How long does a Knowledge Management career last?

KM careers last on average 6.3 years, or else become semi-permanent.

For very many years, on Linked-In, I have been seeking connections with Knowledge Managers from around the world, in an attempt to understand the global KM industry a bit better. Recently I have noticed that many of these connections no longer work in KM, so I decided to do a quick survey to see how long an average KM career lasts.

I started working through my Linked-In contacts in alphabetical order, to determine

  • If they no longer worked in KM, how long their career in KM had lasted (taken as the length of time they had held a job with “Knowledge” in the job title, or
  • If they still worked in KM, how long their KM career has lasted to date.
I chose the first 40 people in each category, and the results are shown below.

For those who are no longer working in KM, the average length of a KM career was 6.3 years, and the modal length (most common) was between 4 and 6 years. There is a “hump” of between 0 to 8 years, and a “tail” up to 18 years.

For those still working in KM at the time of survey, the average length of career was 9.5 years, with a Mode of between 10 and 12 years. There were a number of responses – a “mini hump” on the graph between 0 and 6 years, and some of these might be people in a short term KM career who have not yet moved on, but we have no way of knowing. But it certainly seems to be that if you make it to 10 years or so, your career will continue.

In my data set there were more people still in KM that had left it. I counted 50 people still working in KM before I reached the 40th that had left the career.

So although I am not a statistician it seems as if we can conclude 2 things from these figures;

  • Many people have a short-ish career in KM, which lasts about 6 years 
  • About as many people have a long career in KM, which lasts about 10 years or more.

Please note I did not analyse job types, or fields of industry – this was a simple (if time-consuming) exercise of looking at job titles and length of employment.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Example KM job description – KM advisors at HP

Taken from this publication by Knowledge Street, here is a role description for what is effectively KM Help-desk and support staff – the KM advisors at HP consulting services. This is one in a series of example KM role descriptions on this blog.

image from wikimedia commons

Stan Garfield describes the HP KM advisors role as follows:

Knowledge assistants are people who help employees use the knowledge management environment by offering a variety of services. 

They can advise on how to use collaborative team spaces or how to use other KM tools. They can assist in locating reusable collateral or searching for information needed when a user is facing a deadline or not connected to the network and needs to find something out. They can find needed content and send it by email or post a link to it in an ESN. 

They can help connect to other knowledge sources, either through communities or finding the right people inside or outside the organization. They can help with knowledge capture and reuse, assisting in submitting content to repositories, and evaluating the submitted content it is of acceptable quality And they participate in ongoing training and communications. They host webinars. 

They help people with training. They communicate information on a regular basis to employees. The knowledge assistant is someone to contact with a question about how to do something, where to find something, or for assistance with any process or tool.

Below is an example role description. There are 3 such role descriptions in the publication and I have chosen this one as it is more complete, and also addresses the measurement element ot the role.

HP Knowledge Advisor Job Description – Asia Pacific Region

Role Objective:

  • Help drive the Knowledge Capture and Reuse processes within Asia Pacific (AP) by assisting Bid Managers, Project Managers (PMs), Solution Architects (SAs), and Consultants in accessing and using Engagement Knowledge Management processes systems and tools.
  • Provide advice and KM consulting to project teams and individuals to increase reuse and repeatability across the region.
  • Network with Subject-Matter Experts (SMEs) and other AP and Worldwide KM resources to identify and deliver required knowledge, expertise or collateral to K-Advisor callers requesting assistance.

