The KM "proof of concept"

In the early stages of Knowledge Management – even when you are still drafting the Strategy – you may need to deliver a “Proof of Concept” exercise.

Proof of? by katmeresin
Proof of?, a photo by katmeresin on Flickr.

This is a small intervention with a Knowledge Management tool or process, just so that people can see it in action, and to show that “Yes, it can work here. No, it’s not all smoke and mirrors”.

This is not the same as a full-scale pilot, nor is it part of implementation – it’s a “Look at this” exercise.

Suitable proofs of concept might include the following;

A retrospect on a tricky (or successful) project. For one of the companies we have worked with this was a project that had gone disastrously wrong, and they effectively said to us “if you can get learning from this project, then we will believe what you say about Knowledge Management. We did, and they did.  

A Peer Assist for a high profile project. This  has been the proof of concept for many companies – a straightforward demonstration that valuable knowledge can be shared between projects teams, and can make a positive impact to project plans.  

A Knowledge Exchange on a key topic. For another organisation, the proof of concept was getting experts together from all over the world to build company Best Practice on bidding and winning PFI contracts. 

A Knowledge Asset on a key topic. For a third company, who was going through a series of mergers, this was a Knowledge Asset to summarise “what we have learned about mergers.” 

A Community of Practice launch. One organisation was seeking to develop knowledge sharing behaviours, and a successful community launch gave them the evidence they needed to move forward 

A retention interview from a departing expert. This has been the proof of concept for many a Retention strategy. Management want to see what is possible, and they want to see the output, in order to prove that retention can generate valuable output.

In each case, you should seek to create two things from the Proof of Concept.

The first is some valuable knowledge, either exchanged between people, or captured as lessons, guidance, tips and hints, or FAQs

The second is stories, or feedback from the people involved, saying “Hey, we tried this knowledge management thing, it was great, it was not difficult, and it created real value”.

It is through these stories that the concept is “proven”

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Why do so many KM implementations not learn from the past?

Why is it that so many KM implementations never seem to learn the lessons of the past?

George Santayana quotes
George Santayana quote by Mel_DJ on Flickr

We know by now what makes KM work. We know the 7 secrets of success for KM, and the 7 most common reasons for failure. We know the principles, we know which KM strategies succeed and which ones fail.

So why is it a sad fact that so many KM implementations continue to fail?

Here are some potential reasons why this happens

  1. People who own KM initiatives are human beings, and as prone as other human beings to rush in without “learning before”. So they reinvent the wheel yet again. That’s why KM is needed in the first place – to influence people to value and to access and ro reuse knowledge, because this is not natural human behaviour; not even for the KM implementors.
  1. People are prone to the common fallacy that “we are different – the lessons of the past do not apply to us” (the “we are different” fallacy is one of the 5 most common objections that you have to face as a KMer). Sometimes this is expressed as “people these days (Gen Y, Gen Z, whatever) are different – the lessons of the past will not apply to them”.  Still a fallacy I am afraid, though one that KMers are prone to as much as anyone else.
  1. KM is simple, but difficult. It is very tempting to go for a mixture of an easy option and wishful thinking, though the easy option will fail.  The illusion of knowledge is one that applies to all humans.
  1. People will offer you miracle solutions – usually technology solutions. “Buy our software, and knowledge will manage itself”. In 20 years of knowledge management, technology has never been the solution (though it has always been part of the solution – about 25% of the framework is technology).  Believing that it will save you this time, is wishful thinking again.
  1. There is a lot of pressures from management to do KM on the cheap, quickly. and with minimal disruption. Unfortunately KM requires investment, it requires time, and (being a change process) causes disruption. You can fail quickly cheaply and non-disruptively, but you can’t succeed. It’s your job, as a KMer, to show management the investment of time and money that will be needed, and the value that KM will deliver in return. Be strong – make your case.
  1. Maybe you don’t know which lessons to trust. There are many dissenting voices in KM, and many people who will tell you many different things. In the past KM has no “authoritative voice”. Now at least we have the ISO Standard 30401:2018; the Management System standard for KM, and part of the reason this standard was written was to help people avoid the pitfalls of the past. If you do nothing else in your new KM program, buy the standard and use it as a guide.

