"Today we get married to Knowledge Management"

This post from the archives describes a strange statement from a client, and some of the thoughts it raised for me at the time.

Cake decorations @ Notts County Ground, Nottingham

“Today we get married to Knowledge Management”

That was the, shall we say, “unusual” statement made by the convener of a KM seminar that I was speaking at last week. (I was either one of the ministers at the ceremony, or one of the bridesmaids – I am not sure. Probably the former. Also he said it in Swedish.)

By “getting married” he meant that the company in question was now formally intending to make Knowledge Management “part of the household”, or an embedded component of how they do business.

The marriage idea struck me as an excellent analogy, largely by the way that it represented a definite and positive ceremony of commitment. Then I started taking the analogy further, and wondered whether you could take the phases of a love affair and map them onto the Knowledge management journey. Maybe it would go something like this.

You are not sure whether Knowledge Management would suit your company  but you are definitely interested. You get the idea that there might be something there – that you might find something of value if you explored a little further. You are reading about the topic, you are following some of the blogs, attending the conferences, maybe holding some internal conferences or seminars. Maybe you set up your first KM task force, and run a KM assessment.

First Date
You have explored the topic sufficiently to realise that this is time for a serious trial, and for an investment of some time and money to find out if it is worth proceeding further. You set up your first Knowledge Management pilot program, to see if it works in your company, to see how it works in your company, and to see if it adds value, and if so, how much. To see if it “feels right”. If the first date (pilot) works out, then it will be followed by the second, and the third, and so on.

Meeting the parents and getting their blessing
In older more sexist days, this would be “asking her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage”. Nowadays it is less of a hurdle, but there is a point where you need to declare your relationship with others in your circle of family and friends, and discuss the next stage. In Knowledge Management terms, this is when you involve senior management. You discuss the pilots, you discuss the value, and you negotiate whether, and how, and when, you can make the relationship with Knowledge Management official. Senior management may need more evidence, or more pilots, but if you have a good enough business case and  enough value stories from the pilots, they will be on your side.

Getting Engaged
This is the commitment to KM (and to be honest, last weeks ceremony was more the engagement party than the marriage ceremony. It was the point at which all the interested parties came together to get to know the new bride/groom). You start the transition, begin the roll-out, ramp up the change management, and get everything ready (the roles, the technologies, the processes, the governance) for the big day.

Getting Married.
From this step on, the company and knowledge management are joined at the hip. There is a KM Policy in place (the equivalent of the marriage contract) and KM is now expected to be an integral part of the day-to-day activity of the organisation.

That’s as far as I want to take the analogy at the moment, and we can leave the happy couple setting off on the honeymoon together.

It would be worth considering where you and your company are on this journey.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

How well distributed is your KM budget?

There are 4 legs on the Knowledge Management table. Are you investing evenly in each of them?

Knowledge Management  requires equal attention to the four key enablers of People, Process, Technology and Governance.

The test of whether you truly are paying equal attention is whether your KM program investments equally in these four crucial elements of the KM Framework.

Most of the time, we find that the companies we speak with spend far more on technology than on the other elements, and most of the time we find that their Knowledge Management program suffers as a result. Technology alone will not deliver knowledge management, and an overspend on technology is usually a bad strategic move.

We don’t have a lot of statistics on the proportional spend from KM campaigns, but the attached diagram shows the proportions from one program we were involved with, about 12 years ago. In this program we can see

  • 34% of the spend was on Technology (ideally, should have been 25%)
  • 8% of the spend was on Processes (ideally, should have been 25%)
  • 58% was on People and Governance (ideally should have been 50%)
This is a more equal spend than we see in many organisations, but there still seems to be an under-investment in process (process definition, process trial and testing, ad training in KM processes.
We are happy to say that this KM program is still very much alive and well and delivering value 12 years later. A balanced spend seems to have contributed to their success.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What Enterprise Social Networks can tell us about KM adoption

Many Enterprise Social Network adoptions have stalled. What lessons can we draw for Knowledge Management?

