What is the role of the knowledge engineer?

The Knowledge Engineer is a key role in any KM system where knowledge needs to be computer-readable

The Knowledge Engineer is the key role in any Knowledge Management program that focuses on analysing complex decision making applied by experts, and turning this into rules; particularly rules that can be read by computers.

The Knowledge Engineer role was first introduced in the era of Expert Systems, when the vision was to take expertise out of the human domain and incorporate it into machine logic. It has now returned, with the interest in AI.

Even without developing an expert system, the Knowledge Engineer role can be an important one in creating human-readable Knowledge Assets, Manuals and Knowledge Bases from the knowledge of experts.

This is not an easy role, and needs a set of unique skills. It requires skills in:

  • Elicitation of knowledge from experts;
  • Creating systems of rules which replicate expert decision-making;
  • Preparing these rules so they can be used as algorithms.

The focus of the Knowledge Engineer was historically on the creation of the knowledge system, but in reality the major challenge for the knowledge engineer is in eliciting the knowledge in the first place, and turning into rules. It is in the elicitation and analysis that the skill lies, rather than in creating the expert system.

The task of the Knowledge Engineer 

Assess the problem. The step that initiates the process of knowledge engineering is the assessment of the problem for which the knowledge needs to be acquired and packaged.

Elicit the knowledge. This is the most difficult step, and where the skills of the knowledge engineer are most important. There is a range of techniques for Knowledge Elicitation, from the structured and unstructured interview, through analysed problem solving, to card sorting and the creation of concept maps.

Structure the knowledge. Once the knowledge has been elicited it needs to be structured into an expert system, a database, a knowledge base or a knowledge asset. The knowledge engineer creates the structure and format for the knowledge, and populates it with the knowledge which has been elicited.

Validate the knowledge
The knowledge engineer needs to verify the final system, database or asset, by asking the experts to review it, and by validating the knowledge against known outcomes. The objective is to produce knowledge of high integrity.

Encode the knowledge
The knowledge engineer then works with the software engineer(s) to ensure the validated knowledge of the expert is faithfully encoded into the AI or Expert System software.

What it’s like being a knowledge engineer.

In an article no longer on the Internet, Maurice King – an editor creating medical manuals – describes the perceptions of the KM role as a somewhere between “all you do is listen and write things down” and “you become an expert in everything”.  Here is how he described some of the challenges of the Knowledge Engineer role;

Like other knowledge engineers, I have had great problems in getting knowledge out of experts. Real ones are hard to find, and when you have found them, they may only be master of a small field, and be so busy that they can spare you little time….

An expert often forgets what he does, and may not know what he does. Even when an expert can describe what he does, he can be wrong. He is more likely to be able to remember actions given conditions, than conditions given actions… expert surgeons know when to operate, but have difficulty listing the indications for doing so. They need cues which a knowledge engineer has to supply. 

An expert is often better at criticizing someone else’s ideas than explaining his own, and may only express his knowledge in response to something he disagrees with. Knowledge engineers have to learn the expert’s language: in doing so I became a particular kind of ”theoretical’ surgeon, anaesthetist, and obstetrician. 

I worked mostly by asking experts to comment on innumerable drafts assembled from tiny fragments of knowledge. As one expert said when I began, ”You will have to build it up comma by comma”. Looking back, it is remarkable that the task was accomplished at all. Only by combing the earth was it possible to find just enough appropriate experts. 

Paradoxically, any merit in these manuals lies with the experts, and any faults with the knowledge engineer … it is his job to spot the fault and patch it with another expert’s knowledge. The sixth sense that he needs to develop is to know what knowledge is useful, and when it is likely to be faulty.

The knowledge engineer in the legal context

This article describes the role of a Legal knowledge engineer, as follows:

As the interface between lawyers and developers, we have to have a firm grounding in legal principles, and a concept of practice helps – we are, after all, designing tools for use in practice, so we need to understand our user’s needs. We tend to work across practice areas, collaborating closely with lawyers to understand their issues to make sure we are actually solving a problem.  

But working with the lawyers in only part of the job. Once we’ve understood the legal principles at play, we have to translate that into a format that the developers can work with. LKEs are not necessarily coders, but we do need to understand the technical aspect – to understand the needs, capacities and language of developers, which is as specialised a version of the English language as that needed to talk to the lawyers. 

As the legal industry begins to engage proactively with technology, the need for translators to bridge the gap between the two industries is likely to remain strong. As we get more ambitious with the technology that we can bring to bear on these problems, the role of the LKE to facilitate collaboration between the legal and the technical experts, not just linguistically but also in terms of working practices and ways of thinking, will become more and more necessary.

