The problem with half-way governance for KM

KM Governance on its own is like a half-built bridge. It gets you nowhere.

Half built bridge
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © David Lally – geograph.org.uk/p/2266263

KM governance is a crucial part of KM, and much of the new ISO KM standard deals with issues of governance, such as leadership, support, and the creation of a KM Policy. However governance on its own is not enough, you have to go farther and tell people exactly how to fulfill the expectations set by the governance system. Let me give you an example.

I was working with a major company, doing an assessment of their knowledge management capability.

One of the things we always check for is Governance of Knowledge Management – whether people know what they are expected to be doing in KM terms, whether they have the resources to do it, and whether the incentive system is aligned with KM expectations (i.e. are they disincetivised, and could they get away without doing KM, and still avoid getting into trouble).  These are all elements within the ISO KM standard.

I was reviewing the alignment of project management and KM within this organisation, and particularly the habit of capturing knowledge from projects.

“Yes”, they said. “We are expected to capture knowledge. It says so in our project guidelines”.

When I checked they were absolutely correct, there was a line in there about “all projects will document lessons learned from their activity”. However there was no guidance on HOW to do this.  As a result, there were a variety of approaches, the most common being for the project manager to jot some things down in a spreadsheet, and file it in the project files.

As regular readers now, this is far from being an effective lesson-capture process, and the lessons were sketchy, inconsistent, poor quality, and very hard to retrieve.

So the company had gone halfway towards having a KM policy for projects (albeit a sketchy one, hidden within the project management guidelines), but had not gone all the way in defining what actually needed to happen, not on quality-controlling the content, nor on ensuring that the lessons could be and would be re-used.

Governance is crucial, but needs to be accompanied by well-defined processes, roles and technology if it is to fully span the KM gap.

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