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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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10 tasks for the KM team when KM implementation is complete

When KM implementation is over, the KM team still has a job of work to do

Implementing Knowledge Management is a long project of culture change, and the introduction of a new management framework (roles, processes, technologies, governance).  The Knowledge Management team’s initial role is to design and introduce the framework, delivering the required changes in behaviour and culture.

Once that job is done, what role does the KM team have?

Some people say that once this job is done and Knowledge Management is fully embedded into the business, you can disband the team, but that isn’t the case.

Once Safety Management is embedded do you disband the Safety team? Once Quality Management is embedded, do you disband the Quality team? No; you retain them, because they still have a key role to play and without them playing that role, Quality performance or Safety performance would revert to pre-change levels. The same would happen to KM.

Here are 10 key elements of that continuing role for the KM team.

  1. They need to support usage of the framework. This includes training people in its use, coaching the KM professionals, running the KM CoP, launching other CoPs, building the knowledge asset about Knowledge Management.
  2. They need to monitor and report on the application of the framework. This includes checking compliance with the KM policy and expectations, measuring the application of lesson learning, tracking value added through communities , auditing the management level of key knowledge assets, measuring the maturity of key CoPs, collecting results of any KM Dashboards or scorecards. Then reporting a summary of these metrics to senior management.
  3. They need to coordinate any KM recognition activity. This includes running annual awards schemes, for example, or finding other ways to recognise the star performers, as well as finding ways to deal with the people who refuse to engage with KM.
  4. They need to continue to keep the profile of Km high, through communications campaigns or KM focus weeks.
  5. They need to continuously improve the KM framework. This may include improving the company KM policy, bringing in or improving the existing, technology, or adapting the processes and roles;
  6. They will be in charge of testing the KM Framework against international standards such as ISO 30401:2018;
  7. If new KM technology is needed, the KM team will manage the process of technology requirements definition, and managing a vendor tendering process
  8. They may take on specialist roles themselves, such as lessons management, or major lessons capture, development of KM plans for major projects, and big Retention exercises.
  9. Indeed, if your Knowledge Management strategy is a Retention strategy, the KM team may run the Retention process (planning, prioritising, interviewing etc)
  10. The KM team will act as client for any outsourced KM services.

The KM team has a job of work still to do – to manage, maintain and continuously improve the KM Framework – and these 10 tasks form the core of their work.

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CKO appointment – internal or external?

A common question when implementing Knowledge Management  – should your KM team leader, or CKO, be an internal appointment, or should you look externally to fill the role?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, as I explain below.

Internal appointment

As we have often said, Knowledge Management is a simple idea, but very difficult to do in practice.
The idea – that people should share knowledge with each other and learn from each other – is not a complicated idea. The complicated thing is getting it to actually happen. Implementing KM is about culture change, and culture change is both difficult and highly politically charged.

The primary value in having an internal appointment (and not just an internal appointment, but an internal change agent), is that they know the politics. They know how to get things done in the organisation; they know how to drive change. And that, as we know, is the difficult part of KM implementation.

The internal appointment has existing networks they can use, they know the business priorities, and the way the organisation works.  They may also know the real reasons why previous KM attempts failed.

The disadvantage is that they might not know much about KM, and will need external mentoring and coaching in the details of KM and its implementation.  There also might be a relatively small pool of change agents available within the organisation. And in addition, if the organisation has already tried KM with little success, an internal appointment may be too tied to, and influenced by, the approaches of the past.

There may feel like a lack of urgency of the appointment is internal, and the internal appointee may already have rivals at the firm, and can also find themselves transferred out of the role as quickly as they transferred in as priorities shift.

External appointment

It will be easier to find an external person with a history of KM success in other organisations, and very often a new appointee, with a clear view on KM and a wealth of experience of what “good KM looks like,” can be a breath of fresh air. It may be difficult to find such strong and passionate change agents within the organisation.

They will have experience in KM, a repertoire of interventions, and some good success stories to share.  An external appointment might be on a fixed term contract of a few years, which gives KM an urgency, a project-like structure and a clear cost-benefit equation.

The disadvantage is that the zeal with which an external appointee will bring to KM may be met in equal measure by internal resistance. Organisation often reject “foreign bodies”, and the best change comes from within. The external appointee will not know the “language” of the firm, or the key players, or the unwritten rules and assumptions. They will need strong support from the CEO, and to surround themselves with mentors and coaches with decades of tenure at the organisation, to help steer the CKO through the political maze.

There may be a higher threshold to get started for an external appointee, and if they are on a fixed contract, they will still need to find an internal person to whom to transfer the accountability for KM at the contract end.