Those of us who have been working with KM for over a decade (since ’92 in my case, with BP for 7 years, then consulting) have a pretty good idea of how KM implementation can be done, and it is really frustrating seeing people jumping in and repeating the mistakes from the past. The collateral damage is that partial KM implementations, which deliver minor results then fizzle out, devalue KM, and spread a feeling that “KM doesn’t work”

KM does work, when the KMers learn and apply the lessons from the past. The successes and the failures of past KM programs have generated a wealth of knowledge about the effective application and implementation of Knowledge Management. This is knowledge of huge value to you.

Use that Knowledge, ladies and gentlemen. Others have striven to generate that knowledge, so that you, if you can avoid the temptations listed above, can guarantee success.

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KM supports decision making, but which decisions?

There is a strong argument that the purpose of Knowledge Management is decision support. But which decisions should KM support?

Peter Senge tells us that Knowledge is the ability to make effective decisions, and the new ISO standard 30401:2018 tells us that knowledge is “human or organizational asset enabling effective decisions and action in context”.

By giving staff access to knowledge, we allow them to make better decisions, leading to fewer mistakes, less rework, and more efficient and effective organisations.

So if we want to improve the effectiveness of decision making in our organisations, then we look to KM to help us, and Km can be implemented by targeting a range of decision-related business issues. 

But which decisions? Any organisation makes a whole range of decisions with a whole range of impact – from small decisions every hour or every day within an impact in the $100 region, such as sales decisions to a customer, up to massive billion-dollar decisions every 10 years, such as major investment decisions, or decisions related to mergers and acquisitions.

When we start our KM journey, which are the decisions which it is most cost-effective for KM to support?

Firstly, there is no point in supporting the tiny daily decisions, which have an impact in the $100 dollar range. There are too many of these to be able to handle them easily, and the amount of KM investment is likely to be high. We can tackle these later, through the development of guidance and procedures.

Secondly, there is no point in trying to support the very rare decisions that happen once a decade or so (decisions about major acquisitions or divestment, or decisions about complete reversals of strategy).  You could do a lot of good KM work on these decisions, but it would be ten years before that knowledge was re-used, so you will not see the immediate impact that you will need in teh early days of KM.

The ideal place to focus is in the middle – the decisions that are worth millions, and are made on an annual basis. Here the value of KM will be high, and the re-use of the knowledge will be relatively frequent, and a year is about long enough for people to have forgotten the details of the last decision, and to start to reinvent the wheel unless KM helps them.

These medium value,. medium frequency decisions are a great place to start, as they allow you to deliver significant value through KM in a timescale which is short enough to drive KM forward.

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22 KM success factors and 22 KM failure factors

It’s always good to cross-check our KM programs against lists of failure and success factors. Here are two pretty comprehensive lists.

Crossroads: Success or FailureTwo of the most popular posts on this blog are

I wrote these posts based on our long experience at Knoco Ltd in Knowledge Management Implementation, the lessons we had learned from our own consultancy projects, and from those we have observed closely at other organisations.

More recently I came across this 2007 article entitled Addressing Failure Factors in Knowledge Management by Rosina O. Weber, which is an analysis of KM failure factors through a literature review, and which therefore provides a similar overview of success and failure factors. However the lists come at the issue from different angles – the Knoco list looks mostly at errors in KM implementation, Rosina’s list looks mostly at errors in the KM solution or approach.

Failure factors

Here are Rosina’s 15 failure factors.