The Knowledge Engineer is therefore a key intermediary role in the transfer of knowledge from human to machine.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The 3 main types of KM roles

There are three main types of KM roles in an organition; the business roles with a KM focus, the KM roles with a business focus, and the central roles 

The business roles are focused on the business outcome which KM supports, while the KM roles focus on the effective operation of the KM processes within the business. The central roles design, implement, monitor and continuously improve the KM framework itself.

Business roles with a KM focus 

There is a role we could call the Business Knowledge manager or Business Knowledge Champion for an area of the business such as a department, a division or a project.  This person owns and implements the KM plan or strategy for that area of the business.   They

  • ensure the KM expectations are met, 
  • that the processes happen, 
  • and that KM works for the benefit of the business. 

They don’t conduct KM processes themselves, but they ensure KM processes are conducted. In my experience, this is a role owned by a business person, and they may also own risk management, quality management or another parallel discipline.

In the Communities of Practice there is a CoP leader role, who

  • provides overall leadership and direction to the CoP, 
  • works together with the community sponsor to develop community objectives,
  • works with the core community team to develop plans to deliver the objectives,
  • coordinates & follows up the activities of the community, 
  • ensures that the community successfully delivers its goals, and 
  • sets the leadership style of the community

In terms of the ownership and the maintenance of the organisational knowledge, the business role is the Knowledge Owner or Subject Matter expert. This role

  • “owns and manages” an area of critical knowledge for the company
  • monitors the state of knowledge 
  • keeps the knowledge base up to date 
  • validates new knowledge 
  • broadcasts new knowledge 
  •  plays a strong role in the community or network

KM roles with a business focus. 

The business roles mentioned above will have specialist KM support. 

There is a role which supports the business KM champion, which we could call the business knowledge facilitator.

This role is sometimes known as a learning engineer, or a learning historian, and is a role for a practitioner with KM skills.

The CoP leader is often supported by a community facilitator, who

  • ensures effective transfer of knowledge among the community members through facilitation of online discussion and face to face meetings 
  • ensures new knowledge is captured and shared 
  • maintains energy and commitment in the community 
  • ensures the knowledge assets are built and maintained, and
  • maintains the community site

The CoP leader is usually a business role, while the CoP facilitator (who has a much greater emphasis on the mechanics of knowledge transfer within the CoP) could be considered a KM role.

The role of the knowledge base facilitator, or cyberarian, is to

  • determine the customer base of the online library or knowledge base, 
  • carry out market research into customer needs,
  • work with the SMEs to develop and maintain a structure for the online library 
  • work with the SMEs to develop processes for refreshing and renewing content and for removing old material 
  • monitor these processes, prompting for compliance as required 
  • provide a help-desk service to users of the online library, and 
  • provide coaching in the use of online tools and the search engine

The role of the Lessons Learned manager (who might be based in the project management office, if you have one) is to

  • support the lesson learned process 
  • analyse, action and communicate lessons
  • support LL Information Sharing via databases, websites, reports, newsletters, etc. 
  • look for recurring lessons and common threads
  • support the LL Community
  • set up or improve the organization’s LL capability.

So as the diagram above shows, at each level we can see a business role with KM as a focus, supported by a facilitative KM role with a business focus.  The KM facilitation roles bring the KM skills and knowledge of KM theory and process, while the business KM roles bring the business objectives and the business context.

Then we have the central roles

This blog contains many posts about the KM team and its role. In a fully mature KM organisation the role of the central KM team is to monitor and support the application of the KM framework, rather than to do KM work. The team will have a leader (a CKO) who is accountable for the KM Framework and its application in support of business strategy. Then there may be trainers and coaches who work with the KM roles mentioned above, to give them the skills and support they need to do their jobs.

Those are the three types of role. Not every organisation will have every role mentioned here (you can see the usage of the more common roles here), but every organisation will have roles that fall within these three types.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

CKO skills, revisited

In 2015 I published a post showing that a significant proportion of CKOs know very little about Knowledge Management, at least according to their Linked-in profiles. This year I revisited these stats.

It seems things have improved a little, but there are still a lot of CKOs out there with few or no KM skills.
I looked at the profiles of 50 CKOs in Linked in – people with “Chief Knowledge Officer” in their current job title – and I counted how far down the list of skills you had to go before you found “Knowledge Management”.  The results are shown in the pie chart here. (Note however that this job title seems disproportionately popular at the moment in the military and legal fields, so these fields are over-represented in the sample).
Note how 34% of CKOs have KM as their top skill – as you might expect.
But note also how 14% of CKOs have KM way down their list of skills – lower than 10th place – and how 26% of the CKO profiles I reviewed DO NOT HAVE KM ON THE LIST OF SKILLS AT ALL!
I said in my 2015 post that there seems to be two types of CKOs out there, with a fairly even split between the two.
  • One type, who are reasonably well versed in Knowledge Management, and see this as the CKO’s domain. KM is top of their list of skills, or high in the list (and half of the the profiles I reviewed had KM in the top 3 skills).
  • Another type, for whom the CKO role is held by a person with few or no KM skills at all.