Key Accountabilities:

  • Act as a broker to connect people to the appropriate SMEs
  • Where appropriate provide expert advice based on personal subject matter expertise
  • Assist users in searching for selling and delivery reusable collateral.
  • Assists users that are wishing to contribute new or improved collateral for possible reuse
  • Help users get up to speed on the Project Profile Repository, SharePoint, Forums, Knowledge Briefs, and other KM tools
  • Facilitate collaboration needs
  • Direct users to the right knowledge sources based on their specific needs
  • Actively advice and guide project teams especially at bid development or project startup to ensure their collaboration workspace are established effectively and efficiently as well as to encourage the teams to search for Project profiles of similar projects to leverage and share.
  • Solicit user feedback
  • Conduct training on KM process, systems and tools
  • Participate in other user support initiatives
  • Provide Monthly AP K-Advisor report with key metrics, issues/problems with KM process, systems and tool, and recommendations

Skills:

  • Good people and communications skills
  • Able to quickly learn about tools and processes
  • Eager to be of help to users
  • Subject matter expert in a solution set or discipline, e.g., PM, SA, Test Manager
  • Demonstrated understanding of C&I business initially, later expanding to the other business units
  • Excellent planning and organisation skills, tracking and monitoring a range of activities at any one time
  • Good analytical & decision-making skills
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Intellectually curious, actively keeps abreast of knowledge developments
  • Uses own initiative, demonstrates a creative approach to problem solving
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Drive and resilience to achieve challenging objectives
  • Calm and collected, even when under pressure maintaining a high level of performance

Experience:

  • 3-5 years team leader/project manager/solution architect experience
  • 2-3 years business pursuit/customer engagement experience

Reporting:

  • Reports to HP Services KM Lead

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Practice Owner – enabler or bottlneck?

The practice owner is a key role in a KM framework, but are they a bottleneck on progress?

Image from wikimedia commons

I was presenting at a client internal conference recently, talking aboutKnowledge Management Frameworks. In one section of my talk, I introduced the concept of the Practice Owner, which I described on the accompanying slide as follows;

“Practice Owner” 

  •  Accountable for “Owning and managing,” or “Acting as Steward” for, defined areas of critical knowledge for the organisation 
  • Validates (or rejects) new knowledge 
  • Writes or updates practices, or delegates this within the CoP
  • Broadcasts new knowledge, or delegates this within the CoP 
  • Often the same person as the CoP Leader
Those of you who follow this blog regularly will be aware of this role – I see it as one of the pivotal KM roles in an organisation. However this slide generated a lot of negative discussion.

  • “Will this role not be a bottleneck for learning” people asked.
  • “If you put one person as arbiter for knowledge, will they not just decide what they want, and stifle discussion?”
This took me aback a little, as I have only ever encountered this role as a positive, enabling, facilitating and mediating role. Perhaps I had described it wrongly? Luckily Etienne Wenger weas in teh room to add his comment:

“The important thing about this role” he said “is its connection with the Community of Practice”. 

He saw this role as a Stewardship role (and he liked the term Steward) as being answerable not only to the organisation, but also to the Community of Practice. By linking Practice Owner and Community Leader, the Practice Owner then speaks on behalf of the CoP, and co-ordinates CoP knowledge into a single place. The practice Owner mediates and facilitates the process of drawing together Community Knowledge into a Community Resource which the CoP can trust and rely upon.

To this extent, the Practice Owner is as much a servant of the community as they are a leader, and play a stewardship role both on behalf of the CoP and on behalf of the organisation. It is only when you divorce the Practice Owner from the CoP that troubles arise.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

6 Ps for the knowledge champion

Courtesy of Andrew Trickett, from Arup, here are 6 Ps that knowledge champions and knowledge managers must demonstrate

Knowledge champions are an important part of many KM programs, extending the reach and influence of the KM team and acting as ambassadors for, and facilitators of, KM in their part of the business. But what characteristics are you looking for in a KM Champion, or indeed for a Knowledge Manager?

Andrew Trickett, Knowledge Manager for the Ove Arup Rail business, believes they need 6 qualities, all beginning with P.

They must have Passion for KM. They need to be enthusiastic about the topic, and really believe in the power of KM to support knowledge workers and drive business performance.  

They must have Persistence. The road to KM is long and sometimes hard, and people will need a lot of convincing.  The KM champion must be persistent; prepared to repeat the message as many times as it takes. 

They must solve Problems. KM will be valued by the knowledge workers and the business if it solves problems for them, so this must be an area of focus for the KM champions. 

They must make always seek to make Progress. They need to be able to demonstrate business progress through KM, and progress of KM through the business.