Frustrated woman on computer

Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) technologies such as Yammer, Slack and Facebook for Business are often introduced on the same premise as Knowledge Management – that these technologies will allow staff to share knowledge, collaborate, and discuss work-related issues with each other.

However there is much evidence to suggest that adoption of these technologies is often far from the success it was planned to be. For example –

A 2014 article in Sloane Management Review, entitled “they build it, but employees aren’t coming” says   

“Are companies that have made headway in introducing a social collaboration platform into their enterprise having success getting employees to participate? According to one recent study, not really. More than half of the companies surveyed said “only 10-20% of their employees are actively involved”.

Also a more recent study quoted here

“According to Harvard Business Review, organizations with Enterprise Social Networks report only 20-25% of employees are using the platform with any regularity”.

A 2017 survey by APQC, quoted here, reports that 

“When asked how they prefer to innovate and solve problems at work, fewer than 7% listed communities or enterprise social networks among their top three modes of collaboration”.

A Gatehouse survey quoted here:

At a broad level, only 43% of respondents who introduced social channels consider their adoption rate at either good or excellent, with 52% responding that they struggle to demonstrate their value to the organization. Not great indicators for ESNs.

A 2017 Adobe survey, quoted here, reports that 

“Enterprise social networks are supposed to reinvent how work gets done and employees collaborate, but just 1 percent of workers consider the tools a preferred way to communicate …. email remains the dominant form of work communication (and) …  there has been a surge in face-to-face communication as a preferred way to communicate”

And according to this report, even when you have have an enterprise social network, 

“An average of 7% of network participants are responsible for 50% of connections”

So in summary, even when ESNs are introduced, more than half of companies rate adoption as “less than good”, uptake may struggle to exceed 20% or so of employees, and 7% of those engaged (in other words, 1.4% of employees) are doing much of the work. 

This is a long way from the vision of ESNs providing free and open exchange of knowledge across the whole organisation.

Why are ESNs failing to catch on?

There are some clues in the articles quoted above for why adoption rates have been poor. For example from here

“Enterprise social platforms tend to focus on social communication without paying sufficient attention to solving business process problems that will help users get their work done. Benefits like cross-business-unit and cross-border collaboration that are part of the enterprise social raison d’être may be critical to the organization, but they aren’t likely to spark employee enthusiasm because they don’t have obvious immediate value to users themselves”

from here:

“What really struck me was the way the ESNs appear to have been launched in the organizations – poorly. The survey reported that there was a lack of clear purpose for ESNs, and in many organizations the ESN had been launched not by IC but by IT with no clarity of purpose around how they would fit into existing channel strategies, how they should be used, what success looks like etc”

A Dachis survey in 2012 showed that 75% of ESN engagements were run (or actively influenced by) the IT department, and only 16% by Knowledge Management, suggesting that technology was seen as the primary enabler, rather than as part of a KM solution..

So it is quite likely that most ESN implementations are, in effect, “Technology Push” – rolling out a technology platform and hoping for adoption.

In cases of technology push there will be adoption, but only by a small subset of the population. A while ago, I blogged about the demographics of KM support, and I asserted that

Only about one in five people instinctively “get” KM. Only about 20% of staff are supporters of the idea from the beginning. When you talk to a room full of people about KM, the “KM Light Bulb” will switch on over the heads of about a fifth of your audience. 

I would say that the results above support this assertion. 

20% of people are naturally KM enthusiasts, and will naturally flock to a new platform. The rest won’t. So a platform rolled out in the hope that “they will come” will reach that 20%. And if you focus your attention only on that 20%, you are preaching to the choir. Technology push alone will  will rarely break the 20% adoption barrier and move beyond the “early adopters”. The KM fans will create a KM bubble, but you won’t penetrate the rest of the organisation, so 80% of the knowledge remains untapped and unmanaged.