1. Organizations that tried to develop a monolithic organizational memory for an entire organization have failed
2. KM approaches may fail when they do not integrate people, processes, and technology
3. KM approaches may fail when they are designed without input from all stakeholders
4. KM approaches may fail when contributors do not know the ideal specificity of knowledge.
5. KM approaches may fail due to lack of leadership support
6. KM approaches may fail when users are afraid of the consequences of their contributions.
7. KM approaches may fail when they store knowledge in unrestricted textual representations
8. KM approaches may fail when they rely on inadequate technology.
9. KM approaches may fail when they are outside the process context.
10. KM approaches may fail when they ignore impediments to knowledge transfer.
11. KM approaches may fail when they do not enforce managerial responsibilities
12. KM approaches may fail when they do not properly oversee the quality of stored knowledge.
13. KM approaches may fail when they do not promote collaboration.
14. KM approaches may fail when they are not able to show measurable benefits
15. KM approaches may fail because users do not perceive value in contributing.

Here are my 7 failure factors for comparison (see here for more explanation)

1. KM is not introduced as a change program
2. The KM team does not have the right people to deliver change
3. The KM team “preach only to the choir”.
4. Only parts of the KM solution are implemented (Rosina’s number 2, although even she neglects the importance of governance)
5. KM is never embedded into the business
6. There is no effective high-level sponsorship (Rosina’s number 5)
7. KM is not introduced with a business focus (An overlap with Rosina’s number 14)

Success factors

Rosina then turns these 15 around and states the converse, to derive 15 success factors.

1. KM approaches should be designed to support communities of practice.
2. KM approaches should integrate people, processes, and technology.
3. KM approaches should be designed in collaboration with different stakeholders.
4. KM approaches should identify an adequate level of specificity.
5. KM approaches should be strongly supported by the leaders of their target communities.
6. KM approaches should be adopted by communities that encourage innovation.
7. KM approaches should adopt representations with set of specific fields.
8. KM approaches should adopt technology only when it is suitable for a task. When technology is not adequate for a task and a suitable one is not available, then this task should be left to humans.
9. KM approaches should be integrated into the context of target organizational processes.
10. KM approaches should include methods to overcome impediments to knowledge transfer.
11. KM approaches should incorporate means of enforcing managerial responsibilities.
12. KM approaches should include verification methods.
13. KM approaches should include measures to promote collaboration.
14. KM approaches should demonstrate how contributors can benefit from KM.
15. KM approaches should allow for the measurement of their effectiveness

Here are my 7 success factors for comparison (see here for more explanation)

1. KM needs to be driven by the needs of the organisation.
2. KM needs to be introduced as a management framework
(Rosina’s number 2, although even she neglects the importance of governance).3. KM needs to address Pull as well as Push.
4. KM should be implemented as a change process.
5. KM Must be embedded in the business
(Rosina’s number 11, I think).6. KM needs not just high level support, but high level expectation.
7. KM needs to be delivered where the high value decisions are made.

How to use these lists

My advice to the KM professional is to look at Rosina’s lists and at my lists, and use these to drive a risk analysis of your Knowledge Management implementation. The more of the failure factors you recognise in your own approach, the higher the risk you face.

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5 first steps to KM success

Here are the first 5 steps in a successful KM journey

Buffalo, NY
Buffalo, NY by JasonParis, on Flickr

At Knoco, we have seen enough Knowledge Management implementation programs by now  to know that there a few key steps every organisation needs to take in the beginning. These steps are as follows;

  1. Assess the current state
  2. Build a business-led strategy
  3. Develop a draft KM framework
  4. Create an implementation plan
  5. Deliver some early pilots

Here is some more detail around each of these five steps (and if you need even more detail, read my book “Designing a Successful KM Strategy“).

Assess the current state. Before you can plan any future KM development, you need to know where you are right now. Knowledge Management is common sense, even it if is not common practice, and most organisations are already doing some elements of KM under different names. Those elements may not yet be effective, and they may not yet be joined up, but you need to know what’s working, what’s present but not working, and what’s missing. We see three types of assessment;

When you are conducting an assessment, make sure you talk to stakeholders at all levels. As my friend Lisandro Gaertner pointed out to me “listen to a lot of people’s stories about how they share knowledge and what are the outcomes they get. Sometimes people use cold (but apparently logical) assessment tools, interview mostly the wrong people (middle management and up) and get a fake glimpse about the KM culture. I don’t have to say to you that it is the recipe to failure”.

