Monday 31 January 2022

How long does Knowledge Management take to implement?

Introducing Knowledge Management is likely to take a decade before it is fully embedded. Here are some benchmark statistics 

Over the past few decades we have helped many organisations to benchmark their current status of Knowledge Management

They ask for this service for a number of reasons. Sometimes they want to see where they need to improve. Sometimes they need to see IF they need to improve. Sometimes they need to set a benchmark so they have something they can measure future improvement against.

There are a couple of trends in these benchmark figures. 

The first trend appears when you look at how the overall benchmark score varies with the length of time KM has been addressed by the organisation. The graph above shows the overall KM score (from 1 to 5) for about 50 organisations, plotted against how long they have been deliberately working with KM, in years. Bear in mind when you look at this that not all organisations want to score 5 out of 5, and that 4 out of 5 is a pretty fine score. However to reach a level 4 seems to take 10 years.  

Also note on the plot the two red points, which represent the same organisation measured at an interval of 2 years, showing good progress. Similarly the two green points represent a different organisation, measured twice, at a 3.5 year interval, showing a similar rate of progress.  Both of these organizations had an intensive KM program in place with support from the very top. These two companies improved at a much faster rate than the average. 

The second piece of evidence is from our three global KM surveys. The graph to the right is a combination of answers to three questions:

  • How big is your organisation?
  • How many years have you been doing KM?
  • How mature is KM at your organisation?
The three coloured bars therefore represent the average number of years organisations have been doing KM when they are at the three levels of maturity:
  • Early stage
  • Well in progress
  • Fully embedded.
So you can see that small companies at the "fully embedded" stage have been doing KM for 10 years or more, and large companies for significantly longer. Even companies that see themselves as "well in progress" with KM have been doing it for 6 to 10 years depending on size.

The sample size for this plot is 1039 responses. 

Conclusions from these two plots are as follows;

Firstly, changing the culture to become a knowledge-focused organisation is a long term process. You should be able to see significant progress within a few years, but it may take 10 years for KM to really become embedded in the culture as "the way we work".  

That doesn't mean you can't deliver value in the short term - in fact that should be your intent in the early years; delivering demonstrable value through short term pilots.  However you can't embed KM quickly.

Secondly, companies start from different places. There is a big range of scores in the top plot for organisations which are just starting KM implementation. If you already have a collaborative, open and supportive culture, you start at a higher point, and get good pretty quickly. If your culture is hierarchical, blaming and closed, it's going to be a much longer journey.

Thirdly it seems to vary considerably based on company size, As you might expect, smaller companies can change faster, and the lower plot suggests that the KM culture change in an organisation of more than 100,000 staff will take much longer than in organisations with hundreds of staff.

Fourthly you can transform much faster if you have the right conditions. The red points and green points on the upper plot transformed at more than twice the normal rate, thanks to a concerted KM push driven from the top of the organisation.

Please feel free to use these figures to benchmark your own organisational transformation, and help your management realise that a) KM is a long term culture change, and b) they can help you accelerate it if they give it strong backing. 

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