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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Knowledge Management Study

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Knowledge Management StudyIt should Focus on Leadership and Culture, Not Technology, to Gain the Edge?

The purpose of the article, study and website is to encourage the reader to take a step back from the technology component of knowledge management and widen his or her field of vision to include performance drivers around leadership, culture, organization and process.

The study is based on in-depth interviews with key executives in some of the most admired knowledge enterprises in the world. Study participants include BP, Buckaman Laboratories, PeopleSoft, Sainsbury's, Simens and the World Bank. Some participating enterprises have chosen not to be directly named.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management is capturing, structuring, enhancing and disseminating the knowledge of an organization. Knowledge management involves:

* Getting the right information, to the right person, at the right time and cost
* Organizing, distilling and presenting information in a timely, relevant, accurate and simple manner
* Leveraging both tacit and explicit knowledge in a systematic way
* Using the information delivered to enable informed decision making

Knowledge management helps problem solving, dynamic learning, collaboration, strategic planning and decision making, and also protects intellectual assets from decay. With this in mind we have developed a knowledge management framework to establish how enterprises achieved great success.

What does knowledge management best practice look like?

Leadership and culture are the critical success factors in building world-class knowledge management - enabled by good process and technology practice. We looked at knowledge management best practice against a number of performance dimensions: strategy, leadership, culture, process and technology.

KM Strategy

Alignment of knowledge management with the business strategy is a clear benchmark of success. We identified the following best practices: The development of an enterprise-wide knowledge strategy which links all knowledge management initiatives:

* It is important to identify organizational and knowledge priorities
* Promote full organizational participation
* Knowledge strategy clearly aligns with a core component of business strategy - for instance:
* A customer centric approach: KCS (annual efficiency saving of US$ 1.5 million)
* A drive towards operational excellence: BP (US$ 2billion over 4 years)
* The knowledge value chain is managed at an enterprise level:
* Determine knowledge needed
* Determine knowledge available
* Assess knowledge gap
* Developing or buy relevant knowledge

KM Leadership

Leadership is an important dimension in driving the success of any organizational initiative. The impact of leadership is even more pronounced given the cultural implications and low maturity of knowledge management within most organizations

Enterprise knowledge strategy is deployed under the guidance of a 'Chief Knowledge Officer':

* Each of the world-class companies have mandated a senior leader to oversee and steer the enterprise knowledge strategy
* The CKO need not be a permanent role yet has proved to be instrumental in the establishment of world class knowledge management within enterprises:

In Buckman Laboratories, knowledge sharing and collaboration have evolved from a top down prescriptive approach towards knowledge sharing into a pan organization imperative. The company highlights that they do not have just one Chief Knowledge Officer, but rather all workers are knowledge leader

Similarly, a global software company points to its leadership programme, in which knowledge-sharing and collaboration are emphasized, and is a key reason the have no Chief Knowledge Officer. A programme is developed to identify and foster knowledge leaders throughout the enterprise:

* In addition to a Chief Knowledge Officer, leading knowledge management enterprises built another tier of knowledge leaders - in the form of 'knowledge champions', 'knowledge mentors' - at different levels across the enterprise
* The enterprise leadership itself must be seen to act as knowledge mentors and collaborators:
* This is leadership by example: - they are seen to model the behaviours they are trying to promote within their employees:
* Software Company, CEO, is known to contribute to the company's many discussion forums
* Buckman Laboratories: Bob Buckman, ex-CEO now Chairman of the Executive Committee, would contact employees that have not been active on the company's knowledge sharing system and asks what assistance the leadership can provide to help them contribute more

KM Culture

Cultural change within an organization is highlighted by all world-class KM enterprises as the most important success factor in of a KM programme. The development of a common language and understanding of KM based around key business needs:

* Even the naming of KM projects can prove to be problematic and their success influenced by predetermined attitudes to KM; some companies participating in this study chose to abandon the term 'KM' altogether because of a negative association with the term
* Knowledge sharing becomes culturally embedded more quickly when knowledge objectives are articulated in the language of an organization's business objectives. Examples include:
* 'Operational Excellence Programme'
* 'Knowledge Centred Approach'
* 'New Ways of Working'

Understanding what compels knowledge sharing behaviour within the organization:

* The use of financial rewards only is not necessarily the right answer; internal and external recognition for knowledge sharing (e.g., published metrics, Company Knowledge Award) motivates some people to contribute (but not all)
* Ensure contributors and sharers of knowledge are aware that their efforts are visible to senior executives
* Design appraisal, performance and promotion with knowledge sharing behaviors in mind
* Explore innovative approaches promoting knowledge sharing behaviors - e.g. Global software company uses oral histories or organizational storytelling
* KM Process
* World class KM enterprises have focused on developing consistent and robust processes to support best practice KM.
* Build a robust Content Management process:
* Facilitates adding content onto the system and gives guidance for the 'Collection, Creation and Validation' of content
* Have a clear idea on the content life cycle for maintaining and retiring content
* Ensures relevance and accuracy of content and increased user confidence

Ensure content flows from a standard central control point:

* Both distributed and centralized content management models have been identified within this sample group however centralized content management is used throughout
* Creates a common understanding of employee and customer requirements
* Makes sharing and disseminating content simple and consistent
* Ensures reduced duplication of data

Understand the process by which users retrieve information:

* Content must be readily accessible - the 'three clicks rule' is applied
* Structured content based on a developed taxonomy enables content search through full text search or browsing
* Critical content is pushed out to users, information they require may be pulled as and when needed
* Ensures effective use of the system, reduced search times

KM Technology

In best practice KM organizations, technology is an enabler of KM behaviors and should be tailored to the needs of users.

From the beginning focus on the business and user requirements:

* Prevent too much emphasis on what the tools can do and increases emphasis on the needs of the people who use the tools
* "If there is no need for what you are doing in the organization (technology), then it will not be successful" - Bob Buckman, ex CEO, Buckman Laboratories, Chairman of the Executive Committee

Develop and leverage custom built KM solutions to meet business and user requirements:

* Easy to use applications developed built on strong understanding of user requirements
* Tailored to the requirements of each user community

Exploit and leverage existing tools on current architecture:

* Focus on tools that employees currently use and make them more efficient - e.g. MS Outlook used for discussion groups functionality

Integrate KM tools into key applications where appropriate:

* CRM System
* Extranet
* Intranet
* Marketing systems
* Product development

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