Build a business-led strategy. Time and again, experience has shown that the most successful knowledge management initiatives are those which are business-led, and which solve business problems. Your KM strategy needs to be closely aligned to the business strategy, to focus on the critical knowledge needed by the business, and to deliver practical ways of managing that knowledge better. Elements of the strategy include

  • Vision 
  • Scope 
  • Business drivers 
  • Value proposition 
  • Critical knowledge areas 
  • Change and stakeholder management 
  • Potential business-led Pilot areas
Sometimes the strategy can be driven by one overriding business need, such as the risk of Knowledge loss, and in this case a Knowledge Retention Strategy may be needed.

This blog contains plenty of guidance on getting your KM strategy correct.

Develop a draft Knowledge Management Framework. As Knowledge Management has evolved over the last two decades, the need for an integrated Knowledge Management framework has become apparent. With a Management Framework, KM can take on the aspects of other management systems, and be made part of normal business, rather than relying on a disparate set of tools.

A Knowledge Management Framework ensures that all necessary KM elements (Accountabilities, Processes, Technologies and Governance) are in place, and interconnected. This ensures that there are no gaps in the system, and that knowledge flows freely through the organisation.

Your Assessment (Step 1) should have been planned with a Framework in mind, and will have identified the gaps which need to be filled.  we are calling this a “draft framework” at the moment, as the framework will not be finalised until after piloting.

This blog contains plenty of guidance on building an effective Knowledge Management Framework.

Build an implementation plan. Implementing Knowledge Management is not easy. You really only have one attempt, and if this fails, you may find that the concept has become irrecoverably tarnished. An excellent Implementation Plan is needed, based on lessons from successful (and less successful) implementations in other companies, and tailored to your own context.

The plan will be based on

  • the results of assessment and benchmarking 
  • the Knowledge Management strategy 
  • the draft Knowledge Management framework
  • the potential pilot areas, and
  • a staged, change management approach.

This blog contains plenty of guidance on Knowledge management implementation.

Start some business-led proof of concept pilots. A key component of your knowledge management strategy involves running some pilot projects. A pilot project is a project where knowledge management can be applied within the business, to solve a specific and important business problem, to deliver measurable results (and therefore prove the value), and also to act as a proving ground for Knowledge Management within the business.

Choosing the right pilots can be a massive springboard for your eventual KM implementation. A spectacular success early in the journey can give you some real momentum.

This blog contains plenty of guidance on Knowledge management pilots.

There are plenty of ways to get Knowledge Management wrong, and a few principles you need to follow to get Knowledge Management right.

Follow the five steps listed here and, with advice and guidance from a good experienced consultancy, your road to Knowledge Management success is clear.

Contact Knoco if you need more help.

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Why hasn’t knowledge management caught on? Wrong question!

Very often we hear people talking about the failure of KM as a discipline, and asking  “Why hasn’t it caught on after all these years?” It’s an interesting question, but it’s the wrong question.

It’s an interesting question, but it’s the wrong question. People asking the question are often in government or the public sector, and there KM has not yet “caught on”. However there are other sectors where KM has caught on, and has delivered sustained value for a couple of decades.

The consulting sector, for example – early adopters of KM, where KM is embedded, institutionalised, and part of the unconscious fabric of working. Or the legal sector, who’s own document-focused brand of KM is well established. Or the oil and gas sector. Ot the construction sector. Aerospace. The military. etc etc.

Data from the publicly available Knoco global surveys of KM

The plot above shows the maturity stages of KM in various industries, with far more examples of KM fully embedded in legal firms, for example, than in education and training firms. The plot below also shows that the larger the organisation, the more mature KM is likely to be.

Data from the publicly available Knoco global surveys of KM

So the question is not “Why hasn’t KM caught on” but “Why hasn’t KM caught on in my organisational sector, and in organisations oy my size”.