What are the lessons for Knowledge Management implementation?

I think there are a lot of lessons for KM implementation. Here are 4 obvious ones.

  • Don’t introduce Knowledge Management through technology push alone. The history of KM is littered with failed implementations driven by technology push, and ESN is only the latest in a long line. Identify the business purpose and the value to the business and to the user, identify the pilots, create the business pull

“There is certainly a place for enterprise social, but not as a standalone tool. That would be as useless as having a smartphone without email or other apps. Put social together with a solution that solves a business process problem, and the resulting tool may take off faster than you can say “viral.”

“Once a problem solving purpose is acknowledged, we have a path to true value creation. Tim Baker and Aubrey Warren in their book “Conversations at Work: Promoting a Culture “of Conversation in the Changing Workplace” identify conversations without questions being simply statements passing back and forth with no result. “Questions add the vital ingredients of reflection, investigation, and integration”; all of which are required to solve important business problems”. 

  • Move beyond the 20% of early adopters. To bring in the remaining 80%, you need to embed KM into the work process, and to bring in the 4 incentives I mention in this blog post, because once you are past the 20%, the rest won’t come until you lead them, cajole them, and ultimately require them to come. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

4 KM implementation lessons from Hoffman-LaRoche

Here are some useful lessons on KM implementation.

Taken from this article, here’s some lessons on KM implementation from the Hoffman-LaRoche experience.

I quote

“First, managers hoping to make a difference through better knowledge management should start by focusing on the right problem. Patricia Seemann chose a spot that was closely tied to the strategy of the business, and a driver of the firm’s future growth. She also focused on a process that was undeniably knowledge-intensive, ensuring that the impact of knowledge improvements would be great.

“This points to a second lesson: set definitive goals for what the effort will achieve. Preferably, as at Roche, these can be stated in terms of ultimate increases in profitability. 

“The third lesson to take away from Roche’s story is that knowledge management need not be technology- intensive, and should not be technology-driven. Tools like prototypes and knowledge maps can be surprisingly low-tech. They don’t require people to buy into major infrastructural overhauls up front and on faith—they simply get a job done, and win converts along the way.

“Finally, Roche’s success teaches a lesson about bringing together the right project team. A mix of twenty-five Roche people and a variety of outside consultants, Seemann’s was small enough to move fast, but big enough to bring a variety of perspectives to the table. Most importantly, every member of the team was drawn from the best and the brightest Roche had to offer. Too often, Seemann knew, internal projects are staffed with employees who have time on their hands. Unfortunately, they may be free for good reason—they are not the organization’smost valued contributors. Getting the best benefits a project on two levels: it gets the work done faster and better, and it makes a very visible statement about the project’s importance to top management. In Seemann’s words, “Do not divest knowledge management to your deadwood. Knowledge is something that is so dear to the company that only the best and brightest can actually bring it out.”

Good advice! 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

"KM is all about change" – up to a point, and then it isn’t

Knowledge Management is only a change management exercise, until a certain point is reached. After that, it is about not changing.

It is an accepted fact that introducing KM is all about change.

You are bringing in  new processes, new roles, new technologies and new governance, that will enable, drive and support new ways of working, new behaviours, and new attitudes to knowledge. You are asking people not only to change the way they work, but also they way they think, In particular you are asking them to start to treat knowledge as a collective asset, not a personal asset.
So your KM program has all the trappings of a change management program – a vision, champions, a communication strategy, publicity for the strong perfomers, and so on.
However if you are successful, you come to a point where KM is institutionalised in the organisational frameworks. That’s when you need to stop changing.
Once KM is institutionalised, it is easy to take your eye off the ball, and think that the job has been done. However it is all too easy for the organisation to change back, to lose sight of the value KM brings and to start to revert back to how it was. The role of the KM team, once the KM change has been made, is to embed that change so that there will be no reversion.
Now your KM program has all the trappings of an established discipline – a policy, accountabilities, governance, standards, metrics and reporting, sanctions against the people who refuse to do KM, and so on.
And if you are successful with this, then KM can become internalised within the culture for the long term, and thats where the benefits will be greatest.

