Knowledge Management in the corporate Code of Conduct – Example

One powerful enabler for Knowledge Management is a clear statement from senior management. Here is an example.

Medco Energi is a publicly listed Indonesian oil and gas company, founded in 1980. Winners of a MAKE award in 2007, they have had a KM program in place for many years, led and supported by my Knoco Indonesia colleague, Sapta.

Medco Energi has done something quite unusual in terms of Knowledge Management Governance, which is to put Knowledge Management within their “Good Corporate Guidelines and Code of Conduct”  document, dated 2014. 

Within the Code of Conduct we can find the following:

Knowledge Management Knowledge management is a set of proactive activities with the aim of supporting the organization in developing, integrating, disseminating and implementing its knowledge. 

Knowledge management is a continuous process to understand the organization’s need for knowledge, the location of knowledge, as well as the process for improving knowledge. The goal of knowledge management is to increase the organization’s ability to perform its key processes effectively.  

Knowledge management requires commitment to advance the organization’s effectiveness, in addition to improve opportunities for its members. 

Thie current focus seems to be on sharing knowledge externally, as the code of conduct goes on to demonstrate, with the following guidelines on external knowledge sharing:

Participation in Lecturing, Training, Radio and Television Broadcast 
MedcoEnergi encourages its employee to give lectures or participate in training or radio and television broadcasts. However, prior to engaging in such activity, employee must obtain the approval of his/ her Line Director if he/she use document and information relating to MedcoEnergi. The employee is permitted to receive remuneration from such activity. If an employee acts as a representative of MedcoEnergi, he/she then must report any received remuneration to his/her direct supervisor for further deliberation.  

Publishing of Articles or Books 
Every employee is permitted to publish articles in journals, daily newspapers, magazines, or other print media and/or publish reports and/or books without affecting the working time. Any profit from and copyright of publications that is not related to MedcoEnergi shall remain the property of the employee. In the case of writing, where the employee uses documents relating to MedcoEnergi, he/she must obtain the approval of his/her Line Director prior to publishing the article and the copyright of the published article or book shall become the property of MedcoEnergi.

Even with this purely external focus, it is still good to see KM as a significant Code of Conduct item.

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Expectation, metrics, rewards, support – the KM Governance quartet

Four elements make up Knowledge Management Governance. Expectations, metrics, rewards and support.

Governance is often the missing element in Knowledge Management, and although it is one of the four legs on the KM table, it is the one that gets least attention.  This is partly because governance is not easy, and partly because there is no clear published model for KM governance.

Governance represents the things that the organisation does, and the management of the organisation does, that drive the KM behaviours and adoption of the KM Framework. We see four elements to governance – expectations, metrics, rewards and support.

Knowledge Management Expectations.

The first thing management needs to do in terms of governance is to set the expectations for KM. This requires a set of clear corporate expectations for how knowledge will be managed in the organization, including accountabilities for the ownership of key knowledge areas, and the definition of corporate KM standards, KM principles and KM policies. These documents should tell everyone what is expected of them in Knowledge Management terms.

Different departments can then add to these expectations, and individuals with KM roles will have KM expectations written into their job description (see examples here).  Within a project, the expectations are set by the Knowledge Management Plan.  Expectations may also be set using the competency framework.

If there are no clear expectations, nobody will know what they should be doing in KM terms.

Knowledge Management Metrics.

If standards and expectations have been set, then the organisation needs to measure against these expectations. For example, if the corporate expectation is that every project will conduct a lesson learned session, and every knowledge topic has an owner, then you should measure whether this is happening.
There are other types of KM metric as well – see these blog posts for more discussion.

If there are no metrics, then nobody will know what people are actually doing in KM.

KM rewards and recognition.

If you are measuring people’s performance against the expectations, then this needs to be linked to rewards and recognition. If people do what they are expected to, this should be reflected in their rewards. If they don’t do what is expected, then there should be a sanction. See these blog posts for a wider discussion of incentives.

If there are no links between metrics and reward/recognition, then nobody will care about the metrics. Particularly important are the sanctions for not doing KM. If people can dodge their expectations and get away with it, then this sends a strong message that the expectations are actually options, and not expectations at all.

Knowledge Management support

It is unfair to set expectations, measure people against them, and then reward people based on these measures, unless you make the expectations achievable in the first place. Therefore you need to set up the systems, the training, the coaching, reference materials and so on, that make it possible for people to meet their expectations.

If there is no support, then you have set up an unfair system which people will resent.

Together, the quartet of Expectations, Metrics, Reward/recognition and Support form the basis of an effective Knowledge Management governance system.

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What the NASA CKO said about KM policies

Knowledge Management policies are still rare, and opinion on them is divided. Here is what the CKO of NASA said about the topic.

Image from Wikimedia commons

Knowledge Management policies are coming.

