10 signs your KM strategy is in trouble

In a post from 2009 (no longer available) Lucas McDonnell provided 6 signs that your Knowledge Management strategy could be in trouble. I have added 4 more.

Image from wikimedia commons

Lucas’ 6 signs are as follows, with my comments in brackets, and then I add a few more trouble signs of my own.

1. People outside your group don’t understand what you’re doing (a failure in communication);

2. You keep changing vendors/technologies/products (often a symptom that technology alone is not working, which also means that changing technology won’t help);

3. You keep layering vendors/technologies/products on top of each other (this seems like a “sweetshop” approach to KM, rather than a strategic view of what technology is needed, as modelled by Schlumberger);

4. You find it difficult to explain what you’re trying to accomplish (because you do not have a business-led strategy);

5. You’re prescribing organizational change (by which Lucas means that change is prescribed, rather than delivered through solving a series of business problems);

6. You’re making big promises (I struggle with this one a bit – but Lucas means “don’t overpromise”).

I think we can add a few more signs to this

7. All you are focusing on is vendors/technologies/products, rather than on a balanced framework of roles, processes, technologies and governance;

8. You are  selling KM on its own merits, not on value to the business; 

9. You still haven’t an case studies of KM adding value; 

10. Nobody outside your group has started doing KM yet.

Some of these warning signs (2, 3 and 7) show that you are operating a model where vendors, technologies and products take centre stage. Others that you are not communicating, and in particular not communicating value) (1,4, 8). Than there is a third group, which suggests you are going for a top-down prescribed approach, rather than an agile approach (5, 8, 10).

The solution to this is simple.

  1. Introduce KM as a holistic framework
  2. Communicate, and sell KM on the value it will bring to the business and the individual
  3. Use an agile approach, deploying proofs of concept and pilots.

Watch out for these warning signs, and avoid the crash

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

A twin-strategy approach to implementing KM

Implementing Knowledge Management requires two parallel strategies, like the two prongs of a fork.

There was a very interesting article by Ron Bascue in the 2011 Fall edition of the US Army KM newsletter (now no longer available online), about a twin-strategy approach to delivering a Knowledge Management strategy.

Ron makes the point that Knowledge Management needs to be a strategic long term program of change, based on thorough assessment and analysis,  while at the same time people need to be able to see short term progress, see KM in action, and understand the value it brings. As Ron says;

“Getting to a fully developed KM strategy takes significant time. And while the assessment and strategy development process is going on, the parent organization is moving forward while the clock is ticking on the KM organisation to show its value.”

So Ron recommends a two-pronged strategy to address this issue.

“Our approach incorporates two lines of effort; one a strategic development effort and the other focused on providing immediate tangible results – a series of quick wins”.

Ron recommends Kaizen events as a way to deliver the quick wins, each of which should solve a business problem or improve an internal process. However a number of Knowledge Management processes could be used, depending on the nature of the problem to be solved;

Ron’s two-pronged approach is also what Knoco recommends.

We refer to the Quick Wins as “Proof of concept” events; small interventions with a Knowledge Management tool or process during the Strategy Creation phase, just so that people can see KM in action, and realise that “Yes, it can work here. No, it’s not all smoke and mirrors. Now I understand”.

However even after the strategy is complete, the KM team needs to continue to solve business problems. However rather than small proof of concept exercises, you move on to larger scale Pilot Projects as part of the Implementation program.

By solving business problems, the KM team continue to show the value, and engage people in the process without requiring them to buy in at strategic level.

Follow Ron’s advice (and ours) – make pilots and “proofs of concept” part of your twin-strategy Knowledge Management implementation.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

7 lessons for KM change; case study from the early days of KM at the World Bank

In a great blog postSeth Kahan shares 7 lessons on KM change programs 

In the post from 2009, Seth talks about leading KM change at World Bank, and contrasts his first KM initiative (which failed) with his second (which succeeded).

The first initiative was “was comprised of a few select, world-class thought leaders who drew on a dedicated budget to design and implement a powerful new tool they hoped would revolutionize the way business was done. We met in closed meetings, witnessed remarkable demonstrations, and marveled at the power of the Internet to spread knowledge.”

In other words, KM was being pushed by a closed group, who were “preaching only to the choir“. Unsurprisingly, nothing came of it.

The second initiative, with no budget and no resources, “told everybody what we were up to. In fact, we spent a good deal of time in the beginning figuring out how to tell as many people as we could, as fast as possible. We even met regularly with our detractors, as their input was sometimes needed the most”.

The second initiative was being run as a change program, with communication extending beyond the closed group of supporters, and engaging with everyone.  And within 2 years, it had changed the organisation.

