Designing the Knowledge Management organisation

Introducing KM into an organisation is not just a case of new technology or new processes – it involves organisational redesign as well.

You can look at Knowledge Management Implementation through many lenses.  The most common are the cultural and technological lenses, which ask “What culture do we need to develop?” and “What technologies do we need?”

However one of the more powerful lenses is the People lens, that leads you to ask questions about the organisational structure you will need after KM implementation. Questions like

  • What KM roles and accountabilities need to be in place? 
  • How many of them? 
  • Where should they be located? 
  • Who should they report to? 
  • Are there any new organisational bodies that are needed?  

For many of our clients,understanding the organisational design is an important early step in understanding the KM framework.

Let us take an analogy. Imagine you were introducing Financial Management. You might decide you need
  • A certain number of Budget holders – the people accountable for money within projects and operations. Probably one per project, and a cascade of budget holders within the operational departments
  • A certain number of Accountants and Cost engineers, doing the nuts and bolts of financial transactions. Some of these would be in the projects, or you might set up an Accounts department.
  • A central Finance team – the people who shuffle money between the projects and operations, with responsibility for auditing and process
  •  CFOs and Finance Directors – the people accountable for the financial management system itself

Similarly if you are introducing Knowledge Management you might decide you  need

  • A certain number of people accountable for knowledge within projects and operations. Probably one per project, maybe one per department
  • A certain number of knowledge managers and knowledge engineers doing the nuts and bolts of knowledge transactions. Some of these would be in the projects, or you might set up a KM support department, or put people in the PMOs
  • You might need a Lessons Management function, again perhaps in the PMO
  • A set of expertise-focused roles, in the supporting functions – knowledge owners, SMEs and community facilitators  – the people who ensure the flow of knowledge between the projects and operations
  • A central KM team, with responsibility for auditing and process
  • A CKO, accountable for the knowledge management system itself
Sounds like a lot of roles, eh? But that’s what you find in any company that is successful in this area.

  • In Shell you find the network leaders, the network focal points, the SMEs, the Wiki team, the KM support units
  • In ConocoPhilips, the 120 Network leaders, the support team
  • In Wipro, the functional team of 43, the KM support team of 15-20, and the 400 “KM Primes” embedded in the business
  • In McKinsey, the 1800 Knowledge Professional roles
  • And so on
All successful KM companies have modified their organisational design to accomodate KM roles and responsibilities. Don’t neglect this issue.

If Knowledge Management is to become an embedded part of the way you work, you will need an embedded KM organisational structure of roles and accountabilities to make it happen. 

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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