They must keep their Promises.  The KM culture relies on trust, and people must be able to trust the KM champions to do what they said they would do. If they promise to hold a workshop, or to connect people for knowledge sharing, or to facilitate a meeting, then they must keep their promise.  

They must help people take Pride in their work. The link between KM and pride is an interesting one, which I will revisit in a later blog post. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

In another updated reprise post from the archives, let’s look at typical roles in the KM organisation.

As we pointed out earlier this week, the issue of Roles is an often-neglected part of the KM Framework. A fully mature KM organisation will contain several recognised KM positions in order to ensure and facilitator the creation, transfer and re-use of knowledge. Some of these are listed below. Sometimes several of these roles are combined into a single position.

Note that, in this list, I am assuming that the KM organisation is in place, so do not include any task force, or KM implementation team. I have not given names to these roles – each company seems to use a different set of names (some examples are given). Not all roles are required in every organisation – many are optional. Each company will need to do their own knowledge management organisational design – look at the list below as a series of options, not a template.

  • There is one role, to monitor, champion and support Knowledge Management for the entire organisation. This can be referred to as the Chief Knowledge Officer, and the CKO role is described here
  • There is often a senior management role to which the CKO reports, who provides steer, high level support and resource to Knowledge Management, This could  be known as the management sponsor for KM. The KM sponsor role is described here
  • There can be a similar role in each business division, to monitor, champion and support Knowledge Management within that division. The Samsung version of this role is described here – they call it a Knowledge manager role, other companies call it KM Champion. In Legal firms, this role is often taken by paralegals. Our view of the Knowledge Manager role is here
  • In project-based organisations, that run major capital projects, there may be a KM-specific role within the project itself, to monitor, champion and support Project-related KM activities (learning Before, During and after).

The Communities of Practice, or Social networks also require roles, with a whole variety of names (here are 32 options). These include the following.

  • The role that facilitates communication between community members on a day to day basis. This could be known as the community facilitator or moderator role.
  • The role that takes ownership of the health and effectiveness of the community, and delivery of its purpose and aims. This could be known as the community leader or network leader. In smaller communities, the community leader is the same person as the facilitator.
  • The management role which gives direction, steer and high level support to the community or network. This could be known as the community sponsor.
  • A series of roles who support the leader, sometimes known as the community or network Core Team.

Often linked with the community are the roles associated with documented knowledge, with knowledge bases, or with areas of knowledge.

  • The role who takes ownership for an area of technical knowledge, ensuring that it is well supported, well documented, that the training is in place, that the organisational capability is in place, and that knowledge on this topic is well managed. This role can be known as the practice owner, process owner, functional chief, subject matter expert, knowledge owner, technical authority, or many other names. This role is often combined with network leader, and the process owner role is described here and here.
  • The role of “go to” person for a topic, though without the weight of accountability described above. These are the subject matter experts in the organisation.
  • People who are accountable for specific areas of online content – the content owners.
  • People who are accountable for managing or supporting the content of knowledge bases – the cyberarians or librarians or content management support roles (see here).

There are other specialist roles which certain organisations may need, including the following.

  • A role to support the KM technology
  • A role, or set of roles, for managing the Lesson Learned process.  This could be known as the Lessons Management team, or (in the case of the British Army), the Lessons exploitation centre. These roles ensure lessons are collected, validated, actioned, acted on, and closed out. They are accountable for, and report on, the effectiveness of lessons learning.
  • A role for collecting observations and converting these into lessons. This is sometimes referred to as an Analyst role, and is often seen in military and government organisations.
  • A field role, for collecting observations and lessons, through personal observation or through interviewing or facilitating meetings such as AARs. This role can be known as a Learning Engineer, a Learning Historian, an Operational Learning team, etc.
In our 2014/2017 KM surveys we got the following responses when we asked respondents whether the following KM support roles existed in their organisation. 
Supporting role
# of responses
KM Technology support
275
Content Management support
264
Community of Practice leader
220
Knowledge Manager for a department or division
214
“Owner” for a specific knowledge topic
209
Knowledge Management Champion
205
Community of Practice facilitator (in addition to leader)
170
Knowledge Manager for a specific project
125
No other roles
79
Other (please specify)
51