It’s the second type that puzzles me. Perhaps the job was titled “CKO” because it sounded good and important rather than because it had anything to do with the management of knowledge, or perhaps they appointed someone with information skills in a knowledge role, or perhaps the CKO plays purely an oversight and coordination role, and leaves the KM aspects to Knowledge Managers (managing the initiative rather than the knowledge)?

Whatever the reason, the results are surprising. 40% of CKOs have few if any KM skills.

Would you see this in any other discipline? Imagine

  • a CFO with no financial skills
  • a Chief Lawyer with no legal skills
  • a Chief Engineer with no engineering skills
So why do 40% of CKOs have few if any KM skills?

What is heartening though is that things seem to be getting better. Bearing in mind the caveats that

  • these are two different samples, and that 
  • 50 many not be a representative number, and that 
  • the profiles I can see on LinkedIn are related to my own personal network;
the plot below seems to show that the situation is improving. 

In the 2015 sample, only 24% had KM at the top of the skills list – now it is 34%.
In the 2015 sample, 32% had no KM skills on their skills list – now it is 26%.

Perhaps this is evidence that KM is becoming more respected and more established as a discipline, and that CKO is less likely to be used as a random job title.

The trend is heartening, but we still have a long way to go.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The Knowledge Manager as Gardener – an organic metaphor

People often think of Knowledge as being Organic, or being an Ecosystem. But what does this imply for Knowledge Management and for the Knowledge Manager? 

The ecosystem or the garden is a pretty good metaphor for the world of Knowledge in an organisation. Knowledge is something that grows and develops; that can be replicated and seeded. It is not something immutable like a car or a factory or a pound coin that can be physically managed. Instead it needs to be nurtured and tended.

The Knowledge Manager, in this metaphor, is the gardener.  And anyone with a garden will know that if you want to produce flowers or vegetables, the life of a gardener is hard work, and gardens require a lot of management.

Let’s assume you are tending the Knowledge Garden for your organisation. Let’s assume that you are doing this to create value for the key stakeholders – the knowledge workers, the management, and your external customers.  If you want to create value from a garden, you don’t just “create the conditions so anything can grow”, because all you get is nettles, brambles and other weeds.

Instead you have several tasks.

  • Tilling and fertilising the ground. For gardening and for Knowledge Management, you need to get the conditions right for growth. This is the culture change element of your role – the communication strategy, the hearts and minds campaign. Also you need to provide the supporting infrastructure. Just as a gardener needs to put in place the canes, cloches and trellises to support the new seedlings, so you need to ensure there is sufficient technology to support emergent KM activities (recognising, of course, that technology alone will not create KM, any more than trellises alone will not create a garden).
  • Planting the seeds. These are the proof of concept events, the KM pilot projects, the early Knowledge Assets and the trial Communities of Practice which you might set up in the places of greatest demand and greatest knowledge value. 
  • Watering and fertilising the growing seeds. As a Knowledge Manager, the early seeds in your KM garden will need your oversight and your support. You will need to work with the CoP leaders, the knowledge owners and the project staff to ensure the early KM work does not wither and die through lack of care.
  • Propagating the growth. Some of the plants in your KM garden will thrive. Learn from these, find out the secrets of their success, and seek to reproduce these elsewhere. Just as a gardener will  take cuttings, runners and seeds from their prize-winning plants, you too can propagate success from the best performers. 
  • Removing the weeds and pests.  If there are any things that hamper the growth in your Knowledge Management garden – be these incentives that backfire, loud sceptics, or misbehaviour in Community of Practice discussions – then you need to address them, and see if you can remove them before they start to spread. Internal competition incentives, for example, need removal before they stunt the growth of KM or kill your tender plants. 

This is all very hard work, but the rewards for successful Knowledge Management are the same as those for a successful gardener – a thriving ecosystem and a mountain of produce.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What KM can learn from business start-ups 3 – appoint the right team

Last week I started a set of blog posts likening KM implementation to a business start-up. Here is number 3 in the series. 

Picture from Needpix, author geralt (pixabay.com)

This blog series uses this analogy of a start-up to inform KM implementation. It reviews 5 common reasons for start-up failure and suggests ways in which KM programs can avoid these failure modes. These common reasons are taken from  a great article by David Skok , and are as follows:

  1. Little or no market for the product; 
  2. The business model fails; 
  3. Poor start-up management team; 
  4. Running out of cash; 
  5. Product problems.

