KM implementation case study – Texas instruments

This is a Knowledge Management story from the early days – about 20 years ago – but is interesting because although it was an old-style approach, it worked and delivered huge value.

Texas instruments calculator, image from wikimedia commons

In 1994, the CEO of Texas Instruments, Jerry Junkins, gave is organisation an ultimatum. “We can not tolerate having world-class performance right next to mediocre performance simply because we don’t have a method to implement best practices.” The response to this was the development of an Office of Best Practices.

The TI approach, based around the Best Practices office, had a number of elements:

1) A network of about 150 Best Practice Sharing Facilitators around the business. These were ‘knowledge brokers’ who:

  • collected best practice from a number of sources 
  • distilled information on these into more formal best practice documents that can be shared to close gaps. They document just enough to be a useful pointer to the appropriate contact or to further information. 
  • sought out and documented best practices in their part of the business 
  • distributed and promoted the use of best practice sharing across their part of the business 

 2) 2-3 people in the centre to manage the network
 3) a best practice knowledge base structured around a set of Generic Process Definitions.   Any new distilled best practice were put into this database under one of these processes. People can then easily find good practice for any particular business process.

In addition to the formal database, they made use of a more loosely structured Intranet for more informal sharing. This was one of the sources used by the network of facilitators for identifying new best practice.

They claim to have saved $0.5 billion just on following best practice in the fabrication plants.

The approach they took to introducing this is interesting.

  1. they started off with a ‘Year of Supply’, where they concentrated on identifying, distilling and documenting good practice. 
  2. they then had a ‘Year of Demand’, where the focus was on getting people to use these practices, and identifying gaps where people were looking for best practice but not finding it. 

TI also took incentivization seriously. Their approach was to link best practice sharing to bonus payments, where best practice sharing was measured using evidence of supplying examples of best practice, running learning workshops, etc. They concluded early on that it was important to reward behaviour not value – they felt that if they tried to base rewards on the value added by sharing this would kill the initiative.

View Original Source ( Here.

KM implementation case history – the BBC

Here are 9 lessons from a KM implementation at the BBC.

Image from wikimedia commons

A great case history of Knowledge Management Implementation at the British Broadcasting Corporation can be found in Tom Young’s book “Knowledge Management for Services, Operations and Manufacturing“.  The case history is written by Claire Garwood, now Claire Chaundy, currently at the lawfirm Macfarlanes.

Claire describes the history of the development of the “Sport” community of practice within the BBC Nations & Regions in the early 2000s (a community designed to share and co-create knowledge between Sport camera crews and program makers) and concludes with the following 9 lessons:

Don’t be pushy; Use Schein’s process consultation principles.

This means being opportunistic and ensuring that every interaction is helpful. In Nations and Regions, this involved not being proud about the type of support the KM team provided; typing flip chart pads of knowledge exchange events for busy community hosts was just as important as facilitation and event design. Loaning out KM team members is also a great way to build relationships and foster knowledge flow. 

Use organisational culture to its advantage. 

Select approaches that enable people to stay within (or to step just outside of) their cultural comfort zone. BBC staff are naturally excellent networkers. This meant they would foster excellent CoPs provided they had the focus and support from dedicated community hosts. 

Use local language, not ‘KM speak’. 

This case study [in Tom’s book]  was written using KM terminology as it has an informed readership. In contrast the BBC’s N&R Sport champions simply saw themselves as people who wanted to improve their story telling by meeting more regularly to discuss their output. The KM team did not therefore talk about “strategic CoPs with hosts promoting knowledge sharing” as this would have not have meant anything to them at a personal, local level. 

Capture and publish learning about knowledge sharing as it happens. 

This is particularly important – but difficult – when your help is no longer required with ongoing activities, and when those involved become self sufficient. You can’t foist yourself onto people, so an easier inroad to maintaining contact is to ask if you can learn from the great work they are doing. People always appreciate recognition of their efforts. Further, profiling their activities via e-bulletins draws in people who aren’t yet interested in knowledge sharing but want to keep up to date with what’s going on. 