The graph at the top of the page shows the prevalence of these roles depending on organisational size. Respondents provided the following under the “Other” category:

Center of excellence, 
All the work is done under a generic role, 
Business Analyst, 
Business intelligence, 
Business process management; 
product management, 
Chief Innovation Officer, 
CIO, 
Communication, 
Competitive Intelligence, 
Content Management Director, 
Continuous Improvement Facilitator, 
COP leader and KM champion are not funded roles, 
CoP leader and KM for a dept or division, 
Director of KM, 
Education Manager (cooperation with external entities), 
enterprise content mgmt, 
event management, 
Fire Science interpretation officers , 
Head of research and analysis and KM, 
Information Center Management , 
Information Management and Governance, 
Information Management Centre, 
part of Digital Services, 
Information management division ( around 30 people), 
Innovation Program, 
KM Admins, 
KM Coordinator for the organisation, 
KM Internal Consultant responsible for KM Service, 
KM officer to support Knowledge Manager, 
KM Policy Lead, 
KM link to programs, 
KM Practitioners, 
Knowledge Management Ambassadors, 
Knowledge Specialist, 
Leader for “Learning from Experience” (learning about what we are doing well, doing wrong, etc, 
meeting host (rolling position in CoP membership), 
Not particular, 
on Consumer Market Insights role , 
Paralegal support, 
part-time KM engineer, 
Professional Support Lawyer, 
Professional development lawyer, 
Professional Support Lawyer – lawyer in each Group who champions KM, 
Regional Knowledge Management Advisors, 
roles related to some sort of knowledge management – e.g. audit/quality etc, setting practice stds for professional agrologists, 
Several of these roles are under definition, 
Site Champion (intranet), 
some service lines hold their separate Knowledge sharing and training teams that do not report to Global KM, 
Taxonomist, 
Team and sector Knowledge Lawyers, 
The team is being build., 
Training Leader / Training Analyst,

Are there additional KM roles in your organisation?

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Head of KM – example job description

Another example role description for you, this time for the Global head of KM for Herbert Smith freehills, the massive multinational law firm (found on LinkedIn).


It’s a really nice job description, with a good focus on the overall objective of the role (bullet point 1) and on change management (bullet point 6)

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Ensure all Practice Groups collaborate effectively and focus business services knowledge components on winning work and doing work more efficiently
  • Work closely with the global Knowledge and Learning leadership team and team members to achieve global strategic alignment.
  • Develop and execute a roadmap of clearly defined projects and initiatives aimed at supporting the firm’s knowledge management strategy, and the firm’s business strategy.
  • Create new internal support service roles, processes, tools, and fee-earner competencies aimed at evolving and modernising the knowledge and intelligence support services provided internally at the firm.
  • Identify and implement process, technology or resource change/transformation projects aimed at reducing the firm’s cost of production and maintenance of existing and new knowledge assets. e.g. document management systems, AI etc
  • Lead the change management of knowledge sharing In conjunction with other K&L teams
  • Drive a clear methodology around the transfer of tacit knowledge and reuse of best practice
  • Develop and launch new-to-market knowledge based products or services that create new or additional revenue streams for the firm, and increase the impact of current “thought-leadership” publication production processes.
  • Lead and represent knowledge management’s evolving service offering and capabilities during direct involvement with:
  • Legal Project Management function activities related to mapping legal processes – aimed at identifying and delivering enhancements to processes through knowledge services that positively impact the margin of the matter.
  • Business Development pitch creation and delivery, aimed at promoting the use and value of the firm’s knowledge services to prospects during the sales cycle.
  • Client Care activities, aimed at promoting the use and value of the firm’s knowledge services to clients to enhance revenue and/or client satisfaction and retention.
  • Develop and implement strategic initiatives aimed at reducing lawyer reliance on external subscription services.
  • Source and introduce new technologies, processes and/or resource models to increase the efficiency of relevant legal information delivery to fee earners in a right-time manner.
  • Oversee global legal content management and legal asset storage/repositories maintenance team so as to ensure that the firm’s key legal knowledge assets are harvested, stored, matured and re-used in an effective manner – and in a manner that aims to optimise the firm’s profit, reduce reliance on external sources, and reduce or eradicate manual asset maintenance burdens and costs.
  • Enhance and standardise existing global legal knowledge asset maintenance processes in a manner that reduces existing costs, decreases time taken to identify and edit legal content, and increases standardisation and risk mitigation/readiness.
  • Manage a global budget, ensuring that budget targets are met.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • The creation (in association with the Knowledge and Learning Leadership team) of a new target operating model and knowledge related role specifications for global knowledge personnel.
  • Cost reduction associated with knowledge asset maintenance.
  • Clear link to revenue creation target as a result of new client facing products and services.
  • Demonstrable link to the securing of fees from new clients based on collaborative involvement in sales pitches.
  • Demonstrable link to the increase of margin of selected strategic corporate transactions and/or dispute resolution matter types in collaboration with the Practice Group and/or the Legal Project Management team through the introduction of advanced knowledge management offering(s) or solutions.
  • Measureable impact on collaboration between practice groups e.g. number of client inactions with multiple practice groups in attendance.
  • Deliver to stated and agreed objectives within budget and on time.

