Knowledge Management System

Over the course of the years implementing KM I have identified 11 compelling aspects that allow organizations to successfully develop KM.

These 11 aspects are listed below:

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1) Clearly articulated business strategies and goals

The KM strategy must support and directly influence business results. Each organization must take the necessary precaution to effectively carry out its strategic analysis with the business line managers.  This will serve as an input in order to develop the KM plan.

2) Create sustainable Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice (CoP) are the locus for identifying, sharing and creating valuable knowledge.  They personify KM excellence and in order for KM models to mature, so do their communities of practice.  As we all know CoPs can be created and structured according to the business needs. In most organizations they are aligned by careers or functional lines. eg, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, project managers, etc. In some organizations CoPs take other forms such as project or situation based type communities which are created to tackle specific problems and may be dissolved when the community fulfills its objectives.  The idea is not to create as many communities as possible. Ultimately we need to focus on those that really add long term value to the business. This is achieved by aligning community activities with business objectives.

What we need to remember is that CoPs cut across business lines. Usually knowledge remains trapped in business line “silos” as workers may spend weeks or months attending projects in their respective business line and remain absent to the rest of their organization. Problems may remain unsolved or best practices are not implemented organization-wide because workers can´t connect with other knowledgeable peers.

The idea behind the CoPs is to achieve a high level of consistency allowing workers to connect with one another and share experiences across sites and geographies. This knowledge transfer is facilitated by key technological platforms.

CoPs have a clear structure and well defined roles. A subject matter expert may be appointed as leader and he will have to oversee the strategic plan and activities for his CoP.

3) Senior Sponsorship

If the CEO, business line managers and other top senior staff  don´t  promote KM then it simply won´t work. The role of the leaders must be highly visible throughout KM development as they define the value proposition, set targets and objectives, allocate resources and outline deliverables. Furthermore KM expects the organization to develop a culture which promotes learning and knowledge sharing. If leaders are not actively engaged, KM will not be able to develop further.

4) Align Performance Management

Sustained KM performance requires an organizational structure that prioritizes KM activities and competencies. Aligning KM with job descriptions and setting specific objectives and targets for certain key positions in the company will help people to understand that KM is part of their daily activities.

Organizations must identify the main KM competencies which workers must develop in order to sustain the strategy. For example, a worker´s evaluation may include aspects such as: Number of Hours dedicated to Internal Training, Number of Lessons Learned published and reutilized in the company (Cost Savings, Productivity), Forums attended, etc.

Leveraging this type of measures in business line manager´s performance framework is important to secure buy-in.

5) Leveraging the Right Technology

First Generation KM was more concerned about leveraging technologies than understanding the human components of KM (i.e how an individual creates and transmits knowledge). It is necessary to understand that technology is a core component of KM but it´s not the primary solution. Technology provides access to contents, discussions and connects people but in order for KM to be successful we must be able to manage the human components that make KM sustainable in time.

Intranets, discussion forums, wikis, e-learning, virtual libraries, community pages, are a few of examples of technology which may be applied by KM practitioners. If you are familiarized with the Lean Concepts then you will understand that it´s important to focus on those technologies that are adaptable to the company´s context, are easy to use and which people can rapidly incorporate in their daily routines. For example, if we decide to implement a virtual library but people can´t rapidly access contents or the search options are not clearly defined; there is a good possibility that they will stop using it.

It´s also important to understand the impact of social media: knowledge sharing has revolutionized and the new web 2.0 components are making personal connections much more effective. Thus Organizational knowledge sharing must also focus on understanding the impact of these tools in order to evaluate its application organization-wide.

6) Communicate-Branding

Developing KM is like trying to sell a new product to people. First of all, we must secure that people understand the value of KM in order to avoid the “what´s in it for me” pitch. Developing “brand” awareness must be added in the KM plan in order to sustain growth and efforts. Remember that in most cultures knowledge sharing is often viewed as a catalyst for “professional value loss” as most people think that when they share their  knowledge they automatically lose value. There are various articles, forums and blogs surrounding this paradigm.

Communication and marketing strategies are vital to promote KM value. You need to get out there and sell the story. Indentify people that have incorporated the KM values and use them to “evangelize” the strategy. Use leaders, subject matter experts and other people which have a strong influence. You need to understand who are the “culture makers” of your organization. Newsletters and mailings may also be used in order to promote KM.

In my company we launched diverse communication campaigns aimed at promoting KM. We even created a logo in order to position KM and for people to rapidly identify key activities, processes, technologies, etc which surround the strategy.

You may check out or logo in the following link:

LOGO GC

7) Culture Specific Activities

Developing a “brand” is only the tip of the ice berg. Each organization may depict specific behavioral or cultural components which make it difficult for people to share openly, trust the answers they receive, and even to ask questions.