Poor start-up management team

According to Skok’s article,

“An incredibly common problem that causes startups to fail is a weak management team. A good management team will be smart enough to avoid Reasons 2, 4, and 5. Weak management teams make mistakes in multiple areas: They are often weak on strategy, building a product that no-one wants to buy as they failed to do enough work to validate the ideas before and during development. They are usually poor at execution, which leads to issues with the product not getting built correctly or on time, and the go-to market execution will be poorly implemented. They will build weak teams below them. There is the well proven saying: A players hire A players, and B players only get to hire C players (because B players don’t want to work for other B players)”

The choice of the KM Implementation leader, and the KM team, is crucial. We have also seen that a poor KM team is a common cause of KM implementation failure. The team leader should be:

  • A Change Agent, with  a history of delivering organizational change
  • Familiar with the risks involved in change programs (and business start-ups)
  • A respected senior member of the organization
  • Charismatic, engaging and influential
  • A confident and effective communicator, with excellent leadership skills 
  • Not afraid to take risks 
  • Diplomatic
  • Familiar with the technology and the human/cultural issues involved in KM
  • Very familiar with the organizational structure, vision and strategy
  • Well networked within the company
If we look at the work of the KM team during KM implementation, we can see the following stages:

  • An analysis or “market research” phase, some of the activities of which are described in the first post in this sequence. During this stage the KM team will create the KM strategy, survey the internal “market”, determine the stakeholders and their value propositions, create the business case for KM, and plan the next stages of the implementation program. The team in this phase needs to be strong in strategic thinking and understanding stakeholder needs. 
  • A piloting phase, during which a simplified prototype KM Framework is progressively tested with the business, improved and elaborated, as we will discuss later this week. The team in this phase needs to be strong in the mechanics of KM (e.g. the facilitation of KM processes, KM technology and Information Management), as well as working with business customers and leaders, and communication and marketing. 
  • A roll-out phase, during which the final KM Framework is deployed across the organisation through engagement, training and coaching. The team in this phase needs to be strong in influencing, selling and marketing. 
  • A operation phase, during which the use of the KM Framework is supported monitored and measured across the organisation. The team needs to be strong in the mechanics of KM, and in analysis of the value delivered and the opportunities for further improvement of the Framework.

A strong leader such as described above can build a strong and balanced team, which needs the following skills mix:

  • Facilitation skills. 
  • Coaching and training skills. 
  • Marketing/influencing/selling skills 
  • Writing skills. 
  • Technology skills. 
  • Information management skills

There seems a tendency, which we have seen many times, to appoint teams made up entirely of information managers and librarians. The thought process seems to be

  • “Knowledge is a little bit like Information” (wrong assumption number 1 – knowledge is not at all like information, although there is a small area of overlap)
  • “If the KM team is managing knowledge, then they need information management skills” (wrong assumption number s 2 and 3 – the team is not managing knowledge, they are influencing the organisation to management knowledge, and  the primary skills they need are influencing skills, not IM skills, although you need some IM skills to cover the area of overlap).

Think like a start-up. Your KM Implementation leader should be a Jobs rather than a Wozniak, and the team should be selected as if they were trying to introduce a new product into a market (which is actually what they are doing).

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

How to recruit the experts in support of KM

The Experts can sometimes be resistant to KM, seeing it as a threat or a burden, with little personal reward. How can we address this?

Image from wikimedia commons
Many clients we speak to are having real problems recruiting the expert knowledge holders to the concept of Knowledge Management. Even in those companies where knowledge holders are few, and knowledge seekers are many, the experienced subject matter experts are often reluctant to become involved with KM.

The reason is, that because knowledge is scarce, they are busy “doing the job”, and have no time to teach others or to share their knowledge. The fewer experienced practitioners the company has, the busier they are in actually performing the work.

Many experienced staff enjoy their expertise, and they see KM as a distraction or an added burden. They often feel that KM “is not my job”.

“I am an experienced boiler-maker/salesman/brewer/application designer” they say; “my skills are in huge demand. Why should I take time out to share my knowledge? That’s not my job”

Make KM “the job of the expert”

The answer to this, of course, is to make Knowledge Management (or at least a component of knowledge management) the expert’s job, and to give them time and space to do this job..

You can’t expect busy people, in demand from all over the organisation, to add to their burdens with work that isn’t in their job description. But if their knowledge is vital to company performance, then acting as a steward of the knowledge of the organisation needs to be in their job description. It needs to be recognised as part of their job, and they need to be given the space, the resources, the assistance, and (if necessary) the training to allow them to share their knowledge with the next generation – the apprentice generation.