Qualifications, Skills & Experience:

  • 10 plus years’ experience managing a knowledge management function at a senior level in a legal or professional services environment
  • A robust understanding of current and emerging technologies relevant to client-facing knowledge industrialisation, internal tacit knowledge transfer, storage and retrieval enablement, and advanced collaboration tools
  • Proven experience at running large change projects in a professional services firm
  • A track record of innovative thinking, and the development and successful delivery of client focused service delivery transformation involving effective organisation of a firm’s knowledge processes, systems and behaviours
  • Proven capability to independently develop, encourage and embed new ideas and approaches in a creative manner
  • Ability to collaboratively work with areas outside of the traditional Knowledge Management function
  • Commercial experience supporting the firm-wide leverage of knowledge assets, knowledge resources, and knowledge skills to support high margins
  • Experienced in dealing with ambiguity and adapting to changing circumstances

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What does a Director of Knowledge Management for a legal firm do?

This month there were two “Director of KM” jobs advertised on linked-in.  Let’s see what this job entails.

Word cloud from the responsibilities list

“Knowledge Management” is a poorly defined term, and Knowledge Management jobs can range from low level data-entry clerks to high level strategic posts, and anything in between. 

However when you see “Director of Knowledge Management” vacancies, that tells you that this is a high level post. One of these advertised vacancies gives few details of the post, but the second, from CMS (the legal firm) gives a full list of responsibilities and characteristics. 
These are listed below.

Responsibilities

  • Conceiving, developing and implementing the firm’s knowledge management strategy. Promotion of a knowledge sharing culture. 
  • Acting as an ambassador and figurehead for knowledge in the firm. 
  • Working with the Head of Knowledge to drive continual Knowledge Management  service improvement, including the evaluation and exploitation of new technologies and resolving issues and barriers impacting on Knowledge Management  service delivery. 
  • Developing a cross firm knowledge community through facilitating communication and coordination between PSLs, information officers, Legal Project Managers, Business Managers, IT and others. 
  • Working with Practice Group Leaders to ensure appropriate provision of Knowledge to the practice groups. 
  • Working with the HR and L&D functions to ensure alignment of professional learning and Knowledge Management offerings. 
  • Working with the Marketing and Business Development function to build a client facing knowledge offering. 