I think there are several reasons why KM has not yet caught on in the public sector in particular, and many of these can be related to the presence or lack of the components of organisational learning culture.

  • KM catches on most easily where knowledge has the biggest and most immediate impact on performance. If you can see, and measure, the added value of knowledge (on cost, speed of delivery, bid win rate, whatever) then good KM, leading to an improvement of the delivery of knowledge to the decision makers, delivers immediate and visible value. In the public sector, performance is a very difficult concept to work with. What makes up “good performance” for a public sector organisation? How easy is that to measure, and how easy is it to tie back to knowledge?
  • The value of KM certainly is more visible in larger organisations. Big multinationals have the most to gain from KM, and learning from their big-money decisions in multiple countries can deliver big benefit. In smaller organisations the benefits are correspondingly smaller and less visible, even though the proportional benefit may be the same.
  • Where I have worked with public sector institutions, one of the things that struck me most forcefully was the way messages were managed. There seemed to be a lot of reworking documents, to make sure they said things in the correct way. Now there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it introduces barriers to empowerment, to transparency, and to other elements of the required organisational learning culture. 
  • There is a distinct lack of “no blame” in the public sector, this time due to external pressures. All over the world (or almost all over), there is a hungry press waiting to pounce on anything that looks like a mistake or a failure from a government body or a national health service. This makes “learning from failure” a very risky affair. Indeed, the default approach to learning from failure is the dreaded “public enquiry”, after which someone will be sacked, someone will retire in disgrace, and the true reasons for failure will remain unfixed. The “just culture” is very hard to apply in a situation like this.

So there are some real structural and cultural reasons why KM is not so easy in the public sector. In addition, where I have seen it, it tends to be focused on the tactical issues, and seldom on the strategic issues.

However, whether you sit in the public or private sector and are pondering “Why does KM seem to be dead? Why hasn’t it caught on?”, then you are asking the wrong question, because in other places KM has caught on and is alive and well.  You need to learn from where it works, and see what’s different about your own context. And make adjustments as needed.

The question should be “why hasn’t KM caught on here yet” and “how can we learn from others, where it has already caught on?”

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How long does it take to implement KM?

Knowledge Management can be started quickly, but takes a long time to fully embed. Here are two sources of data that show exactly how long.

Over the past few years we have helped many organisations to benchmark their “current status” of Knowledge Management. They ask for this for a number of reasons. Sometimes they want to see where they need to improve. Sometimes they need to see IF they need to improve. Sometimes they need to set a benchmark so they have something they can measure future improvement against.  The benchmark is a measure of the level of completeness and application of their knowledge management framework.

Recently we looked back on some of our benchmark data, and looked to see if we could find any trends. Well, we could.

The first trend appears when you look at how the overall benchmark score varies with the length of time KM has been addressed by the organisation. The graph above shows the overall KM score (from zero to 5) for about 25 organisations, plotted against how long they have been deliberately working with KM, in years. Bear in mind four things when you look at this plot.

  1. not all organisations want to score 5 out of 5, and 4 out of 5 is a pretty fine score.
  2. nobody scores more than 5, so the plot will “level off” at 5
  3. every company starts at a different level. Knowledge Management is something that mos companies do some of, without even trying. There is a big range of scores on organisations who are just starting KM implementation. If you already have a collaborative, open and supportive culture, you start at a higher point, and get good pretty quickly. If your culture is hierarchical, blaming and closed, it’s going to be a much longer journey.
  4. the people who call us in are often “stuck” in their KM efforts. That’s why they call us in. So “low scoring” companies will be over-represented here.

However also note on the plot the two red points joined by a red line, which represent the same organisation measured at an interval of 2 years, showing good progress. Similarly the two green points joined by a green line represent a different organisation, measured twice, at a 3.5 year interval, showing a similar rate of progress.

