Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Are the legs on the KM table getting less wobbly?

A recurrent theme on this blog is to address "the 4 legs on the Knowledge Management table" - the four enabling elements of the Knowledge Management Framework (and indeed of any management framework) - roles, processes, technology and governance.


In a 2015 blog post entitled "the wobbliest legs on the KM table" I looked at the relative "Google ranking" of these four elements, as a proxy measure of where the attention typically lies. The results showed that there was far more published on technology and Process than on Governance and Roles.  Today I decided to repeat the exercise.
  • A search for "knowledge management process" gave  632000 hits (up from 330,000 in 2015)
  • A search for "knowledge management technology" gave 416,000 results (up from 264,000 in 2015)
  • A search for "knowledge management roles" gave 169,000 results (up from 68,000 in 2015)
  • A search for "knowledge management governance" gave 122,000 results (up from 34,700 in 2015)
We can see two things from these figures - firstly the number of hits has increased (as you might expect, given that google hits are cumulative), and secondly that the imbalance between the 4 elements seen in 2015 is beginning to lessen, as shown in the plot below.


This plot shows the relative attention given to these elements, in the quick surveys in 2015 and 2020, measured by Google hits. So for example in 2015 "knowledge management roles" received just under 10% of the total hits, and in 2020 this is up to 12%. The proportion of hits on "knowledge management governance" is still low, but double what it was in 2015. The proportion of hits on "knowledge management technology" has decreased.

Now in reality attention is needed to all 4 of these elements.
  • If there are no roles and accountabilities, then Knowledge Management is nobody's job (or else, it's "everyone's job" which soon becomes "no-one's job") 
  • If there are no processes for KM, then nobody knows what to do, or how to do it. 
  • If there is no Technology for KM, then nobody has the tools, and KM can never extend beyond the immediate and local 
  • If there is no Governance, then nobody sees the point. KM remains an optional activity, and nobody has time for optional activity.
If these are the 4 legs of the table, it is still a wobbly table, with 2 strong legs getting all the attention, and 2 weaker legs. However its not quite as bad as it was 5 years ago.

The message remains this  - if your KM programs are going to be in balance, you need to address all 4 legs of the table. Your processes and technologies may well be fine - you need to bring your roles and governance up to the same level. The evidence is that this is beginning to happen. 


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