How many KM pilots do you run at once?

KM Pilots are a key step in agile KM implementation, but how many pilots do you run?

Knowledge Management pilot projects are a core componment of KM implementation. As we explained last month, a pilot project uses KM to solve a business problem in order to test and demonstrate that KM can do what it is supposed to do, and so that you can learn enough to improve and enhance the framework using experience from the pilot.

But how many pilots do you need, and how many can you run at once?

The answer is – you need enough pilots with enough positive results and enough learning that

  • you have fully tested your Knowledge Management Framework, and
  • you have enough evidence to convince both senior management and the knowledge workers that KM adds enough value to be adopted.

As for how many you can run at once, that depends on the level of coaching, mentoring and support resources you have available. Do as many pilots as you can handle, and no more. The process you need to decide which pilots to undertake is as follows:

  1. Canvas the business to find out a list of business issues which KM can help solve. This blog post gives you some pointers which business issues to look at, and you should be able to come up with a long list. 
  2. Rank the pilots against the 4 criteria of potential measurable impact, management support, doability and abiklity to upscale (see blog post for more guidance).
  3. Starting with the top ranking ones, select as many as you can support given the time and resources.
  4. Also try to select a portfolio of pilots that will test all elements of the KM framework.

In BP, for example, with our central team of 12 full-time KM staff, we ran 4 pilots at once. In Mars, with a smaller team, they ran 2 a year.

Choose your pilots wisely and run as many as you can handle until KM is tested, refined and proven

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How to select a successful KM pilot project

Knowledge Management pilot projects are a crucial part of any KM implementation. But how do you select a good pilot?                                                   

A KM pilot project is an opportunity to test KM in a small part of the business; to see if it works, to use it as a testbed to adapt and improve your KM framework, and to deliver success stories to use in the roll-out phase.

But what makes a good pilot?

First of all, a pilot project needs to use KM to solve a business problem.  The pilot must be problem-led, not solution-led.

  • So “testing a Sales portal” is not an effective pilot, but “using KM to improve our sales figures in Germany” is.
  • “Testing a better search engine” is not an effective pilot, but “using KM to reduce costs in our new product production line” is.
  • “Setting up a Geologists community of practice” is not an effective pilot, but “using KM to improve our geological predictions” is.

The focus of the pilot is on business issues, as the purpose of Knowledge Management is to solve business problems, and the purpose of the pilot is to test and demonstrate that KM can do what it is supposed to do. In most cases, your pilot will cover multiple divisions, or multiple projects, and will look at ways of developing, sharing, transferring and re-using knowledge to solve business issues.

Please note that you do not need to use a very sophisticated KM Framework to solve the pilot. Maybe you can use simple approaches and build a “minimum viable” version of the framework which you can use for testing purposes, and then improve and enhance the framework using experience from the pilot.

How do you find a suitable business problem to solve? The problem must somehow be knowledge-related, if KM is going to help, and there are four

  • Where there is a business critical activity which is new to one part of the organisation, where rapid learning will deliver business benefits. If it is new to only one part of the organisation, then transferring learning from where it has been done before, will give huge benefits.
  • Where there is repetitive activity, and where continuous improvement is needed, in which case knowledge management can help drive down the learning curve.
  • Where there is activity which is carried out in several locations, and where performance level varies, in which case knowledge management can help exchange knowledge from the good performers, to improve the poor performers.
  • Finally where there is an area of the business which is stuck due to lack of knowledge, in which case knowledge management can help develop the knowledge needed to get unstuck.

When you start looking around, you will find very many business opportunities for KM piloting. Your “opportunity jar” will soon be full to overflowing, and you will need to find a way to compare and rank these piloting opportunities. We have a set of ranking criteria we have been using for about 15 years now, which includes looking at the following questions;

  • If the project is successful, can we measure the value, and so demonstrate that the pilot has “worked”? 
  • Is there is strong management support for the pilot, and for knowledge management, within the potential pilot area?
  • If we create knowledge, is it purely for the pilot team or can others use it across the business, allowing us to leverage the results and spread the benefits? 
  •  Finally, can we practically complete the pilot in the required timeframe and with the resources available (money, staff, KM support resource etc)? 

Any pilot where you can answer a strong YES to all of these questions, will be a top-ranking pilot, suitable for selection as part of your KM program.

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The "busy trap" in KM

What do you do when people are too busy to implement time-saving activities such as KM?

We know that good KM saves time. But how do you make the time to save the time? This was a conversation I was involved in recently with a client.

This client is very busy. They are short-staffed and work to tight deadlines. They have “no time” for Learning before Doing, and so Do Before Learning.

However much of the busy work they do is wasted, because they lack the knowledge to do it right. As a result, they waste time doing the wrong things, waste time doing things wrong, and waste time reworking everything to get it right.  

Some of the staff we talked to were certain that, with the right access to knowledge, they could do a week’s work in 4 and a half days. But right now a week’s work takes at least 6 days, and they have no time for KM activity. They are in a “busy trap” –  too busy to take the time to do the KM that will stop them being too busy. 
How do they break out of the trap?

The only way, really, is to take a Piloting strategy.

Find one small part of the business which has a supportive manager and a little bit of headroom to invest in making a change. Introduce KM, change the culture, invest in learning, and demonstrate the time savings that result. Use the results to convinces another manager or two to sponsor a second pilot, and a third, and a fourth. Pretty soon the whole business has changed.

A busy business can’t be changed all at once. You have to take an incremental approach, and change it one small area at a time.

View Original Source Here.

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