The black line is a simple linear trend line. It is there for guidance only – we really need some sort of exponential fit, but I could not get that to work in Excel

My conclusions from this plot are as follows;

  • Firstly, fully implementing Knowledge Management is a slow process. The earliest a company has reached level 4, from this dataset, is 4 years. The black line suggests an average of 14 years to get to level 4.
  • Secondly, you can speed up your implementation. The black trend line represents “natural drift” towards Knowledge Management, while the red and green lines bot represent a deliberate, focused and resourced KM implementation program. If you followed the red line trend, you could start at level 2 and get to level 4 in about 3 years.
Lets compare these figures with a different set of date, from our surveys in 2014 and 2017 (copies of the report available from the Knoco website), as described in this blog post from a year ago.
This plot shows that 
  • About 10% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 4 years
  • About 20% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 8 years
  • About 50% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 16 years
  • About 70% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 32 years

The blog article breaks these data down further, showing that KM implementation is quicker in smaller companies, and slower in larger, but the overall conclusions are the same from both graphs shown here.

KM a journey, it’s a slow journey, the fastest you will get there is about 4 years, different organisations start from different places, but faster progress can be made if you pay attention to implementing Knowledge Management as a project.

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According to one article, there are 3 main traps a KM implementation can fall into.

The article is in a study on Enabling Communities of Practice at EADS-Airbus.

One of the articles in this study, by Marleen Huysman and Dirk de Wit, discusses an analysis of KM implementations in several firms, and contains a section entitled “Identifying Traps and Ways to Avoid Them”, summarised by the table below.

Six Research Questions and Their Dominant Biases and Related Traps

Research Question Knowledge-Sharing Bias Knowledge-Sharing Traps
Why is knowledge sharing managed? Control bias Management trap
When is knowledge sharing managed? Opportunity-driven bias Management trap
Whose knowledge sharing is managed? Individual knowledge bias Local learning trap
Where is knowledge sharing managed? Operational-level bias Local learning trap
What knowledge sharing is managed? Codified knowledge bias ICT trap
How is knowledge sharing managed? Technology-driven bias ICT trap

The three traps they describe are these:

The ICT trap is the underlying assumption is that ICT can support and improve knowledge sharing within an organization. The authors say that –

Knowledge management is often seen as inherently connected to ICT. For example, the introduction of an intranet is seen as creating the facility for knowledge exchange, often in combination with a reward structure meant to encourage people to share their knowledge. Yet, when the technology itself is not fancy enough, or when the use is not adapted to the people working with the technology, people will be driven away despite rewards or punishments. This will curtail the knowledge management initiative. Unilever learned a lesson over the past years from falling into the ICT trap. The company started out by putting its faith in technology and the opportunities to map expert knowledge in databases. Soon it discovered that creating a network of experts, and facilitating physical encounters, opens a large potential for knowledge sharing. The ICT is introduced after the network has become established

The management trap is that the concept is perceived from a managerial perspective only . The authors say that –

Clearly, for managers there are several advantages to managing knowledge within the organization….  Management books and articles demonstrate a growing awareness that the intellectual capital of the corporation is usually worth much more than its tangible book value.. (However) because managers cannot force people to share their knowledge, knowledge management calls for support of knowledge workers. Knowledge management heavily depends on the willingness of knowledge workers to take part in it. The management trap also relates to the bias to introduce knowledge management based on opportunity-driven arguments only rather than on problem-driven arguments. We saw that knowledge management will be more successful when it addresses existing situations and problems than when it is seen as an opportunity for organizational change.

The local learning trap is about the risk of concentrating attention on local knowledge sharing without addressing the issue of how the organization as a whole can benefit from it.  The authors say that –

There is a potential pitfall when (KM) is interpreted as the management of individual learning instead of collective learning. During our research, we saw many initiatives approaching knowledge management as supporting knowledge sharing by individuals more than by collectives within organizations. That the focus tends to be more on individual learning rather than on collective learning is understandable, as managing individual learning is less complicated than managing collective learning. The role of managers will be pushed to the periphery, where their main contribution lies in the acknowledgement and facilitation of emergent grass-roots community behaviour. The most crucial consequence of the lack of management involvement is that shared knowledge will most likely remain local knowledge and will not be collectively accepted.

