What does mature KM look like?
Mature KM is a mixture of attitude, habit, and framework.
If you visited an organisation that had truly embraced and embedded Knowledge Management, what would you see? What would be different and distinctive about that organisation?
You would probably notice 3 things – attitudes, habits, and a solid KM framework.
The Knowledge Management attitude
The difference in attitude you would see is that knowledge is treated as something important; something that is prioritised. Knowledge work, and KM activity, is seen as an important part of the job, and not an add-on or an option. You would notice that individuals are always keen to gain more knowledge, and not shy about sharing what they know. You would see collaborative attitudes – people willing to help and willing to ask for help. You would see the cultural attitudes of openness, honesty, “learner” attitudes, people who are curious and willing to challenge the status quo.
The Knowledge Management habit
As well as a different attitude to knowledge, you would notice a difference in the work habits. When starting a new piece of work, instead of diving straight into the details, people would automatically ask “Who has done this before? Who can I learn from, so that I don’t start work with missing knowledge”. They would routinely consult the wiki, search the knowledge bases, and ask the communities of practice.
Then when the work is complete, rather than diving straight into the next job, they think “What have I learned? Who can I share this with?” They would routinely conduct their After Action reviews and Retrospects, post the lesson in the company lessons management system, store any knowledge products in the community knowledge base, update the wiki etc.
These work habits of learning, reflection and sharing are an outcome of the attitude mentioned above.
The Knowledge Management System/Framework
You would also see a Knowledge Management framework that allows people to learn and share. There would be a community of practice for each core knowledge topic, which people can ask for advice and recommendations. Each community would manage a portal and/or a wiki that people can go to, to find the best guidance. There would be a lessons management system which warn them of pitfalls and alert them of new solutions. There would be an effective enterprise search engine which leads them to the explicit knowledge they need. There would be forums for sharing new knowledge, and for recording new lessons and new practices. People would know where to find these tools, and would be accustomed to their use.
Then if you look harder, you see the Framework embedded into the way the organisation works, with KM integrated into the normal way of working. You would find a KM Policy. You would find that the project management framework contains KM elements; a KM plan, lesson capture processes, and so on. You would find people with KM roles, or with KM accountabilities within their job description. They might not be called “Knowledge Managers” – they might be SMEs, or network leaders, or project controllers, but the KM accountability would be there. You might even see public recognition for people who share, or who learn from others.
What you probably would not notice is any mention of Knowledge Management.
In an organisation with fully embedded KM, you don’t hear a lot of mention of “Knowledge Management”. However you hear a lot about the tools and processes.
Instead of people saying “we must do KM”, you hear “We should hold an AAR”, “We should ask the Community”, “Why don’t we look on the wiki”, “Let’s put a question on the forum”.
Much in the same way that everyone talks about budgets and invoices rather than “Financial Management”, so the conversation is now about the activities and the tools and not about the system itself. “Knowledge Management” takes a back seat, and is represented at the work-face by .