Knowledge Management Roadmap and Practices…What comes first…then second…?

Knowledge Management. What does it involve? Which companies are doing well?

I analyzed some of the best companies doing well in this aspect. IBM, Fluor Corporation, Kraft Foods, Ecopetrol, Danone, McKinsey, Deloitte are among the names I had a look at. Each of them has added their personal touch to many KM initiatives in time but their starting point and value preposition is clear: KM needs to focus on developing strategic knowledge. i.e, knowledge which supports the organization´s strategy and objectives. For example, McKinsey Director stated that “Knowledge is only useful if it helps achieve client impact. In a rapidly changing world our clients expect us to consistently deliver leading edge knowledge from across the firm”

So KM starts with asking a fundamental question: “what knowledge is strategic in order to deliver value to our customers and strengthen our value preposition? The problem is that too many companies begin to approach KM from a tech perspective and think that it can be solved by purchasing a database or sharepoint like platform.  It´s natural to think like that when people are “connecting” more, not less. What some of the best companies have revealed is that technology indeed is essential but it does not guarantee success.  They all have KM portals which support wikis, forums, group pages, expert directories and other forms of tools which facilitate knowledge transfer but they didn’t start there. Emphasis is placed on strategy. Tech comes later.

We need to look at KM from a strategic point of view and transformation begins with developing strategic knowledge, not technology.  In my opinion, the process of identifying strategic knowledge must be carried out by business leaders and experts.  APQC also suggests that they should be responsible for determining what knowledge is strategic and the KM specialist’s role is to act as an enabler and provide criteria to support their decision making.

Strategic knowledge may mean different things according to the business case. For example, Kraft foods has a deep focus on R+D. Therefore it´s more concerned about developing knowledge which will allow the R+D groups to meet challenges. R+D makes the call and KM facilitates the path in order to get there. This is a wonderful formula since it clearly shows how KM and business units act as partners in order to fulfill one objective.  Developing this “business empathy” is an essential ingredient for KM and teams must be flexible enough to explore various alternatives and solutions in order to secure the best way to develop strategic knowledge.

For example, Danone´s strategic knowledge, based fundamentally on a series of marketing and commercial methods and strategies, needed to be rapidly shared and learned by many business units. For this they developed the “Networking attitude” which included the design of social tools to stimulate sharing and use of knowledge, including Marketplaces (quick and informal gatherings where people “give away” solutions), message-in-a-bottle, T-shirts, Who’s Who, and communities.

When asked about the future of KM, I usually respond that  KM is really more about people and how we can bring them together in order to connect, collaborate and co-create. This must come about from working on culture and driving a genuine a sustainable change management strategy that looks to promote passion towards learning and working as teams. This is in fact one of the biggest challenges KM faces and as various case studies show, there is no single recipe in order to get it done.

In my case, I like to work close to people in order to make them feel part of the strategy.  It´s difficult to know everyone since we are a large firm with various business units located in so many places. So whenever I get the chance to work with the teams I take a few minutes to discuss about the various things that motivate them to share knowledge. The result of the conversation is a “brand promise” which I translate in to the KM value preposition and philosophy.  Just think about how this can help you to communicate your KM strategy.  Designing an effective communication strategy is another vital lesson learned in KM. Fluor Corporation even included a group of communicators in their KM team in order to help steward the KM message across the company.

Finally we can say that KM needs to focus on strategic knowledge but we can´t do much unless we create a sustainable culture. This still is a key area of focus on KM and the challenge means looking beyond technology. We need to be mindful of the role of people and making KM less formal and more fun helps as well.  Also bear in mind that people are more likely to share when they feel less pressure and respond to intrinsic motivations.

© Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero

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6 responses to “Knowledge Management Roadmap and Practices…What comes first…then second…?

  1. When the future of KM is about people and the ability they have to interchange and co create, I am always puzzled by some companies that pretend they assess their people’s “retention attitude” often found in human being .. I have red, like you, how Google use analytics as to predict this bad bu human attitude and proactively resolve it…What do you think ?

    • Well said Pierre-Louis! absolutely…part of the problem is that companies are relying more on tech to solve these issues, but there are certain things that machines can´t tell us. Perhaps this could serve as the inspiration for a future post…

  2. This article is a timely addition to my existing work. We are finalising a 2 year KM roadmap which was created in a traditional project management format. This faces man difficulties for us – so much change on those two years leaves us in limbo like state in regards to our KM strategy.
    In reviewing our future KM direction we we be actively embracing an ‘agile’ methodology – which allows us to be more adaptive and actionable in the future.
    I support the commitment that we need to be more people- centric, but include tech as much as possible – this is I. Fact so that we do keep the focus on the peopleification of the digital work we are and will be living in. There is a symbiotic relationship that we must keep in balance.

    • Thanks for the comment….I do not disagree, but without tech are we not able to do KM? there is a of work to be done on the motivational side and a lot of the best companies have struggled to get the desired results when the scale was shifted towards tech 🙂

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