This is why KM has often been referred to as a strategy that seeks to redefine human behavior. You need to understand your organization, encourage sharing and lifelong learning.

In my company “trust” was a major issue. We needed to bring people together, leverage virtual environments and generate a sense of feeling in each one of our communities. Thus we created several virtual meeting in order for community members to get to know each other; events such as football tournaments and cooking contests were also held to promote community integration.

What needs to be understood is that there´s not a single methodology defined which will allows us to secure the right culture. You need to be creative, fun and willing to try out new things. Focus on major awards or unique prizes that can be implemented in order to motivate people. This has to be sustainable in time otherwise people will not take it seriously. For example, Fluor has adopted many recognition programs such as the KM Pacesetter Program which recognizes employees for good knowledge sharing behaviors

8) Document Procedures

One way of institutionalizing KM is to document procedures and clearly defining governance and responsibilities.  Who should own the process? Where should it reside? For example, an organization decides to implement lessons learned but doesn´t bother to make it part of its internal procedures. What happens is that projects eventually conclude but no one really registers Lessons Learned as the organization has not documented or formalized a procedure which defines governance and clearly explains in which project phase the lessons must be established and reviewed.

It’s necessary to document and formalize KM procedures. In my company KM process is aligned functionally with each project and an auditor periodically supervises each process in order to determine its level of accomplishment. In the case of Earnst and Young, they even embed KM in worker´s contracts in order to emphasize the importance of the strategy and to make visible the expected knowledge sharing behavior.

9) Metrics, Key performance indicators

Over the course of the years many companies have implemented a list of measures in order to evaluate the impact of KM. There qualitative metrics which try to measure ROI and other quantitative measures which track participation and engagement. Every organization must monitor KM development in order to understand what impact is having on business goals. This is important in order to position KM and determine what needs to be done in order for KM to be successful.

10) Training for KM

Organizations should be aware that knowledge sharing is a competency. In general, most people face problems when they are giving specific tasks as preparing a presentation or seminar, registering knowledge in documents or in other company templates. Many professional may be interested in sharing their knowledge but may not possess the necessary skills to do so.

Therefore a balanced portfolio of competencies must be defined and partnered with performance management objectives. Specific training must be developed and resources must be provided in order for people to acquire new competencies.

KM also requires strong leadership and engagement skills. Thus it’s important that the annual training plan contemplates specific training activities for business line managers and community leaders

In our company we organize an annual Learning Management and Investigation Program that targets community leaders and other people that have demonstrated a strong interest in KM activities such as internal trainers. Basically the program sets to teach people certain knowledge acquisition and transfer techniques. It also emphasizes in certain motivational, leadership and creativity competencies. This year we have incorporated a new module centered on social and networking tools.

11) Align Talent Management

Part of an effective KM strategy resides in understanding how to utilize and retain valuable employee knowledge.  Talent Management initiatives focus on discovering and applying diverse analytical mathematical and information tools in order to correctly identify high potential workers. KM has contributed in this field by developing methodologies in order to draw out critical knowledge and the person who owns it. However, talent management focuses on more aspects, ranging from the selection, retention and development of the individual.

In this sense, KM must align talent management efforts in order to secure a systematic model which seeks not only to identify knowledge workers, but also to capture their knowledge.

Conclusions:

As KM models continue to mature, organizations need to secure and align current process and initiatives in order to achieve consistency and competitiveness. What we need to remember is that KM does not belong to an specific area or  person. KM responds to a strategy that seeks to enhance organization development through the smart use of knowledge. This however will not be achieved through the deployment of technology: KM must focus on the individual; generate a behavioral change which will motivate him to become part of a knowledge community, share his knowledge and continuously learn.

Specifically we must teach individuals to:

Learn to Learn

Learn to Unlearn

And;

Learn to Take Action

This will result in an organizational structure which grows through the effective deployment of KM.

Further Reading and Reference

Knowledge Management Case Study: GMI Consultant Engineers

Those who wish to see the above components being put into practice I recommend you watch the following video which demonstrates how GMI Consultant Engineers has deployed an innovative KM model which integrates key human and techonological concepts in order to achieve excellency in managing organizational knowledge.

Part 3 focuses on communication and cultural activities.

The 10 laws of Knowledge

https://kminaction.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/the-10-laws-of-knowledge/

Knowledge Management System © José Carlos Tenorio Favero

About José Carlos:

Leading KM Practitioner, is currently in charge of KM in GMI Consultant Engineers (Lima, Perú). Further information: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jose-carlos-tenorio-favero/24/826/105

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