Thursday 10 December 2009


I think all of us who worked in the BP KM team in the 1990s would agree that the KM program was terminated too early. We had tested the tools, we had piloted the framework, and we were poised to roll out KM. We had a vision of "99 in 99" - 99 knowledge managers in place across the organisation by the end of 1999.

Then, as history records, BP became embroiled in what was then the largest industrial merger in history - the merger with Amoco - and the KM program (together with very many other programs) was terminated early.

One thing I really regret about this early termination was that we never got to experiment with what we termed "KMAS" - the Knowledge Management Assurance System. This was very much conceptual, and we hadn't really progressed far beyond the name, but the parallel was with PMAS, the people management assurance system.

An assurance system is the system you put in place, to make sure something works. PMAS was the system BP put in place to make sure its People Management system worked. KMAS would have been the system BP put in place to make sure its Knowledge Managament system worked. KMAS is not KM, it was the assurance system for KM. Without the assurance system, there is nothing to sustain KM, and that's just what happened in BP. After the early termination of the team, KM faded away, with the exception of a few hotspots like Drilling. It took another 6 years for KM to be re-established, and for assurance systems to be put in place which would sustain it.

In Knoco, we refer to assurance systems as Governance, and you can find a few posts on governance in this blog, by using the search bar. We feel we've got a pretty goood handle on governance now. Having seen it fail in many places and succeed in a few, we think we know what the sustaining factors are. But if we had had that extra year in BP to put KMAS in place, we might have had that knowledge 6 years earlier.

For more details on effective governance, drop me an email and I will send you a reprint of my article "Masterclass - Sustaining the Knowledge Management Culture". Nick Milton from Inside Knowledge, March 2007

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