Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Doing KM "the right way around"

Say what you like about the ISO KM standard; at least it encourages you to address KM in the correct order!


There are many approaches adopted for introducing KM, and not all of them work well. For example the historically common approach of "Technology Push" - where an organisation seeks to buy a KM technology as their first step into KM - is usually a recipe for failure. It is still common today - I have many enquiries from organisations who say "we are starting up in KM - help us choose a technology".

Starting like this, from the KM tool, is starting KM the wrong way around.  There is no point in choosing a tool until you are clear what you are doing KM, for who, and with what objective; until you understand the stakeholders and objectives, and also the other elements of the KM Framework which need to be in place.

This is where the beginners in KM will find the new ISO standard - ISO 30401:2018 - particularly useful (contact us for a free white-paper introduction to the standard). In common with all other ISO management system standards, IOS 30401:2018 follows a defined structure (described here) which doubles as a logical sequence for building your KM Framework. ISO have standards for many management systems, they know how they work and how to introduce them, and the logical sequence is based on this experience.

This sequence is described in sections 4 through 10 of the standard as follows;


  • First you become clear on the organisational context for KM. Why do you need KM? What will it do for the organisation? What are the external and internal issues which make KM important to you?  This answers the WHY question - why do you need KM? It ties KM to the strategy of the organisation right at the start of the KM thought process; well before you  think about tools.
  • Secondly you become clear on the stakeholders for KM, and what they need from the KM framework. This is another way of looking at KM objectives. In the previous section you decided what KM would do for the organisation, in this section you think through, and document, what it will do for the stakeholders. 
  • Thirdly you look at the scope of KM. What is in scope, what is out of scope, what will KM focus in and what it will ignore, what part of the organisation will be involved and what parts will not. 
  • Only then do you define the Framework - the elements of roles, processes, technology and governance, and how these will affect the culture of the organisation. You look at an integrated framework that covers the lifecycle of knowledge, and covers knowledge in all its forms and transitions. 
  • Once this is in place, the standard requires you to look in more detail at the leadership elements that support the KM framework, including the assignment of accountability.
  • Then you look at planning and objective setting for KM.
  • Then you look at support resources for KM.
  • Then you look at how KM operation, KM monitoring and performance management, and finally continuous improvement of the KM Framework.

Now THAT is KM "the right way round"

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