Knowledge Management Road Map: Igniting the strategy

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After last week`s blog entry many interesting issues have come up. First, I would like to start off with Cindy Shamel’s advice which I believe to be of great importance: “I would also encourage you, in the course of these conversations, to seek out the “knowledge gurus” within each department. It is likely there will be someone identified as the -go to- person for information or knowledge management issues. This person can become your ally or ambassador in managing change and encouraging departmental participation.”

After analyzing the organizational chart I drew out a list of managers and other relevant people I should talk to. I crossed the list with the guys at the PMO office (since they have an overall vision of the key projects and leaders) and after that I set out to interview each one them. Now I have started my analysis based on the three points discussed in the previous blog and you just wouldn’t believe the amount of information I have been able to discover. This information will not only serve KM purposes but can be used in order to diagnose current business activities and outcomes.

Depending on the type of organization, you need to understand who will be able to provide you with relevant and critical information in order to steer the KM strategy. In my case I have started from the top and will eventually move downwards. Paul McDowalls thoughts are very important to consider:

“CEO’s priorities are nice to keep in mind from a very high level, overarching point of view however you won’t likely be judged against them. They are too vague and generic. The closer your strategy can align to the specific business goals, needs and opportunities the more successful it can be. There are three types of KM strategy, in relation to the business strategies: independent, aligned, and embedded. At all costs, avoid building an independent strategy since they are the most likely to fail.”

Another way of looking at it is from the APQC´s perspective. A recent study concluded that “best-practice organizations rely on business leaders to identify critical knowledge, since they are the ones who know what’s important, but the organization has to provide some criteria on which business leaders can base their decisions.”

I personally believe that it depends on the type of organization you’re dealing with. For example, in some organizations senior leadership is succumbed by the operation and dedicates little time to strategic issues. So the focus has to be different here.  My advice is to take note of the business priorities and match them with people who are involved in carrying them out. They will become part of your target list.

A priority item on my list is the lessons learned procedure. General feeling is that it does not generate value. Why? Because lessons have remained in the “identify and acquire” stage and no corrective actions are taking place. Lessons are just stored away waiting for someone to come over and read them.

Many of the business leaders are willing to appoint someone in their business unit who will be held responsible for securing that lessons learned are really applied. This is done by modifying procedures, implementing new tools, generating checklists, etc, just about anything which can be audited and measured in time. At my previous job we did something similar but instead of identifying someone within each business unit, responsibility was handed over to the quality people. Fluor also handles the procedure in the same way.

Some of the people have already being identified but the problem is that they are already overseeing other tasks which are related to operation excellence or innovation. So they already have a bundle of chores to get done. Thus I need to clarify this and see what kind of support can be provided to them. The quality team will play a vital role in this, but I´m seriously considering bringing in someone who can help modify/create procedures, policies, etc. This is quite a heavy task and it´s not easy. So the person within each business unit can provide his expert insight and revise the procedures once they are completed. The idea is to get it done quickly and this is why KM has to be very “lean”.

Only remember that not everything that becomes institutionalized will be followed. A good example of this is provided by Daniel McFarland and Charles Gomez in their book titled “Organizational Analysis”. They point out that in the United States there are many “blue-laws”. These are laws created many years ago that are still in legal texts but are no longer applied or enforced. For example, did you know that in Kansas there is a law saying that you cannot eat snakes on a Sunday?. So we have to manage the part that comes after as well. In this sense, audits are a viable solution.

Some final thoughts in order to sum up some of the ideas highlighted in this post:

“KM must not end when knowledge is transferred in any form (oral or written). Modifications, new procedures and practices must take place in order for knowledge to become institutionalized. Only when this happens is that KM has achieved its ultimate goal”. This is the exact phrase which was used by one of the main business managers in order to describe KM.  It´s important to consider since it probably answers the age old question of KM: how do we demonstrate value?

How will things shape up during the following weeks? Just follow the blog in order to find out how the journey progresses.

©Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero

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4 responses to “Knowledge Management Road Map: Igniting the strategy

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