Don’t be afraid of focusing efforts on CoPs that are already taking off. 

The most successful CoPs are usually those who receive some KM team support and who nominate and train community hosts. Some people argue that the best groups “just evolve”. This is true in some cases, but it is a high risk option for business critical knowledge sharing. It’s fine to have a little formal behind the scenes effort to enable the informal contact to flourish. We call this being “formally informal”. It is no different to splitting up groups onto different tables at events! 

Make knowledge sharing part of the role

 The GPLs and Sport champions were successful because they had knowledge sharing performance objectives, budget and a percentage of their time to devote to the role. Why leave something of strategic importance to the chance that people might have time to focus on it? 

 What we’d do differently-  Use insiders. 

The KM team were careful about the language used but still had some credibility-busting moments (including an appearance in Private Eye magazine). Only two KM team members had programme-making experience but they were focused on developing social tools and did not work directly with the team members who provided internal consultancy. This hampered the consultancy side, who were criticised for marketing services and producing training materials that were “not for” programme makers. Seconding staff members from the areas you are supporting to help translate into their local language is a much better approach. It also builds well-trained KM ambassadors in the business when their secondment ends. 

 Use a robust contact and stakeholder management plan. 

 This ensures you maximise all interactions with staff potentially interested in knowledge sharing. In-house KM teams should think like an external consultancy group. The BBC’s KM team didn’t do this until the end. As they became overloaded with work they found that knowledge sharing between team members became difficult and opportunities were lost. 

Up-skill your KM team at the outset. 

 Analyse what is likely to be the predominant knowledge sharing solution used in your business, and provide KM team members time and resources to up-skill. The BBC’s KM team needed to be well versed in CoPs from the outset. Whilst their learning grew over time, it meant the early adopters such as N&R Sport didn’t benefit from some key learning. For example, the KM team discovered late on a key CoP statistic which is that only around 15-20% of your community will be regularly active at any one time. This is critical because, when trying to secure funding for community activities, many hosts set unrealistic expectations with their senior sponsors that large numbers of people will be active. If you set a target of, say, 50% of your invite list attending every community event over six months then you will fail as that is not statistically likely. This could have meant some CoPs failed at the first hurdle.

View Original Source ( Here.

Quantified Knowledge Management success story number 128; €136 million in one year at Continental

Here is another in our series of success stories quantified benefits, this time from Continental. 

The Tyre manufacturer Continental has a number of Knowledge Management initiatives under way, including

  • The collaboration platform ConNext, which links wikis, blogs, and community forums.
  • More than 16,000 communities, some of which are more like small working groups, while others have several thousand members.
  • Lesson learning
  • The innovation platform Contivation, for collaborative development of new ideas.
Innovation is one of Continental’s three value creation streams, and gets a lot of attention. As their knowledge management page reports regarding the use of Contivation,

Some 420,000 suggestions were received in 2017, for example, of which more than 360,000 were implemented. This not only resulted in savings of more than €136 million, but is also a testament to the active engagement of our employees with the company and its values.

One of the things to note here is the rate of implementation – nearly 86%. This is at the high end of implementation rates for schemes such as this.

View Original Source ( Here.

The "Designing Buildings" wiki

The “Designing Buildings” wiki is a nice example of managed industry knowledge

The Designing Buildings Wiki, pictured below and explained above, is a wiki for the construction industry.

It is active – with 5 million users, 14 million page views per year, and plenty of new edits and content added in the last few days. It’s 7500 articles cover topics such as project planning, project activities, legislation and standards and industry context, It also contains overviews of iconic buildings such as Number 10 Downing Street, the White House, the Palm Atlantis and the Bank of China Tower.

It looks like it uses MediaWiki technology, and is edited by Designing Buildings limited.  It has useful features such as a “related articles” box, and a “featured articles” section. It even contains a section on Knowledge Management in construction.