So Yes, KM is a change program, until it becomes a “don’t change back” program.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

KM’s 17 deadly sins

I found this in my archives, which comes from a Canadian Federal Government perspective in 1999.


Notice how many still ring true today – truly little has changed in nearly 2 decades.

The deadliest sins of Knowledge Management :   

1. Continuing to operate a hierarchical organisation
2. Fear
3. Placing a greater emphasis on technology than people
4. Not communicating enough on the issues
5. Not approaching Knowledge Management as a management issue
6. Not identifying the departments’ most valuable holders of knowledge and key innovators
7. Reluctance to distinguish between data or information on the one hand and knowledge on the other
8. Emphasising knowledge stock to the detriment of knowledge flow
9. Viewing knowledge as existing predominantly outside the heads of individuals
10. Not understanding that a shared context is fundamental to knowledge management
11. Paying too little heed to the role and importance of tacit knowledge
12. Disentangling knowledge from IT issues
13. Downplaying thinking and reasoning
14. Focusing on the past and the present but not the future
15. Failing to recognise the importance of experimentation
16. Substituting technological contact for human interface
17. Seeking to develop direct measures of knowledge

Although the original source for this is lost in the mists of time, numbers 8 through 17 are copied directly from the 11 deadly sins quoted by Fahey and Prusak (California. Management Review, Vol. 40 No. 3,), although number 12 may be as misquote, as the original is “Disentangling knowledge from its uses”, rather than “from IT issues” – both of which are a sin.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The Personality Trap in KM implementation

It can be tempting to rely on the personality of a strong charismatic leader to drive Knowledge Management implementation, but this can become a trap. 

Image from Wikimedia Commons

To begin with, a strong passionate leader can be a real asset for an effective Knowledge Management implementation team. They can convey their message with conviction, power and suthority, connecting both with senior managers and with potential “first followers” in the business.

The KM team leader should be a change agent, with a strong profile and good influencing skills, who has some hard-won experience in KM, who can translate KM into business terms. Often the strength of their drive and convision is a real asset in the early stages of KM “evangelism”.

But in the longer term there is a risk in relying on the personality of the leader to drive transformation. When the leader moves on and this strong personality is no longer present to drive things, transformation can easily falter or “tip back” to a pre-KM state.

Here is just such a story.

A project manager was working in a major project in the Far East. He was a KM Believer, one of the “first followers“, eager to lead change in his part of the business. He set up a community of practice, or knowledge network, of project managers who would meet, exchange documents, and swap lessons learned for further re-use. 

And it worked – in his area he cut costs, shortened timelines and improved safety statistics. He acted as champion, thought leader, and role model for Knowledge Management within the wider business. 

Then he left – moving on to another part of the business.

The community stopped functioning. Knowledge capture ceased. Many people in the business claimed that they were unaware of what he had been doing. Knowledge management in the Far East Division dwindled away and died. The culture “tipped back” to where it had been before.

No matter how strong your personality, no matter how much you can get done by personally driving it, there comes a time when you have to pass over the reins. Not to another strong personality, but to an embedded Knowledge Management Framework that is going to function no matter who is driving it – a system of KM expectations, embedded processes, roles within the business, and governance.

Personality is great in the earliest stages, but unless it gives way to an embedded framework, reliance on personality becomes a trap.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

"85% of KM initatives have no stated objective"

It is a strange, troubling, but apparently true fact that 85% of KM initatives have no stated objective.

Image from wikimedia commons

This statistic comes from Page 7 of this presentation by Bob Armacost, and quotes the results of a survey run by KPMG

  • 80% of companies in a recent survey said that they had KM initiatives under way
  • Of those companies, 85% had no stated objectives for their KM initiative.
I suppose it depends what you mean by “stated objectives”, but even so, that’s a scary statistic.

