Knowledge Management Policies – what they are, and why you need them

Once KM is in place, to keep it in place you need a Knowledge Management Policy.

This picture by unknown author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Once you get past the early years of implementing Knowledge Management, when you are doing the testing, training and piloting, you need to be working towards an end state where Knowledge Management is fully embedded as a way of working, and where the organisation is fully committed to KM.

This can be achieved once people know what Knowledge Management means, and that it is something the organisation takes seriously, and when they know what they should be doing, and the part they should be playing.

On way to make these Knowledge Management expectations clear is by defining an  in-house policy, for Knowledge Management.  This clarifies

  • The organisational commitment to KM
  • The organisational purpose for KM
  • The KM principles the organisation will apply;
  • The expectations for staff and managers in terms of the application of KM, and 
  • The expectations for staff and managers in terms of how they will behave towards knowledge.
The reasons for having a policy are as follows (see also what the NASA CKO said about the reasons for a policy):
  1. As a statement of intent from the organisation; a message to staff and stakeholders
  2. To set clear expectations, standards and accountabilities for all staff, so they know what they are expected to do. 
  3. To demonstrate the full support of senior management. 
  4. To provide a framework for departmental KM plans
  5. To resolve tensions between opposing forces, such as the tension between open sharing of knowledge versus information security.
  6. The ISO Knowledge Management Standard, ISO 30401:2018, requires you to have a KM policy in order to be compliant.  You may say, “so what, who needs to be compliant”, but ISO believe that an effective management system must be supported by a polity, and that applies to KM just as it does to other management systems. 
Some examples of these reasons and components are shown below.

Organisational commitment and intent

In the NASA KM Policy, the commitment is expressed as follows;

It is NASA policy to: (1) Effectively manage the Agency’s knowledge to cultivate, identify, retain, and share knowledge in order to continuously improve the performance of NASA in implementing its mission, in accordance with NPD 1000.0, Governance and Strategic Management Handbook. Individuals at all levels must take responsibility for retaining, appropriately sharing or protecting, and utilizing knowledge in order to meet future challenges, innovate successfully, and keep pace with the state of the art in rapidly changing times.

The Hong Kong Police have the following policy statement

The Hong Kong Police Force attaches great importance to effectively managing the wisdom, experiences and knowledge accumulated, accrued and acquired over the years either at the individual or the Formation/Unit levels. Such organizational wealth which exists in the form of Major Formation / Formation databases or intangible (tacit) knowledge residing within an officer is highly valued. With a view to enhancing the performance of the Force and in turn to delivering a better service to the public, the Force is committed to developing and promoting KM which should at all times be aligned with the Force Vision and Mission. 

Expectations on Staff

In one oil company, every drilling project over a threshold value is required, as defined within the Knowledge Management component of operating policy,

  • to develop a Knowledge Management plan
  • to capture lessons during operations
  • to hold a learning review at the end of the well. 

These expectations are written out clearly, and have been rolled out to all drilling staff. Everyone is clear about what they should be doing.

Here is another example; an extract taken from the 2007 Intercooperation KM policy (no longer online). This extract covers the expectations on individual staff members for Knowledge Capture – there are other sections covering Knowledge Creation, Knowledge Sharing, and the Organisational and Project dimensions

  • Staff members use and contribute to our web-based information system as a regular part of their activities.
  • Staff members contribute actively to the documentation of Intercooperation’s field experiences (in written, film, photographic, or other form), especially where this is of a comparative or analytical nature. They are supported in time allocation/other resources (eg. editorial assistance).
  • Persons leaving one position to take up another write a final report, focusing on “lessons learned” (both positive and negative experiences – at the organisational and the individual level).
  • For those undergoing a “reintegration” period after working for Intercooperation, a feedback on this process is given (normally in a short written report).
  • In all report writing, staff members endeavour to highlight experience relating to Intercooperation’s thematic and methodological (process) topics (as used in knowledge mapping under our web-based information system).

Purpose

The NASA purpose is in the quote above – “in order to continuously improve the performance of NASA in implementing its mission”.

Avangrid (link below) quote the purpose as follows: “The effective development, dissemination, sharing, and protection of Avangrid’s intellectual capital enhances operational efficiency and is a key element in creating sustainable value for Avangrid’s shareholders.

For the Hong Kong Police the purpose is “enhancing the performance of the Force and in turn to delivering a better service to the public”.

The Iberdrola KM Policy states the purpose as ” – to enhance operational efficiency through the proper use of intellectual capital – In a world in which traditional production assets are ever more accessible, intellectual capital is what marks the differences between companies that are competitive and those that are not, and between those that sustainably create value and those that gradually lose their capacity to generate wealth.”

Principles

A good principles-based policy from Avangrid can be found here

The US Army KM principles can be found here

Contact Knoco if you want help in developing a KM policy.

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