Monday 3 August 2020

KM - who is in the driving seat?

A knowledge management strategy is not set in stone. It is not a fixed, immutable 5-year roadmap - it needs to change as the business landscape change. But who should steer these changes? Who is in the driving seat?

A fashionable man behind a steering wheel
Image by Ivan Radic on Flickr

Does the KM team drive the strategy? Surely not - that would be a case of the horse leading the cart. Steerage needs to come from the business, not from KM.

Is is the KM sponsor? Potentially yes, but the sponsor is usually a single person with a single view point.

In order to get a representative steer from across the business, the best solution is to set up a steering team for your KM implementation.  This is a team of diverse senior leaders from within the main business units and functions, who help direct and drive the KM implementation effort by providing guidance, advice and challenge.

A successful steering team should powerful in terms of composition (senior managers with the titles, expertise, reputations, relationships, leadership skills and access to support and resources), their mutual level of trust, and their shared objectives. KM will usually need such a team to drive the change and steer the program, particularly in large and complex organizations.

The steering team will also ensure that the business is fully represented in the planning and decision making within the KM implementation. Committee members should represent the main functions (IT, HR, Quality etc) and the main lines of business (Marketing, Sales, Production, etc) in order to represent all the primary stakeholders. For example, in one Oil Company KM project the steering team consisted of:

  • MD - Planning
  • DMD - Marketing Operations
  • Deputy Chairman & DMD – Planning & Gas
  • Deputy Chairman & DMD – Refinery
  • Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
  • DMD – Joint Operations
  • Manager – Information Technology

The steering team is not a decision making board, but an advisory board to the sponsor and so to the KM leader. They give decision making authority in the sense that decisions will be well informed, relevant to the business, and likely to garner support.

The steering team members do not have to be KM converts. In fact, it is probably useful if some of them have some level of scepticism; to add a level of real business challenge to the program, and to ensure that objections are met and resolved early on.

 The steering team can also act as ambassadors for the KM program in their own part of the business. The manager of IT, for example, can ensure that the needs of the KM program are honoured by the IT department, and the Chief Operating Officer can help identify and facilitate KM pilots in the operational departments.

The steering team should meet on a regular basis; for example quarterly. It should be chaired by the KM sponsor, in order to support the sponsor’s review of the progress and performance of the KM program, and to advise on next steps.

Through the use of such a mechanism, the KM program can use the wisdom of the business to navigate KM through any strategic changes, and ensure it delivers maximum value for the business. 

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