Revitalizing Knowledge Management: Experiences from an Information Technology firm Part 1

The following post presents an overview of GMD´s Knowledge Management strategy for the present year. GMD is a leading IT outsourcing firm based in Lima, Peru. It forms part of the Graña & Montero Corporation, one of the largest and fastest growing corporations in the region.

This entry consists in the first part of a KM series which looks to describe various KM case studies and lesson learned. 

Introduction

Knowledge management has been around for decades. However, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the strategic nature of KM which has brought about new theories due to the assumption that KM is focusing on the low hanging fruit. Even some of KM´s flagship models such as Nonaka´s SECI have been put to the test. The main point is: are we generating value from this, or are we just focusing on uncritical aspects? A company can undertake a huge investment in KM and not only on resources but also many valuable hours are designated so that people can engage in communities, register lessons learned, participate in forums, etc. Therefore, showcasing value is a must.

In order to do so we must assure that KM will sustain the organization´s development and learning capability. Taking time to understand the organization, its main priorities and needs, will pave the way for strategic knowledge identification which is the first step towards engineering an effective KM strategy.

The following post shows how KM was revitalized in GMD in order to secure a strategic purpose, not only in terms of business, but also for the workers that form part of the organization. “Revitalization” is used as a term to describe the alignment of KM with strategic knowledge and the consolidation of alliances and bridges within the organization in order to create a holistic strategic that engages with various business departments, roles and processes.  

General Background: Why did we get started in KM?

It is very important to take time to ask ourselves “why are we doing KM?” detailing the vision and purpose is important in order to trace a clear and solid strategy. Develop a set of expectations and build a preliminary framework from there. In the case of GMD, the value preposition was clear right from the very beginnings of the history of the group. Graña and Montero was founded in 1933 and in the document detailing the consolidation of the company the founding partner included the following paragraph explaining it´s objective:

“…Bring together our knowledge in order to develop any project or work”

This paragraph consolidated the roots of the Graña and Montero style which is brought to life by an intense commitment of putting to practice the corporation´s values: quality, compliance, seriousness and efficiency.  (see the Graña and Montero style for further references)

From its early days Graña & Montero has worried about developing its knowledge and in 1996 this commitment was consolidated with the development of the corporation’s knowledge management strategy known as “learning to grow”. The corporate learning center (CCA) was created and it´s first mission was to develop the methods, tools, spaces, technology in order to facilitate the exchange of knowledge across all the companies that formed part of the group. Basically the first steps were taken in order to create a culture of knowledge sharing through diverse training activities with internal trainers.

Following the creation of the CCA, various companies began to adjust the strategy according to their business model. The main focus was still training but some companies such as GMI began to explore deeply other factors such as culture and began to work on communities of practice and even created a knowledge portal (the first in the corporation).   An early success factor was the creation of a corporate directory where the CEO´s were brought in. They were made responsible for overseeing the development of the strategy in their companies and KPIs were established in order to demonstrate results.

For GMD, rapid expansion and growth meant that certain strategies needed to be in place in order to accompany that growth. In terms of KM, the company focused on lessons learned and standardizing the level of knowledge in certain business areas which was accomplished by developing training activities with internal trainers. Just roughly around two years ago, a KM portal was developed and communities of practice were established.  However, certain things had been overlooked.

Initial KM Road Map

Our Initial KM road map was inspired by the need to help professionals achieve greater levels of development by consolidating a culture of learning.  A former organizational development manager was convinced that this change would only occur if people governance was in place. He was not talking about human resources or quality management. His message was deeper and had to do a lot about education; not only in the technical sphere but also in other aspects such as values, human relations, and communication and so on. The focus was on leaders but with the intention of generating a cascading effect.

Various activities were developed and results were made visible in the short term. In fact I believe that this helped a lot to open up people’s minds, generate a stronger sense of commitment, teamwork and motivation. This are essential ingredients in order to encourage KM.  

With this background, opening up a new chapter in the organization´s history was not complicated. When the KM portal was created, the intention was to develop a virtual space for communities to interact and recover information. Leaders approved this but in no time complaints started to come in.

For example, the communities of practice were created according to the business lines, something very similar to Fluor´s model. The manager was appointed leader and was given certain tasks which were made part of his annual evaluation. However, no clear orientation was given to the leaders, no formal procedures or roles had been established and very little communication was established at a company level.  Thus communities were being encouraged to open up discussion forums and build their libraries but the north was not defined and the question which came up was: How is this helping me reach objectives and solve complex issues?

After some time the KM portal began to gain momentum and more people felt encouraged to use it. Intensive communication was vital at that time, but as I mentioned earlier, GMD did not carry out a formal communication strategy and for a long time it was even left out of the company´s induction.  We also overlooked some important functions such as content management and no taxonomies were created in order to support the libraries that were built. Each community build its library based on what it believed to be right and the “content curator” role was given to a person within the business area who sometimes did not have sufficient time available to provide support to community members.

In the case of lessons learned, the project management office (PMO) strictly supervised this process as part of the project audit. However we were not analyzing lessons in terms of quality and value generation. The process ended with the registry of the lessons but no following steps were taken. No one was supervising if the projects were using them or not. We had achieved a good amount of lessons but applying them was more vital.

Additional practices such as “knowledge days” were also established. These consist in seminars which last up to three or five hours where diverse specialists share knowledge on a series of topics. In order to promote community integration, “Community Olympics” were created so that members could come together and get to know each other. 

CoP Olympics

CoP Olympics/integration

CoP_Integration2

CoP Olympics/integration

Knowledge Days

Knowledge Days

Knowledge Days

Knowledge Days

Following steps:

This year we are looking to leave behind the low hanging fruit. Some mayor steps have been taken in order to analyse the business context and establish objectives that can leverage the company´s rapid growth. This steps are summarized in the following timeline and will be discussed in grater detail in the 2nd part of this post.

KM_roadmap

 © Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero

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