The old career progression from past centuries was Apprentice – Journeyman – Master.

Knowledge Companies need to rediscover this progression, so that the Masters (of both sexes) – the Subject Matter Experts – can see their role as Teaching as well as Doing, and as passing on their skills to those who need them, through the tools of KM (wikis, community forums, peer assists etc) as well as through the traditional tools of apprenticeship (coaching, mentoring, training).

The pinnacle of an expert’s career is to be a Master (or as Rolls Royce calls them, a Fellow). Mastery, or Fellowship, is an honour, and with that honour comes responsibility; responsibility for knowledge. This includes being the Practice Owner for their domain of practice and responsible for the documented knowledge, playing a coaching role in the relevant Community of Practice, partly responsible for the community of apprentices.

We need to rediscover this Mastership role, so we can fully reinstate the experts in their rightful place.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Analysis of a strategic KM role description

This post is an analysis of a KM role description, taken from a recent job vacancy, identifying the core elements of a strategic KM leadership role.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

The job vacancy appeared last week on LinkedIn, and is for a Knowledge Management Manager at Shell, in the Hague.

The full vacancy note appears at the end of this blog post, and I would like this as an example of a high level KM leadership role, driving KM in full  support of business priorities. I point out a number of elements in this role description which combine to make this an excellent example of a strategic role KM. I have marked these elements *1* etc, and discuss them below.

Key elements (my analysis)

  1. The first point is that this role starts from a clear Vision for KM; to become a learning organisation where ideas insights, lessons and best practices are shared and applied for business benefit (“leveraged”). This is good – clarity of vision leads to clarity of role. 
  2. This role builds on a solid foundation – Shell have been a leader in the KM field for decades; winners of the global MAKE awards from 2009 through 2016, and have all of the basics of KM in place. This role is not about introduction or implementation of KM, it is about application.
  3. For Shell, the focus of KM is on delivering value, measured in monetary savings through efficiency improvements. The Vision mentioned above translates into profit.  There is absolute clarity on this. 
  4. This role is part of a strategic plan, with defined strategic priorities. The strategic priorities are to strengthen and extend what already exists (with a main focus on communities of practice), to bring in new areas of technology where these may extend KM capability, and to strengthen existing internal linkages.
  5. Number one accountability is value delivery. The job holder will be measured against the value delivered, with a $1 billion target. This is not a support role where the role-holder can work in the shadows; this role is about serious enabling of the business through KM, with a big-money target at stake in the very short term.
  6. But there is a longer term aspect to the role – to shape KM for the future
  7. And to continue to evolve Shell’s KM Framework.
  8. The last three requirements really speak to the nature of this role in using KM to deliver value to the business. First the holder must be able to translate business needs into KM solutions. They need to be versed in Applied KM.
  9. Secondly they need change management experience. This is one of the main competencies of a KM leader
  10. Thirdly they need excellent diplomacy, negotiation, communication and stakeholder management skills. This person will not deliver $1 billion in value on their own – they will do it in partnership with the business. 

Role description follows; my notes above are indicated by the asterisk-bracketed numbers.

Knowledge Management Manager

The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition – Peter Senge. *1 * We want to make Shell a learning organization. Where people can leverage all the lessons and best practices learned in one asset or project and leverage those in another asset or project. Where we have vibrant communities that share ideas and insights across the world. 

We have taken the first steps 

*2*Over the past 6 years, we have built a comprehensive set of structures, processes and applications supported by Working Out Loud behaviors, and implemented this Solution across Shell’s Technical Functions and C&P. This program has touched approximately 43,000 Shell staff in Technical Functions. *3*A total value of over US$480 mln has been delivered through application of key practices in Shell’s business activities. Our ambition is to achieve US$ 1 bln by the end of 2020. 

We need your help to take the next steps.  

In Shell’s Projects & Technology (P&T) business, we are looking for a Knowledge Management manager to help us achieve our ambition, building on the foundations and taking the next step in the journey (4)which consists of 5 key priorities for 2019-2020 

  • Sustain KM in Technical Functions, Strengthen and continuously improve the completed KM implementations in the Technical Functions and C&P 
  • Leverage the communities to improve asset & project performance in close co-operation with the project excellence organization and the production excellence organization
  • Support new and emerging communities including in digital, new energies, etc.
  • Further develop KM solution accelerated application of new digital technologies that, by building on the established infrastructure, will make access to Shell’s knowledge even easier. This includes more focus on mobile technology, further integration and leveraging of data sources, and using advanced analytics and visualisation methods to support the creation of insights from knowledge, with the goal of pro-actively making critical knowledge available to those who need it at the time they need it
  • Strengthen the KM foundation for RDS further integration of KM into Shell’s Organization Development & Learning (OD&L) portfolio, ensuring that a wide range of possible interventions is being considered when addressing business challenges.