This is a really good showcase for the power of wikis

View Original Source ( Here.

A timeline of KM at McKinsey

McKinsey is one of the leading Knowledge Management organisations in the world. Here is how they got there.

Image from wikimedia commons

I have referred to McKinsey a few times on this blog, describing their approach to knowledge centers, and some of the KM roles they have in place. McKinsey are one of the leading firms in KM terms, and a many-time winner of the MAKE awards.

Below, from this case study, I have distilled a roadmap of how they got to their leading position. The case study was written in 2006, but seems to take the story up to the end of the millenium.

  • 1970s, period of slow growth and increased competition for McKinsey, decision to invest in Expertise and strategy. “One Firm” policy. Various informal networks but no attempt to reuse knowledge from one assignment to the next.
  • 1976 – new MD and increased focus on skill development, training and functional expertise. Creation of a standard classification of key tasks.
  • 1980 – Fred Gluck (later to become MD) starts a group focusing on knowledge building. Practice bulletins introduced.
  • 1982 – Creation of 15 “centres of competence” covering business areas such as finance, logistics, and strategic management. Experts appointed as practice leaders, each area with a full-time practice coordinator. 
  • 1980s – still no mechanism or process to capture knowledge. COnsultants encouraged to publish and share, but contributions are rare.
  • 1987 – formal KM project set up, with 3 objectives; a database of project details (Practice Information System – PIS), a knowledge base covering the main areas of practice (Practice Development Network – PDNet), an index of specialists and core documents (Knowledge Resource Directory – KRD).
  • late 1980s – KRD evolves into McKinsey yellow pages, PIS and PDNet populated
  • 1990 – Introduction of client service teams focused on working long term with clients and developing deep understanding of client issues. Staff encouraged to publish books and articles.
  • 1993 – McKinsey spending $50 million annually on knowledge building
  • 1994 – Rajat Gupta becomes MD, strong supporter of KM
  • 1995 – “Practice Olympics” created in order to promote development of practice knowledge. 
  • 1995 – establishment of first Knowledge Center in India, focused on provision of research and knowledge to client-facing consultants. 
  • Late 1990s – McKinsey develop a “personalisation” strategy for KM, with a focus on dialogue and knowledge sharing between individuals, and the development of knowledge haring networks.  Editors employed to convert client PowerPoint decks into reference documents with quality ratings.
That’s where the case study stops. However through this 20-year history we can see the genesis of the McKinsey KM organisation, with its 2000 knowledge professionals, its 6 global knowledge centers, and its practice-focused roles and networks. 

“Our work is founded on a rigorous understanding of every client’s institutional context, sector dynamics, and macroeconomic environment. For this reason, we invest more than $600 million of our firm’s resources annually in knowledge development, learning and capability building. We study markets, trends, and emerging best practices, in every industry and region, locally and globally. Our investment in knowledge also helps advance the practice of management”. 

View Original Source ( Here.

The role of the CKO – Video from Ed Hoffman, ex-NASA CKO

In this video, Ed Hoffman – ex-CKO of NASA talks about the role of the CKO, and the role of KM in major projects. This is an audio interview – the pictures on the video are a loop of screenshots of the major projects knowledge hub – so you could treat this as a commute podcast.

He covers key focus areas for the CKO in project-based organisations

  • Engagement, particularly with risk and safety management as well as with knowledge
  • Accelerated learning, especially from other organisations
  • Conversation (what Ed calls “the sound of success”)
In conclusion Ed sees conversation, digitalisation, engagement and rapid learning as the response to increasingly complex and fast projects and missions.

View Original Source ( Here.

How Deloitte revisit and refine their KM strategy

This video, hosted by, is a talk given by Rosemary Amato, the Deloitte program director for global client intelligence, during KM World 2011 during which she describes how Deloitte keeps its KM strategy current.

Deloitte surveys their staff to test how people use knowledge, share knowledge and collaborate. Based on the responses, they can make changes to their KM strategy. The interesting thing here is the way they focus on needs of the users.

