learning is at the heart of a company's ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. It is the key to being able both to identify opportunities that others might not see and to exploit those opportunities rapidly and fully. This means that in order to generate extraordinary value for shareholders, a company has to learn better than its competitors and apply that knowledge throughout its businesses faster and more widely than they do. The way we see it, anyone in the organization who is not directly accountable for making a profit should be involved in creating and distributing knowledge that the company can use to make a profit"


Let me stress that last sentence again

"anyone in the organization who is not directly accountable for making a profit should be involved in creating and distributing knowledge that the company can use to make a profit"

That is a remarkable view of an organisation as a profit-focused knowledge factory, creating and distributing knowledge for the benefit of the front-line knowledge workers.

The same "knowledge factory" image came to me recently, working with a public sector educational organisation, who's whole raison d'etre was to create knowledge. Here we took a new process-focused view of the organisation, and started to identify the knowledge and information inputs and outputs for each step in the value chain. It was really illuminating.

If you think of your organisation as a profit-focused knowledge factory, then you can start to think about applying manufacturing thinking to the flow of knowledge - thinking such as debottlenecking the knowledge flow, or lean approaches to knowledge supply. You can start to ask, who is in charge of production? What is the knowledge supply chain? Can you use Japanese style processes such as Kaizen and quality circles to improve the flow?

Take a look at how well your organisation operates as a knowledge factory, and ask - just how well do we process knowledge? Does everyone who is not making a profit or delivering a service, actually realise that their job is knowledge production?


Thursday, 19 March 2020

Personal learning, KM and the 170:20:10 rule

The 70:20:10 rule is commonly quoted, as in this video by Steve Trautman, as representing the three ways in which people learn.



  • 10% of our learning, comes from formal training
  • 20% of our learning comes from structured mentoring, from a senior to a junior, or teacher to learner
  • 70% of our learning comes "On the job". 
In the video, Steve suggests that this on-the-job learning happens by osmosis - "they go to work, they hang out, they are in the space, and they learn".

The dictionary calls osmosis "the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc". Well, in KM its not gradual, it's "just-in-time", and it's conscious, not unconscious. The use of Knowledge Management can deliver on-the-job learning in a far more effective way than just osmosis.
  • Reflective team learning practices such as After Action Review and Retrospect allow people to discuss what have been learned, and become conscious of learning, thus accelerating personal learning. 
  • Good knowledge bases form an explicit learning resource for people to learn on the job.
  • A community of practice forms a tacit learning resource for people to learn on the job.
So instead of knowledge "just happening to flow", as in the random movement of molecules through a membrane which we call osmosis, the KM processes and framework become a sort of "ion pump for knowledge" (one for the cell biologists there).

So maybe we can change the 70:20:10 rule. If KM is better than osmosis, maybe its a 170:20:10 rule, and people learn twice as much.


  • 10% of our learning through formal training
  • 20% of our learning through mentoring and coaching
  • 170% of our learning through KM processes and tools. 

A combination of formal learning and development, mentoring programs and Knowledge Management therefore covers, and expands, the entire spectrum of learning.

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