Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Knowledge Management and Knowledge replication

Knowledge Management is a key tool for organisations that want to replicate their services in new markets. The Olympic Games can give them some pointers in how to do this. 

Knowledge Management in service of growth is a special case model for KM. In a growing organisation - one that wants to move into new markets, new cities and new countries - the core issue is being able to replicate past success somewhere new, rapidly and effectively. Replication of knowledge is part of the solution to this issue.

When I was working in BP in the 90s, we looked at this issue in the context of entering new countries.  Whenever the company wanted to open a country office somewhere new, the same generic set of actions was needed, albeit in a different cultural and legislative context. We introduced the idea of the "new country briefcase" - not a literal briefcase, but a collection of knowledge, good practice and advice that would give the new country manager and their team a head start.

The US Army have created a similar collection of knowledge for their company commanders, to give them guidance on their "first 100 days" in post in Afghanistan. Based on the universal lessons in combat survival in a counterinsurgency, and research collected by the Centre for Lessons Learned,  this handbook emphasises what experienced soldiers and leaders said are important in terms of training, skills, and knowledge.  Here the knowledge replication is from one group of soldiers to the next.

At KMUK last week we hard from Chris Payne of the Olympic games about a similar need for knowledge replication. Each Olympic games looks to reproduce the success of the games in a new cultural and legislative context, and each new host country seeks for the lessons that previous host countries have said are important in terms of training, skills, and knowledge

According to Chris, the new host countries have three sequential knowledge acquisition priorities:

  • Firstly they want to get data. Data on budgets, sizes of teams, plans for organisation, construction, broadcast and so on. 
  • Next they want to get knowledge about organisation structure. Chris described how organisation structure is not static during a Games, and the change from a function-based structure to a venue-based structure is one of the risk points that needs to be handled well.
  • Finally they want knowledge about the processes to use, and the best practices in these processes. 

These knowledge needs are met through a comprehensive program of conversation with previous host nations, secondment and shadowing for fist hand experience, and a set of guidance manuals.

If your organisation ever needs to replicate activity and success, then knowledge replication needs to be part of your Knowledge Management strategy

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