Qualifications and characteristics

  • Prior experience of being a qualified lawyer prior to entering into a KM role. 
  • A minimum of 7 years’ KM experience operating at a senior level. 
  • A naturally confident leader and strategic thinker able to assess the firm’s future needs and align KM initiatives accordingly. 
  • An interest in, and knowledge of, technological advances and their potential impact on knowledge systems. 
  • A creative and commercial thinker who will come forward with new ideas and approaches. 
  • An ability to motivate and persuade lawyers to contribute knowledge and learning assets. 
  • A consultative approach – the ability to communicate effectively on both a practical and academic level with a willingness to listen. 
  • Experience of operating internationally and prepared to travel. 
  • Experience of creating and implementing new programmes and policies within a budgetary and time-critical framework. 
  • Advanced managerial skills with the ability to negotiate with and persuade others, not in direct line of report and working in close partnership with internal clients. 
  • Excellent communication skills with fluency in English, both written and spoken. Additional language skills would be an advantage. 
  • Ability to operate under pressure to resolve issues in a controlled and calm fashion 
  • Ability to operate and succeed in a fast-paced, highly intellectual, multi-tasking, client-service orientated environment. 
  • A team player with a ‘can-do’ attitude and a passion for excellence.

The responsibilities here are pretty generic, and not restricted to the legal sector. A Director of KM in any organisation would do much of this activity. However being a legal firm they are looking for a lawyer to take this role. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

More data on the health of KM (revised)

Is KM dying, alive and well, or on life support? Let’s bring some data into the debate (this post updated based on further data).

The debate about the health of KM is a perennial topic, with people variously claiming “KM is dead”, “KM is alive and well” or “KM is on life support”.  The item commonly missing in these claims is hard data; people instead going on their impressions, or on the bold claim of a replacement for KM that overthrows its older rival.

I have tried my best to bring some hard data into it, such as the apparent accelerating start-up rate of organisations, taken from the Knoco survey data (the counter-argument to which might be that more recent entrants to the KM game are more likely to have responded to the survey).
Here are some more data.
3 years ago I did a survey within LinkedIn, looking at the number of people in different countries with “Knowledge” in their job title (or or Conocimiento, or Connaissance, or Kennis, etc etc depending on language). From this I concluded that there are probably about 32,000 knowledge managers in the world, with the greatest concentration in Switzerland and the Netherlands, and the lowest concentration in Russia and Brazil.
This survey is easy to repeat, and to compare the number of people now with Knowledge or its equivalent in their job title, with the number of people then. The results for the top 10 countries in terms of search results are shown in the figure above and the table below.

total K people 2014 total K people 2017
USA
10483
12494
UK
3431
3989
India
3244
4228
Canada
1736
2000
Netherlands
1656
1988
Australia
1105
1388
Spain
820
788
France
803
1000
Brazil
733
988

In every case the number of people with a Knowledge job title has increased, but about 26%.

However the number of people from those countries on linkedin has also increased (thanks to Mahomed Nazir for pointing this out).

If we look at the number of people with Knowledge in their job title as a percentage of LinkedIn users, then things change, as the population of LinkedIn has grown a lot over the last few years.  The figures below represent the number of people from a particular country with Knowledge or its translation in their job title, per million LinkedIn unsers from that country.
K people per million LinkedIn users 2014 total K people per million LinkedIn users 2017
USA
101
97
UK
214
181
India
130
101
Canada
174
157
Netherlands
325
331
Australia
184
174
Spain
128
143
France
97
107
Brazil
41
33
Here some countries have seen a fall in the percentage of people with a Knowledge job title, others have seen a rise. On average, numbers have fallen by 6%.
So in conclusion, over the last 3 years, the number of people with Knowledge etc as a job title on LinkedIn has increased by 26%, but this becomes a 6% decline in percentage terms if you allow for the overall population growth of LinkedIn.
 Is this the death of KM? Unlikely.
Could it be a slow decline? Possibly. 
I think we need to collect more data like this over a longer time period, and see if any trends continue.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Process ownership and process owners in KM

The people who own the processes in an organisation are responsible for a big chunk of corporate memory. But who are these people?

Perhaps we ought to start with defining what process ownership actually means.

Process ownership is a key component of many management approaches such as business process improvement, six sigma, and Lean manufacturing, and there are many definitions available in the literature.  The definition below is a simplified version

A process owner can be defined as the person accountable for maintaining the definition, and the quality of a particular process.  They don’t have to operate the process themselves, but they need to make sure that the people who do operate the process have access to the documentation they need to operate the process in the (currently identified) best possible way.  