The main purpose of this role is to lead Shell’s KM journey to deliver the priorities summarized above and to define and deliver what the journey should look like after 2020. 


  • *5*Deliver the KM plan for 2019-2020, with an aim of delivering US$ 1bln of success stories by the end of 2020. 
  • *6*Shape and drive Shell’s KM journey beyond 2020. 
  • Lead and coach a team of professionals. 
  • Manage several key cross-functional and cross-business communities in order to deliver the overall KM plan. 
  • Drive stronger collaboration with the OD& Learning Managers/Advisors to build integrated solutions leveraging the best of what OD&L has to offer (Knowledge Management, Learning, Change Management, Continuous Improvement, etc.). 
  • *7*Accountable for further defining and delivering the development of Shell’s broader KM solution (in terms of processes, behaviours, tools, ways of working, etc.). 
  • Deliver key metrics, champion success stories and use cases where KM has created and enhanced value for the company. 


  • Drive an RDS wide agenda experience in delivering a cross-functional / cross-business KM Agenda
  • Team leadership Leading a virtual team experience of working within a global team in a virtual and high-ambiguity work environment.
  • Business acumen and understanding of all Shell’s businesses, organizational issues, challenges and needs would be beneficial.
  • *8*Performance consulting experience in diagnosing the root causes of business and functional challenges and translating those into possible relevant KM Solutions
  • *9*Change management experience experience in driving change journeys.
  • *10*Stakeholder management ability to build confidence and manage stakeholders across the organization and at all levels and build effective working relationships/networks.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The new role of the expert in Knowledge Management

I blogged a while back about the role of the expert in KM. Here is a new article that explains this role in the customer service world.

In my post “what do you do with your best experts” I argued that in the KM world, it makes no sense to put the experts full time on the toughest projects. KM needs to offer them a new role (which should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat) – to be the stewards and sharers of knowledge, rather than the sole holders.

This is just as true in the customer service setting as it is in manufacturing, projects, or professional service. A recent article from Customer Think, entitled “Why your most talented customer service agents should come off the front lines” explores this further. I quote –

“Every contact center has a handful of star performers. You know the ones I’m talking about. They take more calls than anyone else. They respond to emails more quickly and concisely. They handle three chats simultaneously without skipping a beat… It might seem like a shocking suggestion, then, to propose taking these agents away from direct customer contact work and focus them elsewhere. Yet this might be the most valuable thing you can do to increase customer and employee satisfaction”.

The author, Paul Selby, makes the following suggestions for the new role for star performers:

  • Train other agents. Develop training, or incorporate the star performers’ knowledge best practices into existing training that can benefit the rest of the staff. 
  • Write knowledge base articles. Getting stellar agents involved in the development of the knowledge base is one of the best ways to not only disseminate knowledge better among the staff and to strengthen customer self-service options, but also to ensure that knowledge is retained.
  • Build chatbot conversations.  Chatbots care only helpful to customers and beneficial to customer service when they actually solve problems. Star performers know the questions to ask, and how to diagnose problems and get to an answer. 
  • Develop automation. Constructing new workflows and maintaining existing ones is a great opportunity for star agents to build a new skill as well as develop new relationships in other departments as they work with them on the underlying process flow.

In other words, the star performers are more valuable when their knowledge is not kept in their own heads, but is spread to others via training, coaching, and the development of knowledge bases (either passive or automated).

In more generic terms, we can see the new expert role as having three components:

  • Acting as a source of expert opinion for others, and for the identification and development of technical practices and procedures; 
  • Maintaining knowledge bases, guidelines and best practices, and validating lessons; 
  • Building capability within the community of practice.

In the new KM world, the role of the expert is not only to Know, but to ensure others Know.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The two aspects of the Knowledge Owners’s role

The Knowledge Owner has 2 main aspects to their role, as described below.

One of the key tenets – probably the foundational tenet – of Knowledge Management is that Knowledge is an asset to an organisation, and must be treated as such.

It follows on, therefore, that someone must “own” or “steward” the knowledge – someone must be accountable for ensuring that the value of that asset is realised. Even if they delegate much or all of the work, they carry the accountability. Every critical or strategic knowledge topic needs an Owner, or a “Steward” if that word works better for you.