I think all of us can recognise these traps, and the key is to steer a path between them so that your KM  approach is not dominated by ICT, by Management, or by local individual learning.

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"Today we get married to Knowledge Management"

This post from the archives describes a strange statement from a client, and some of the thoughts it raised for me at the time.

Cake decorations @ Notts County Ground, Nottingham

“Today we get married to Knowledge Management”

That was the, shall we say, “unusual” statement made by the convener of a KM seminar that I was speaking at last week. (I was either one of the ministers at the ceremony, or one of the bridesmaids – I am not sure. Probably the former. Also he said it in Swedish.)

By “getting married” he meant that the company in question was now formally intending to make Knowledge Management “part of the household”, or an embedded component of how they do business.

The marriage idea struck me as an excellent analogy, largely by the way that it represented a definite and positive ceremony of commitment. Then I started taking the analogy further, and wondered whether you could take the phases of a love affair and map them onto the Knowledge management journey. Maybe it would go something like this.

You are not sure whether Knowledge Management would suit your company  but you are definitely interested. You get the idea that there might be something there – that you might find something of value if you explored a little further. You are reading about the topic, you are following some of the blogs, attending the conferences, maybe holding some internal conferences or seminars. Maybe you set up your first KM task force, and run a KM assessment.

First Date
You have explored the topic sufficiently to realise that this is time for a serious trial, and for an investment of some time and money to find out if it is worth proceeding further. You set up your first Knowledge Management pilot program, to see if it works in your company, to see how it works in your company, and to see if it adds value, and if so, how much. To see if it “feels right”. If the first date (pilot) works out, then it will be followed by the second, and the third, and so on.

Meeting the parents and getting their blessing
In older more sexist days, this would be “asking her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage”. Nowadays it is less of a hurdle, but there is a point where you need to declare your relationship with others in your circle of family and friends, and discuss the next stage. In Knowledge Management terms, this is when you involve senior management. You discuss the pilots, you discuss the value, and you negotiate whether, and how, and when, you can make the relationship with Knowledge Management official. Senior management may need more evidence, or more pilots, but if you have a good enough business case and  enough value stories from the pilots, they will be on your side.

Getting Engaged
This is the commitment to KM (and to be honest, last weeks ceremony was more the engagement party than the marriage ceremony. It was the point at which all the interested parties came together to get to know the new bride/groom). You start the transition, begin the roll-out, ramp up the change management, and get everything ready (the roles, the technologies, the processes, the governance) for the big day.

Getting Married.
From this step on, the company and knowledge management are joined at the hip. There is a KM Policy in place (the equivalent of the marriage contract) and KM is now expected to be an integral part of the day-to-day activity of the organisation.

That’s as far as I want to take the analogy at the moment, and we can leave the happy couple setting off on the honeymoon together.

It would be worth considering where you and your company are on this journey.

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How well distributed is your KM budget?

There are 4 legs on the Knowledge Management table. Are you investing evenly in each of them?

Knowledge Management  requires equal attention to the four key enablers of People, Process, Technology and Governance.

The test of whether you truly are paying equal attention is whether your KM program investments equally in these four crucial elements of the KM Framework.

Most of the time, we find that the companies we speak with spend far more on technology than on the other elements, and most of the time we find that their Knowledge Management program suffers as a result. Technology alone will not deliver knowledge management, and an overspend on technology is usually a bad strategic move.

We don’t have a lot of statistics on the proportional spend from KM campaigns, but the attached diagram shows the proportions from one program we were involved with, about 12 years ago. In this program we can see

  • 34% of the spend was on Technology (ideally, should have been 25%)
  • 8% of the spend was on Processes (ideally, should have been 25%)
  • 58% was on People and Governance (ideally should have been 50%)
This is a more equal spend than we see in many organisations, but there still seems to be an under-investment in process (process definition, process trial and testing, ad training in KM processes.
We are happy to say that this KM program is still very much alive and well and delivering value 12 years later. A balanced spend seems to have contributed to their success.

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