As Amato says

“We want to understand the people using our knowledge assets; what they want and how they want to work. The end user needs to value how knowledge can serve them, and without this no KM department can succeed. They need to know what knowledge they need, who to call, where to look for it and how to search for it, and most importantly they get an answer that solves their need.”

She also talks about how knowledge sharing is embedded in the way people work, including the need to capture knowledge from departing experts. She describes how one expert worked one on one with younger consultants for 6 months, to share and capture his knowledge.

View Original Source ( Here.

How the Australian Emergency Services manage lessons

Taken from this document, here is a great insight into lesson management from Emergency Management Victoria. 

 Emergency Management Victoria coosrinates support for the state of Victoria, Australia during emergencies such as floods, bush fires, earthquakes, pendemics and so on. Core to their success is the effective learning of lessons from carious emergencies.
The diagram above summarises their approach to lesson learning, and you can read more in the review document itself, including summaries of the main lessons under 11 themes.
  • They collect Observations from individuals (sometimes submitted online), and from Monitoring, Formal debriefs, After ActionReviews and major reviews.
  • These observations are analysed by local teams and governance groups to identify locally relevant insights, lessons and actions required to contribute to continuous improvement. These actions are locally coordinated, implemented, monitored and reported. 
  • The State review team also take the observations from all tiers of emergency management, and analyse these for insights, trends, lessons and suggested actions. they then consult with subject matter experts to develop an action plan which will be presented to the Emergency Management Commissioner and Agency Chiefs for approval.
  • The State review team supports the action plan by developing and disseminating supporting materials and implementation products, and will monitor the progress of the action plan.

This approach sees lessons taken through to action both at local level and at State level, and is a very good example of Level 2 lesson learning.

View Original Source ( Here.

Sharing knowledge by video – – a firefighting example

The US Wildfire community is an area where Knowledge Management and Lesson Learning has been eagerly embraced, including the use of video.

The need for Knowledge Management and Lesson Learning is most obvious where the consequences of not learning are most extreme. Fire-fighting is a prime example of this – the consequences of failing to learn can be fatal, and  fire fighters were early adopters of KM. This includes the people who fight the ever-increasing numbers of grass fires and forest fires, known as Wildland fires.

The history of lesson learning in the Wildfire community is shown in the video below, including the decision after a major tragedy in 1994 to set up a lesson learned centre to cover wildfire response across the whole of the USA.

The increase in wildland fires in the 21st century made it obvious to all concerned that the fire services needed to learn quickly, and the Wildland Lessons Learned center began to introduce a number of activities, such as the introduction of After Action reviews, and collecting lessons from across the whole of the USA. A national wildfire “corporate university” is planned, of which the Lesson Learned center will form a part.

The wildfire lessons center can be found here, and this website includes lesson learned reports from various fires, online discussions, a blog (careful – some of the pictures of chainsaw incidents are a bit gruesome), a podcast, a set of resources such as recent advances in fire practice, a searchable incident database, a directory of members, and the ability to share individual lessons quickly. This is a real online community of practice.

Many of the lessons collected from fires are available as short videos published on the Wildland Lessons Center youtube channel and available to firefighters on handheld devices. An example lesson video is shown below, sharing lessons from a particular fire, and speaking directly to the firefighter, asking them to imagine themselves in a particular situation. See this example below from the “close call” deployment of a fire shelter during the Ahorn fire in 2011, which includes material recorded from people actually caught up in the situation.

Sometimes lessons can be drawn from multiple incidents, and combined into guidance. Chainsaw refueling operations are a continual risk during tree felling to manage forest fires, as chainsaw fuel tanks can become pressurised, spraying the operator with gasoline when the tank is opened (the last thing you want in the middle of a fire). Lessons from these incidents have been combined into the instructional video below.

This video library is a powerful resource, with a very serious aim – to save lives in future US Wildland fires. 

View Original Source ( Here.