This is not the same as a content owner for a document, and is not the same as a librarian who manages a collection of documents on many topics, this is a role with accountability for the state of knowledge on a particular topic. So there would be an “Owner” for knowledge of electrical engineering, another for knowledge of servicing and repairing a product range, another for knowledge of a particular major client.

There are two dimensions to this role of Knowledge Owner or Knowledge Steward.

  • Secondly they need to ensure that the store of explicit knowledge assets exists, is as complete as it needs to be, is well maintained, and is usable by and valuable to the community of practice. They may delegate the work of writing and maintaining the assets, but they are accountable for making sure they are written.

By addressing these two aspects, they ensure that knowledge related to this topic is built and applied in both tacit and explicit form.

Knowledge Stewards can take one of three approaches to stewardship, based on the maturity of the knowledge topic, the degree of experience of the community of practice, and the local culture in their organisation.

  1. The Knowledge Stewards can personally own the knowledge. They are the Knowers, they hold the expertise and write the guidance and the manuals, while the knowledge workers apply the knowledge.
  2. The Knowledge Stewards can quality-control the knowledge and validate it, while the knowledge workers both apply the knowledge and submit new knowledge to the Knowledge Steward for approval and incorporation.
  3. The Knowledge Stewards can build and manage the knowledge-creating and knowledge-validating system, while the knowledge is created, updated and validated by the members of the community of practice themselves.
The first model seems very old fashioned nowadays, and the third model seems much more attractive, and is becoming more common (see for example the use of Wikis to develop Army doctrine). However there may still be cases where the first model is appropriate, and the second case is still valid for mission-critical, safety-critical or strategic knowledge topics.
As always in Knowledge Management, you need to accept the principle (in this case, that each important knowledge topic needs stewardship) and then apply the principle in a way that suits your business context.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

4 KM team roles – updated example from the US Army

A while ago I posted 4 KM team roles from the US Army, based on their 2012 publication “Knowledge Management Operations”. Here is an update.

Lt. Col. Mary Cheyne; the knowledge management officer
for the joint operations compound.
U.S. Army photo by Barry Wilson

The 2012 publication has been superseded by a newer one entitled “Techniques for effective knowledge management” dated March 2015. The newer publication contains an update of the job descriptions, which are reproduced below.

These are roles within a “KM Section” which is a local KM team attached to an operational command. In industry, you might find similar roles within an organisational division.

The knowledge management section (when assigned)