Given that so many KM initiatives fail, then to start an initiative with no clear business objective is surely a rash thing to so. Clarity of purpose is one of our 7 top success factors for successful KM implementation.

So what sort of objective might the KM initiative have?

To answer this question, you need to have determined the business driver for KM. Our KM surveys in 2014 and 2017 tested 7 business drivers, and found they were ranked as follows, with high numbers equating to high ranking:

  • KM to improve operational effectiveness – rank 5.1
  • KM to improve business efficiency – rank 5.1
  • KM to provide a better service to clients and customers – rank 4.7
  • Km to retain knowledge at risk of loss – rank 4.3
  • KM to improve internal innovation – rank 3.9
  • KM to improve health, safety or environmental record – rank 2.
Depending on which business driver is relevant to your organisations (and different industries have different drivers for KM), then impacting this business driver must surely be a stated objective for KM.  If your organisation wishes to become more efficient through the use of KM, then one stated objective of your KM program must be to improve efficiency, for example.
You can map your KM initiatives onto this objective using a strategy map, you can put metrics in place to measure KM activity, and you can seek anecdotal or even measured evidence that KM activity is linked to delivery of this business objective. 
You can then declare an objective such as “Improved knowledge management will deliver efficiency improvements in our capital projects resulting in an average 5% cost reduction against the 2016 baseline”, or “Improved knowledge management in our contact centres and online customer support will result in a 5% improvement on Net Promoter Score against the 2016 baseline.”

The value of a clear objective

It may initially seem scary to link KM to a measurable business outcome, but let me tell you three things:

  • Lots of people have done it, and this blog contains over 100 examples of metricated business impact from KM
  • Your senior management will really appreciate it, and your KM program will be all the safer from having a clear link to business deliverables. No manager will support the development of KM for its own sake, but will support it if there is stated value to the organisation;
  • You will find this business objective clarifies your KM program considerably, and allows you to focus only on those things that add real value. It will make your life simpler and clearer.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Which KM implementation approach works the fastest?

The quickest ways to implement KM are by change management, and by piloting. The slowest are through top down directive, and KM by stealth. But how do we know this?

I blogged yesterday about how long it takes on average to implement KM, but how can you get ahead of the curve, and deliver KM quicker than the average?  We conducted a big global survey of KM this year. following on from a previous survey in 2014. In both surveys we asked two questions:

How many years have you been doing KM?

  • 0
  • .5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
  • 8
  • 16
  • 32 years

Which of these best expresses the level of KM maturity in your organisation?

  • We are in the early stages of introducing KM
  • We are well in progress with KM
  • KM is embedded in the way we work.
Yesterday we used these data to look at the average length of time organisations have been doing KM, for each of these maturity levels, which gives us a measure of the speed of KM implementation.  And then, of course, we can look at factors that influence that speed.
One of the most obvious factors would be the implementation strategy, and luckily we asked the survey respondents the following question:
How has KM been implemented in the organisation? Please choose the answer closest to your situation.

  • A KM pilot phase followed by a roll-out phase 
  • As a change management approach 
  • Introduce and promote technology 
  • Introduce processes (eg CoPs, lesson learning) 
  • Introduce technology and hope for viral growth 
  • KM by stealth/Guerrilla KM 
  • Top down directive to the entire company 
  • Not decided yet 
  • Other (please specify)
The chart shown here combines these three questions for a combined dataset from the 2014 and 2017 surveys, with duplicates removed. In total 522 people answered all 3 questions. The chart shows

For organisations who have chosen each of these implementation approaches, what is the average number of years they have been doing KM, for each of these maturity levels?

For example, organisations using a change management approach and who say they are “in the early stages” have been doing KM on average for just over 3 years, whereas if they are “well in progress” they have been doing KM on average for just over 6 years.
These numbers give a proxy measure of the speed of KM implementation, and the approaches are ordered from left to right in order of overall implementation speed.