What most people do
As the diagram shows,  85% of the respondents to our KM surveys said their KM team leader, or CKOs, was an internal appointments, and 13% said it was external, with 2% “don’t know”s. That doesn’t mean an internal appointment is better; it just means its more common.

Our recommendation is as follows:

If you can find a good, experienced change agent within the firm who “gets” the vision and the opportunity KM can bring, then give them the CKO role but with coaching and mentoring from external experts. Their knowledge of how to change the organisation is more important that their lack of knowledge of KM.

If you cannot find such a person, or if KM exists but needs a shake-up, then look to hire someone external, and give them a wise “chief of staff” who knows the organisation inside out and can help navigate the politics associated with change. And if you are hiring your CKO externally, follow this piece of advice from a Knowledge Manager I interviewed:

If I was recruiting somebody external and I had an interview and I asked “do you think you were successful (in your last KM implementation)” and they said “yes we were absolutely successful” I would instantly be suspicious, because knowledge management is not straightforward. I want practical evidence that it was painful. I want to see the blood and the guts”.

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Knowledge Management career paths

I posted on this blog 5 years ago on the topic of KM career paths, and suggested the following model for career progression within KM, at least within a larger organisation.

Image from wikimedia commons

  1. Knowledge facilitator or Knowledge engineer. Doing the basic jobs of KM, facilitating meetings, conducting interviews, facilitating a Community of Practice , Knowledge Management lead on one project, and so on. 
  2. Knowledge Manager. Managing and maintaining the KM Framework for a department or business unit, or acting as leader for a major community of practice. Single point of contact for KM for that topic or that part of the organisation. Making sure the KM work gets done. Managing or supporting the Knowledge facilitators and knowledge engineers. Acting as local champion for KM. Monitoring and reporting the degree of use of KM, and the value delivered to the business. 
  3. Knowledge Strategist. Setting the strategic direction for KM within a business unit, business stream or organisational group. Improving and developing the use of KM in support of the business, and the application of KM in the business. Working with the business to optimise KM support to the business. 
  4. Head of Knowledge Management. Setting the strategic direction for KM within the organisation. Designing any new developments of the KM Framework. Driving the corporate KM culture. Working with the executive level to optimise the way in which Knowledge Management supports the organisation.
Since then I have found a few more KM career path examples, as follows:

  • McKinsey: senior researcher >= lead researcher, or senior researcher => specialist, or senior researcher knowledge operations
  • Bain & Co: Individual contributor (associate/analyst) => Specialist (seasoned professional) => Team leader (experienced professional)
  • World Bank (according to KM Edu hub): Knowledge Management Assistant => Knowledge Management Analyst => Knowledge Management Officer => Senior Knowledge Management Office
  • US Air Force Apprentice (3) Level => Journeyman (5) Level => Craftsman (7) Level => Superintendent (9) Level. (These are levels of development rather than different roles
Please let me know if you have other examples

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Can you outsource KM support?

Are there any parts of KM support you can outsource? If so, which parts?

You have a successful Knowledge Management program under way. All is going well, but you are under increasing pressure with requests from the business, and you don’t have enough resources to respond to the demand.

You think “I must be able to outsource some of this work”.

But how much can you safely outsource, and what are the elements you need to keep in-house?

Read on, and find out!

What you can’t outsource

Ownership of the knowledge management framework. Knowledge Management needs to keep running, and the KM Framework of roles, processes, technologies and governance needs to be maintained, applied, monitored and continuously improved. Ownership of the Framework is an in-house responsibility, even though you may employ trusted KM consultants to support you.

Ownership of the knowledge management strategy. Although it a very good idea to get an  experienced Knowledge Management consulting company to help you to draft a strategy, the strategy needs to be owned and delivered from within your own company.

Delivery of knowledge management implementation. Although it is a very good idea to get a good experienced Knowledge Management consulting company to help you with implementation, the implementation project needs to be led and delivered from within the company.

Leadership of the communities of practice. The CoPs own your critical organisational knowledge, and this needs to be owned internally.  The CoP leaders should be in-house experts.

Knowledge ownership. The practice owners, the knowledge stewards, the subject matter experts, all need to come from within the company. If you start outsourcing knowledge ownership, then you have really outsourced that particular capability. And that’s fine; companies outsource things like financial management or catering, but you are outsourcing the entire capability and not just management for knowledge capability.

The ownership of content. The content owners need to come from within the organization, although you can bring in an experienced KM consultancy to help create some of the content in the first place.

The application of the knowledge. Applying knowledge is done by your teams, your departments and your individuals.