  • provides advice and recommendations to commanders regarding how knowledge management improves shared understanding throughout the organization, 
  • advises the unit’s staff on knowledge management and tools to help the staff to manage explicit and tacit knowledge. 
  • supports unit learning before, during, and after operations and helps the staff develop and disseminate techniques and activities that create or transfer knowledge gained from operations.
  • enhances mission command by helping organizations integrate information systems into the headquarters in a manner consistent with best knowledge management practices and operational requirements.
  • builds and sustains knowledge architecture to connect people and help them to collaborate and rapidly share techniques, procedures; operational observations, insights, lessons, and knowledge products
  • facilitates collaboration within networks and helps connect subject matter experts to enable individual and organizational learning
The KM section has potentially 4 different roles:
  • Knowledge management officer.
  • Assistant knowledge management officer. 
  • Knowledge management noncommissioned officer.
  • Content management specialists.
The knowledge management officer directs the knowledge management section, ensures the knowledge management process and procedures are understood in the unit, demonstrates how these processes and procedures improve efficiency and shared understanding during training and enhance operational effectiveness during operations, especially in time-constrained environments. During operations, the knowledge management officer moves with the commander, or remains in the command post, as required.Responsibilities include: 
  • Creating an organizational knowledge network and metrics for evaluating its effectiveness. 
  • Developing knowledge management techniques, policies, and procedures and ensuring command-wide dissemination.
  • Advising the commander and staff on integrating knowledge management practices throughout the organization. 
  • Writing the knowledge management annex to plans and orders and updating as necessary. 
  • Performing staff planning and coordination of knowledge management functions and activities to improve shared understanding, learning, and decision making. 
  • Leading efforts to identify gaps in organizational processes. 
  • Leading the staff in assessing unit knowledge processes. 
  • Synchronizing knowledge management functions and activities with higher commands and subordinate commands. 
  • Monitoring emerging knowledge management trends for incorporation into unit operations.
  •  Directing knowledge management working group efforts and facilitating its meetings.
The assistant knowledge management officer ensures section members understand the knowledge management process and tools. They understand the major processes used in the unit and the functions of the information systems that support those processes. Assistant knowledge management officers help the operations officer and signal staff officer map the processes and information systems that produce the common operational picture. The assistant knowledge management officer reports to the knowledge management office. Responsibilities include: 
  • Initiating, coordinating for, and maintaining a virtual right-seat ride capability.
  • Understanding the supporting information systems and knowing the subject-matter experts that support those systems.
  • Coordinating with battle captain and operations section to clearly understand how the operations process applies to unit’s battle rhythm.
  • Executing knowledge management policies and plans in the knowledge management section.
  •  Developing, organizing and supervising implementation of the unit’s content management effort. 
  • Assisting the staff in knowledge analysis to answer commander’s critical information requirements. 
  • Seeking techniques to incorporate effective knowledge transfer and learning techniques into organizational learning. 
  • Mapping the unit’s knowledge management network. 
  • Developing metrics for evaluating knowledge management effectiveness. 
  • Identifying operationally relevant trends, observations, insights, and lessons; and significant actions. 
  • Ensuring efficient processes for directing requests for information. 
  • Coordinating with the signal staff officer to ensure connectivity to relevant information systems and networks. 
  • Overseeing knowledge management-related roles and responsibilities as directed by the knowledge management officer. 
  • Establishing procedures to monitor the appropriateness of a unit’s content. 
  • Developing the unit’s knowledge management training and certification program.
As the senior enlisted member of the knowledge management section, the knowledge management noncommissioned officer advises the knowledge management officer on ways to facilitate knowledge sharing in the staff; improving knowledge transfer, knowledge tools and processes; and other knowledge management matters. Knowledge management noncommissioned officers help integrate knowledge management training concepts into the unit’s individual and collective mission-essential tasks. They oversee knowledge management training certification programs. Responsibilities include:
  • Assisting staff sections organize the command post’s layout to best facilitate staff interaction. 
  •  Coordinating appropriate audiovisual displays of the common operational picture and other operationally relevant knowledge management products in command posts and other areas.
  •  Monitoring collaboration sites and knowledge networks and advising staff on relevant content. 
  • Addressing knowledge management aspects of operations security in coordination with the protection staff section. 
  • Collaborating with unit command sergeants major, battle staff noncommissioned officers, staff section noncommissioned officers in charge, network and information systems subject matter experts, and mission command system subject matter experts, to gain a clear understanding of critical processes in the mission command system. 
  • Advising on designing briefings and text documents. 
  • Helping design templates and formats for recurring knowledge products to increase standardization and reduce redundancy. 
  • Participating in the knowledge management working group. 
  • Ensuring the unit’s content management plan meets requirements and is implemented across the unit. 
  • Reviewing the unit’s file management techniques and directing adjustments as needed. 
  • Remaining abreast of current and future trends in knowledge management and content management and integrating them into unit operations as needed. 
  • Supervising training in knowledge transfer procedures. 
  • Serving as the unit’s expert for knowledge management tool and system training, design, and use. 
  • Coordinating with the operations officer and signal staff officer to incorporate knowledge management tools, systems, and information system architecture into the common operational picture input design and display. 
  • Coordinating with signal staff officer technical teams to identify and implement knowledge management initiatives. 
  • Ensuring after action reviews from previous events is considered in any new missions.
Content management specialists are experts on content management and retrieval. They ensure (explicit) knowledge is available to Soldiers when they need it. These specialists help the signal staff section manage digital content with tools that exchange explicit knowledge, collaborate, and connect with subject matter experts across the organization and the Army. They implement content management in the four task areas of creating, organizing, applying, and transferring knowledge. Each task area is associated with steps of knowledge management. Responsibilities include: 
  • Supporting implementation of the unit’s knowledge management policies and procedures.
  •  Searching for and capturing observations, insights, and lessons from other units and individuals via non-secure and secure internet protocol router networks and forums, as related to content management. 
  • Facilitating knowledge transfer between units, Soldiers, and leaders. 
  • Reviewing the unit’s file management techniques and directing adjustments as needed. 
  • Developing comprehensive document naming conventions, data-tagging policies, and data organization for the unit consistent with Army policies.
  • Training staff members to organize and obtain explicit knowledge stored in knowledge networks, databases, and information systems. 
  • Helping review databases and web sites to determine the security and relevance of content. 
  • Helping the knowledge management noncommissioned officer design briefings, documents, templates, and other knowledge products. 
  • Helping the knowledge management officer and the assistant provide expertise and training in using knowledge management tools, processes, and systems. 
  • Helping the battle staff noncommissioned officer and battle captain exercise content management specifically in the mission command system. 
  • Understanding current and future trends in knowledge management and content management. 
  • Coordinating with the signal staff (through the knowledge management officer) on incorporating current standards to improve information search and retrieval across various data sources. 
  • Coordinating with signal staff for information assurance and information security matters as related to content management. 
  • Supervising and performing knowledge management training including content management procedures.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.