Wednesday 8 October 2014

Why does Knowledge Management fail? (and how to avoid this happening)

In a previous blog post, I mention 7 common reasons why Knowledge Management fails. Now we can add to this another source of data.

One of the earliest questions in our 2014 Global Survey of Knowledge Management asked about the current status of KM in the respondents' organisations, and for all those who answered "We tried KM but gave up", we asked a supplementary question. 

In this question the Respondents from the 13 companies which had abandoned Knowledge Management were asked to identify the factors behind this decision, choosing as many as were relevant, and adding additional factors which were not on the list.

The frequency of their selections is shown here and listed below.

  1. Internal reorganisation. I explain in a separate post how to make your KM strategy reorganisation-proof. Knowledge Management is a long term program in a short term world, and needs attention to delivering Proof of Concept exercises, and application of what the Army call a two-pronged approach, so that value is delivered early on through solving business problems, and the KM program proves its worth well enough and early enough to make a case for surviving reorganisation.
  2. Cultural barriers. There will always be cultural barriers (see my post on cultural barriers and how to break them). If they were too strong, then your Knowledge Management program was lacking something; either high enough support, or a careful enough change program.
  3. Lack of involvement from staff. This often comes when you make KM an optional activity, and rely on initiative and goodwill for people to become involved. This is not a good implementation approach!
  4. Technology did not deliver as expected. However technology is not the solver bullet, and n ever will deliver benefits on its own. That's why you need the complete KM Framework, including roles and accountabilities, processes, technology, and governance. 
  5. KM did not deliver the expected benefits. I am not sure what was at the root of these two responses. KM, in my experience, when applied to business issues, delivers real value, However it can take a couple of years for that value to be realised. 
  6. KM was taking too long to deliver. See number 1 above.
In addition, the respondents added the following reasons for failure. 

  • Too much focus on technology platforms and not enough on incentives and cultural elements, 
  • The Company was sold to government, which had no interest whatsoever, 
  • No push or support from the Executive Committee 
  • No customer demand reported 
  • New Top Management - Not interested in KM

There are some well-known failure reasons here, which every Knowledge Manager should prepare against.

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