What you can outsource

Knowledge capture services, such as the capture of lessons learned from projects. This is an intermittent activity, and can sometimes be a high volume activity and sometimes not very much is going on, which makes it hard to resource internally. Knowledge capture requires specific skills, and you may not have a readily available pool of people with those skills in your organisation. This is an ideal service to outsource, and knowledge capture is a service we already provide to many clients.

Knowledge retention services, such as retention interviewing and the creation of knowledge assets from retiring staff. Like the example above, this is a specialized task requiring specialised skills, but one which is intermittent. Many companies outsource this service – Shell outsourced much of their ROCK interviewing for example, and Airbus outsources management of their ExTra program. If you have a sudden workload of retention work, then look to outsource the service.

The facilitation of knowledge management processes, such as peer assist, knowledge exchange, or community of practice launch can be outsourced to trained KM facilitators.

The administration of the online library or the online knowledge base. Shell, for example, outsourced much of the administration work related to their Wikis, such as building cross-links between articles.

Lessons management, and the administration of your lesson management system. You can bring in people to do the day to day work of quality control of lessons, tracking lessons and actions, following up on actions, and gathering and reporting metrics; also the work of lessons analysis.

The development and maintenance of taxonomy and ontology. These are specialist tasks, and you might as well bring in specialists to help with them.

Audit of your knowledge management framework and application. You can bring in an external objective company on a regular basis to check the health of your knowledge management program, and to audit the degree of management of your knowledge assets – ideally using ISO 30401:2018 as a benchmark.

Provision and maintenance of some of your knowledge management technologies. Technologies such as lessons management systems, customer-facing knowledge bases or collaboration tools can be hosted by the technology provider, rather than having to be hosted and maintained from within the organization.

Maintenance of the search technology. Maintaining and tuning the search engine, particularly AI-assisted or semantic search, can be outsourced to a specialist company.

So there are many things you need to do yourself, in-house, but there are a number of specialist services where it makes sense to set up a call-off contract, so you can respond to needs by pulling on a pool of external specialist resource.

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14 tasks for a Knowledge Manager

One in a series of 100 posts about KM roles and role descriptions, here are 14 tasks for a Knowledge Manager

Tumyra Byron,
Knowledge Operations manager,

Courtesy of Rob Dalton, and reproduced from this page on KM4Dev, here is his “Task list for a knowledge manager”. He originally wrote this list in 2010 for consideration by the U.S. Army at Fort Leavenworth, but these tasks are relevant for most organisations and are a good mix of strategic level awareness and culture work, and on-the-ground process facilitation. The links within the list were added by me.

  1. Work with leadership to build a knowledge sharing environment and culture throughout the organization.
  2. Improve situational awareness throughout the organization. 
  3. Train our leaders on knowledge sharing and transfer techniques they can use with their personnel.
  4.  Train and promote the use of online collaborative publishing throughout the organization. 
  5. Train and promote the use of communities of practice and professional forums. 
  6. Analyze excellence, when it is recognized through organizational award programs, and allow others to benefit from lessons learned from those who were recognized. 
  7. Transform the traditional training process through the integration of social learning techniques when and where appropriate.
  8. Integrate structured socialization into the fabric of our organization in order to build trust and increase communications between our organizational personnel.
  9. Collaborate with the CIO to provide easy to use global online reach-forward and reach-back capabilities to access in near real time knowledge and experience 24/7 to our leaders and personnel when needed and where needed. 
  10. Eliminate organizational continuity breaks caused through loss or turnover of personnel. 
  11. Decrease the use of email internally throughout the organization when and where practical. 
  12. Work with organizational security personnel to minimize security policy impact on knowledge transfer. 
  13. Facilitate the identification of new knowledge and experience of value to management and other key personnel for further exploitation, validation and dissemination. 
  14. Shorten the learning curve for new organization personnel by providing immediate online and offline access to relevant, knowledgeable and experienced subject matter experts and mentors. 
  15. Decrease negative outcomes for first time real world contact experiences for our personnel.
  16. Set up and operate an organization wide program that utilizes and exploits retiree knowledge and experience to the benefit of our organizational personnel and leaders. 
  17. Work closely with organizational IT section to ensure availability to personnel of state-of-the-art knowledge transfer software tools. 
  18. Train, set up and facilitate peer assists and virtual teams when required to either resolve organizational problems or assist the innovation process. 
  19. Train, set up and facilitate After Action Reviews (AARs) when required in order to capture lessons learned for future use. 
  20. Assist organizational IT personnel with training people how to use online search capability  more effectively to find knowledge or experience they need to resolve their issues or to innovate.

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