Monday 7 October 2019

How KM links with other project disciplines

Knowledge Management, if applied within an organisational process such as a project management structure, needs to be closely linked with the other disciplines within the project. Three of the key interactions are described here

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Knowledge management is not a stand-alone discipline; it needs to operate within a ecosystem of other management disciplines. At organisational level, this includes disciplines such as Information Management, Data Management, Records Management, Talent Management, Learning and development, IT, Business intelligence and Customer Relationship management. Within a single project, there are other key interfaces, and three of the most important are described below. 

Performance management 

Knowledge and Performance are closely linked - the more you know, the better you perform - and it is fairly obvious from this link that Knowledge Management and Performance Management are also strongly linked. The management systems can be linked in the following ways;

  • The frequency of lessons capture should be linked with the frequency of performance measurement. Knowledge Capture exercises such as Retrospects and After Action Reviews  are based on an analysis of “what actually happened” compared to “what was expected to happen”, i.e. on an analysis of actual performance versus target performance. Therefore every time performance is measured, and compared with target performance, there is an opportunity to capture lessons. So for example, if performance is reported at monthly project meetings, then an After Action Review can be built into the meeting to capture the lessons that arise.
  • Under-performance should be seen as a learning opportunity. For example in one company, when any Major project over-runs its budget sufficiently to require sanction of additional funds, a special learning exercise is commissioned by the Head of Projects, in order to draw out the learning for future projects.  

Risk management 

 Knowledge Management and Risk management are also closely linked. Both are disciplines for managing the intangible factors the affect the operation of a project. Both need to be managed through the life of a project. Risk Management and Knowledge management also interact in the following ways.

  • The project team may need to learn what the risks are which the project is facing. Other projects may be able to identify risks of which the project team was otherwise unaware. An analysis of lessons from past projects can also identify the common risks that need to be managed. 
  • Acquisition of knowledge is a way to reduce risk, or to manage risk. Risks can be mitigated if you know what to do. Risks can also be avoided, if you know how to avoid them. Many of the areas of project risk identified in the risk management exercise, are areas where knowledge needs to be acquired, and should therefore appear in the Knowledge Management Plan. There should be significant correlation and coordination between the risk management plan and the Knowledge Management plan. 
  • There will probably be significant overlap between the Knowledge Management Plan and the risk register. It might even be worth considering combining the two registers. 

SSHE management 

 Safety, Security, Health and the Environment are key areas of focus for many project operations. Good performance in these areas is not only a social duty; it also is a component of maintaining your License to Operate. However these may be very difficult areas to manage, particularly when working with a number of sub-contractors with varying interpretation of SSHE expectations, or in developing countries where SSHE performance has not been an area of focus, or where security may be an issue. Knowledge Management interacts with SSHE management in two main ways.

  • Knowledge management can be a way of ensuring the project learns about the SSHE risks, and how to avoid them. In areas where this is an issue, SSHE should be identified as a key knowledge area in the project Knowledge Management Plan. The person accountable for this area of knowledge can then look for past projects with valuable experience, can set up processes to bring this knowledge into the project, and can join any SSHE communities of practice which can provide useful guidance. This level of pro-active Knowledge Management is crucial, if the project hopes to minimize or avoid accidents, illnesses, security breaches or environmental breaches. 
  • Knowledge Management can help the project (and the organization) to learn from any incidents that might occur during project planning and execution. A learning system from incidents needs to be set up, involving Root Cause Analysis, the derivation of Lessons (for sharing) and Actions (for addressing any identified issues), for tracking the Actions and for sharing the lessons.

Make sure KM finds its place within the management ecosystem, and builds the links it needs with other disciplines.

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