When the ISO KM standard is in place, next year or the year after, a KM policy becomes a requirement under the standard. This requirement is not unique to KM – all the ISO Management System standards reauire a policy. After all – can an organisation be said to have adopted a management system if there is no policy?

However many people are resistant to KM policies. “Added beauracracy” they say. “We have a strategy – we don’t need a policy” they say. “We are getting by OK without one” they say.

The NASA CKO, Ed Hoffman (now retired from NASA) used to be similarly sceptical, but is now a big convert. Here is what he says on the matter.

“A policy sends a number of messages.

First, it declares that we, as an organization, recognize what’s important.

Second, it identifies a community of people who are held accountable for taking action.

Third, a policy indicates that the organization and its leaders want to make sure things are done the right way. It sets a course without being overly prescriptive.

Fourth, excellent organizations make a practice of communicating what they really stand for”.

This is hard to argue with really. The policy is “a statement of what we really stand for”, and if you don’t have a policy for KM, do you really stand behind the topic?

The NASA KM policy is not a top-down mandate but establishes a federated approach for governance of knowledge.  As the CKO says

“Each center and mission directorate will develop its own strategy, with the understanding that knowledge will be shared across the agency to the greatest extent possible. The policy unifies these efforts.

I am optimistic that the knowledge policy represents a significant step toward helping NASA achieve its potential as a learning organization. We have built a community that shares a commitment to sustaining NASA’s knowledge resources, and we have charted a course toward greater integration across the agency.  

If you have been doing Knowledge Management for a few years – if you feel that KM is becoming embedded in the organisation, but needs greater integration and greater commitment – then your next step is probably to craft a Knowledge Management Policy

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Validation in Knowledge Management

Any knowledge management framework needs to address the issue of Knowledge Validation.

I have an old video of Professor John Henderson, where he says “every Knowledge Management system I have seen, addresses the issue of Validation”.

Validation means a process to say “this is good quality knowledge. It’s not opinion, or conjecture; it is justified and valid. It has the stamp of approval. We can trust it”.

If Validation is important, and I believe it is important, then who validates? Who “signs off” on Knowledge?

There are multiple approaches to this:

  1. Validation by an individual, where a single person has validation sign-off. You see this in organisatuions where people with technical authority sign off on standard procedures.
  2. Validation by a group of individuals. Think of the aviation industry, where new knowledge gained through indicent investigation is used to update pilot chekclists, but only after sign-off by the manufacturer anthe aviation authorities.
  3. Validation by a community of practice. Here a community of practice collaboratively agrees (perhaps through the use of online discussion and/or a wiki) on the validity of knowledge. 
  4. Validation through experience and use.  Again you might expect a wiki to be self-correcting, as the knowledge is validated through use. However you need to make sure that the knowledge is based on evicence, not opinion, preference, prejudice or hearsay. We hear a lot about “evidence based policy” in Governament, or “evidence based healthcare” in the medical world, and often an individual or group is accountable for reviewing the evidence, which moves us back to option 1 or 2 again.

The more we see Knowledge as being community property rather than the property of any one individual, the more tricky the issue of validation becomes. Here are some thoughts about which approach to choose under carying circumstances.

Firstly, there is the issue of the important of the knowledge itself. The more important it is, the more of a life-end-death issue it is, the more validation becomes the provenance of a single person or a small group of experts. This is partly for purposes of accountability. Single-point accountability, in business and government, is the cornerstone of good governance and ultimately, good performance. Without single point accountability for processes, organisations have no means of ensuring that what have been determined as the goals for the organisation are likely to be met. So let’s imagine knowledge of Nuclear Power Plant construction. If you want good performance in Nuclear Power Plant construction, then validation of the knowledge requires single point accountability. One person must sign off, generally using a Community of Practice or a smaller Community of Experts as an advisory board.

If the knowledge is of lesser importance, then the Community of Experts can take a collective accountability, and validate the knowledge themselves. If single-point accountability is not so important, then let the group decide.

Where experience and evicence is widespread and dispersed, then a Community of Practice may act as a better validatory mechanism. You could give the users of the knowledge some sort of “voting rights” on the knowledge, so they can vote on what is useful, and what is valid. You would end up with a CoP validation process. This is only possible when the Community Members are experienced enough to be able to validate. Take a community of amateur bakers, validating the best recipe for Victoria Sponge. A community voting process to define the best recipe would be very effective.  In other cases, the CoP members may be largely inexperienced, and lack the capability to make effective validation judgments. A poll of tabloid newspaper readers regarding the validity of newspaper horoscopes might not give an answer that was consistent with scientific study, for example.

So when you are addressing the validation issue, ask yourself who knows enough to validate, who can weigh up the evidence, and whether there needs to be single point accountability.

View Original Source Here.

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