The fastest approaches to KM implementation are a Change Management approach, and a piloting phase followed by roll-out.

Change management is the overall quickest approach. Piloting gets you out of the “early stages” more quickly than any other approach, as a successful pilot means you are well in progress with KM already, but the roll-out phase may keep you in the “in progess” phase for longer. A combination of Change Management and Knowledge Management Pilot projects is the approach we at Knoco recommend for Knowledge Management implementation.

KM by top-down directive and KM by stealth are the slowest approaches.

“KM by stealth” organisations which say they are well in progress have been doing KM for nearly 12 years; double the number for the change management approach. KM by top down directive is almost as slow.

If you are unsure about your KM implementation strategy, hopefully these results will give you some guidance. 

View Original Source Here.

How long it really takes to embed Knowledge Management

In the wake of our recent 2017 survey, here are some more data about how long it really takes to embed Knowledge Management.

We conducted a big global survey of KM this year. following on from a previous survey in 2014. In both surveys we asked two questions:

How many years have you been doing KM?

  • 0
  • .5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
  • 8
  • 16
  • 32

Which of these best expresses the level of KM maturity in your organisation?

  • We are in the early stages of introducing KM
  • We are well in progress with KM
  • KM is embedded in the way we work.
If you combine these questions, then you can get a measure of how long it takes to reach the various levels of KM maturity. The graph below is just such a combination, and represents all datapoints from the 2014 and 2017 surveys with duplicates removed – a dataset of just over 750 organisations.

Full dataset

This is the full dataset, and we can see that the transition from “early stages” to “well in progress” takes normally about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal), and the transition to fully embedded takes normally about 20 years.  There is a large spread – some reach maturity far faster than others.
We can also see some strange anomalies:
  • organisations which have been doing KM for 0 years, yet it is fully embedded – either these are spurious data, or organisations who feel they are doing KM without the benefit of introducing a formal KM program
  • organisations which have been doing K for 32 years, yet are still in the early stages – either these are spurious data, or organisations who feel they are doing KM for ages but in a half-hearted manner, or doing it “under the radar”.

    However this full dataset may not be too helpful, as we know that embedding KM takes longer in larger organisations. The graphs below show sections of the dataset for small, medium and large organisations.

    Small organisations

    We also asked the participants to answer the following question:
    How large is the organisation (or part of the organisation) you are decribing in terms of staff?Please select the closest number from the list below.
    • 10
    • 30
    • 100
    • 300
    • 1000
    • 3000
    • 10000
    • 30000
    • 100000
    • 300000
    The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, but only for those 148 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 10, 30 or 100.
    We can see that the strange anomalies of “doing KM for 32 years and getting nowhere) belong to this size range. we can also see that the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes just under 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal),  but the transition to fully embedded takes about 6 years.

    Medium organisations

    The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, for those 351 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 300, 1000 or 3000.
    Here the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal),  but the transition to fully embedded takes about 20 years.

    Large organisations

    The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, for those 3255 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 10,000 staff or larger.
    Here the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal),  but the transition to fully embedded takes 32 years, as half of the respondents at the 32 year mark said they were still “well in progress”.


    The obvious conclusion is that implementing KM takes a long time, and the bigger the organisation, the longer it takes. However we can be a bit more subtle than that, and conclude as follows:
    • The early stages of Knowledge Management take on average 4 years for any organisation, before you can begin to say ” we are well in progress”.  20% of organisations may get to this point within a year, another 20% may take 8 years or more.
    • The time it takes to reach the point where KM is fully embedded depends on the size of the organisation, with an average of 6 years for the smaller ones, to 32 years for the very biggest. 
    These are average figures – some implementations are faster and some are slower. Tomorrow we might start to investigate what makes the difference in the speed of Knowledge Management implementation.

    View Original Source Here.

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