Seth’s seven lessons for Change

Seth identifies seven lessons for KM change based on his experience

1. Communicate so people get it and spread it. As he says though, this is not one-way communication, but a conversation that spreads

2. Identify and energize your most valuable players.
These are your supporters, your early adopters, who can be used to drive KM forward.

3. Understand the territory of change.
Seth had a method for mapping stakeholder support, and a similar stakeholder mapping will be valuable for you (see here for a possible method).

4. Accelerate evolution through communities.
This one, I think, may be specific to the World Bank. Communities of Practice worked well there, because of the large dispersed nature of the work. Smaller co-located organisations may find other ways to introduce and implement Knowledge Management; perhaps through After Action reviews, or focus groups. You need to work within your own Knowledge Management Strategy and Knowledge Management Framework.

5. Blow through bottlenecks and logjams.
Seth suggests a “SWAT Team” mentality.  But please don’t bulldoze people!

6. Create dramatic surges in progress. Seth suggests special events to drive progress. Another way is to create energy around early successes; those Proof of Concept  exercises where Knowledge Management first adds real value to the business.

7. Keep your focus when change comes fast.
When KM is successful, it can accelerate alarmingly. Stay cool – it’s all good!

Contact us for more details on leading change management as part of Knowledge Management implementation

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Implementing KM through 6 decisions

Implementing Knowledge Management into an organisation will not happen accidentally. It happens by a deliberate decision. Or rather, it happens by a series of decisions.

Very few CEOs will wake up one morning and announce that the organisation will now be adopting Knowledge Management. Instead, like any other change, implementation is a series of investigations and decisions, and each decision rests on a basis of necessary evidence.

The chain of decisions is as follows.

1. The decision to investigate whether Knowledge Management would be something worth pursuing for your organisation. This is a decision to commission a task force, or some studies to gain some idea of whether KM is something the company needs to invest in. The task force will need to do some investigation, and see whether a business case can be made for KM.

2. The decision (based on evidence from the task force) that the organization needs improved Knowledge Management, and to proceed to find out how much investment is required. The task force will need to assess the current state of KM in the organisation. If the assessment shows that improvement in KM is needed, then further work is needed to scope out the scale of the implementation, to set the strategy, and to do a first-pass costing of what the implementation exercise might cost.

3. The decision (based on evidence from the assessment) to set up a KM implementation program, with a full-time team and budget. Once the organisation understands the scope of the KM implementation exercise, they fund a team and get going. At this stage they will have a KM strategy and implementation plan, and can conduct some proof of concept exercises as a trial of KM in the organisation.

4. The decision (based on the strategy) to pilot KM in high profile areas. If the small scale trials are successful, and KM has not fallen flat on it’s face or run into political road blocks, then the company may decide to scale up, and run some full scale pilots to fully road-test an integrated KM framework. By this time, KM is becoming quite high profile, and quite high cost.

5. The decision (based on evidence from the pilot) to roll out KM as a required discipline to the whole organisation. The pilots were successful, the value of KM to the business and to the employees is proven, and the integrated KM framework is robust. Now is the decision – not to be taken lightly! – whether to roll out a KM framework to the whole organisation, as a part of the company management framework. This is the point of no return.

6. Once KM is embedded, the decision to stand down the implementation team and hand over to management within the business. Once roll-out is over, the company has to decide when to stand down the implementation team, and hand responsibility for KM over to a steady state organisation

Treating KM as a series of incremental decisions has two main benefits.

  • Firstly, it allows incremental investment rather than ‘trust me, it will work out OK’ management. This is sensible prudent decision-making. The investment in each stage will be a little larger than the previous stage – a task force costs less than a team, which costs less than a series of pilots, which costs less than a roll-out campaign. Each incremental increase in cost is built on a decision, which depends on the results of the previous stage, and on how well KM has proven itself. And at any point up until decision 5, the company can change its mind, because it is not fully committed. Beyond step 5 the company is committed to roll-out.
  • And that’s the second advantage. If each decision is made by the right people, based on the right information and the right criteria, then you shouldn’t have to revisit the decisions later. Each decision should be documented, and should stand on its own merits; without assuming a benefit that hasn’t been delivered yet. You shouldn’t have to keep re-justifying, and remaking decisions.

So who are the right people to make the decisions? They need to be senior, and they need to have authority to spend the money. Decision number 5 – the decision to roll out KM – needs to be made at the highest level. You need the support of the CEO to make a company-wide change like this.

However by the time it comes to decision 5, you will have a series of successful trials and pilots that demonstrate that KM works in your organisation, and delivers real value.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

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”

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

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.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

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.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

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.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

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.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

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?”

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.