You can write a similar definition for Practice ownership, and in many ways the terms Process and Practice are used interchangeably in this blog post.

Why are processes important in KM?

Think about learning, and about corporate memory.

When a baby learns, they take stimuli and inputs from the outside world, compare these to existing mental models and responses held in their memory, and update these models and responses over time. 
But where is the memory of an organisation? You can’t rely totally on the memory of the employees to be the totality of the memory of the organisation, as employees come and go, and the human memory is, after all, a fragile and fickle thing, prone to many flaws.  In addition to this human organisational memory, we can make a strong case for organisational structures, operating procedures, practices and processes also forming a core component of organisational memory. 
Processes, practices and procedures are built up over time, and represent the company view of “how we do things”. Employees follow the processes, and repeat “how things are done”. The processes hold and propagate the patterns for behaviour, and for the way work is conducted. If the organisation is to learn, these processes must evolve over time.
The concept of evolving processes as representing corporate memory is recognised by many learning organisations. 
  • One of the learning professionals in the UK Military said to me “what is doctrine, if not the record of lessons learned?” (Doctrine is the military term for Process)
  • The head of Common Process at BP explained Common Process as being “the accumulated and embedded knowledge of how to operate”.

But while a baby “owns” her own memory and can update this unconsciously as new knowledge is gained, a corporate process requires conscious update, and needs someone – the process owner – to perform this update task.
Exactly who owns the process, depends really on the maturity of the process, as well as on the structure of your own organisation.  Some example process owners are listed below.

Technical authorities.

The technical authority role is used in many engineering organisations, for example NASA, to ensure that all operational decisions are made with reference to technical engineering knowledge and expertise.  Technical authorities might be individuals such as the chief engineer, the chief electrical engineer, or the head of marketing. They are generally the owners or custodians of internal standards and policies, and so can be considered to be a process owner when a process is fully defined by an internal standard.

When a process has been standardised, that generally implies that it is very well understood, and unlikely to change very much.  Changes to standards are rare, and caused only by major deviations from normal operations.  It therefore makes sense only to give process ownership to the technical authorities in the case of mature and well established processes, and even with these stanardised processes, there may be a need for additional knowledge of how the standards are best applied.

Subject matter experts.

The subject matter expert (SME) doesn’t necessarily have any Line Authority in an organisation, but has intellectual authority based on their expertise.  The subject matter expert is the company-designated person in the organisation who has the greatest expertise in a specific technical topic.  It therefore makes sense for them to be the process owner for their topic, because, in theory at least, they know more than anybody else about that particular topic.  It makes sense for the SME to be the Process Owner for any process which is mature enough, and well defined enough, for a single person to grasp it in its entirety.

Community of practice leader

Communities of practice can also take process or practice ownership.  The leader of the community of practice is the person who coordinates community activity, and should also make sure that community knowledge is compiled and documented.  It makes sense for the community of practice leader to be the process owner, when the process knowledge is dispersed within the community rather than being held by any one person.  This will be the case when a process is relatively new, is being widely applied in the organisation, and where knowledge about the process is still evolving.  So rather than a subject matter expert being able to hold all the knowledge in their own head, the community of practice owns the process, and the ownership role is coordinated by the community of practice leader.  There may often be cases where the community of practice can themselves keep the process up to date, perhaps through use of a wiki or other collaborative tool.  The community of practice leader, in this case, acts as the coordinator and editor.

Research and development team

Sometimes the process is very new.  Sometimes the process is only recently been identified, and is in the process of being developed through a program of trials.  Here the R&D staff own the process, and use the R&D program to define the process. I have been working with one research organisation who divides their areas of practice into “research fields”, and each of these research fields has an owner, who acts as process owner for this – as yet very immature – field of knowledge.

So we can see an evolution in process ownership as a topic matures – owned originally by research field owners, then communities, then SMEs, and finally by Technical Authorities, as shown in the picture accompanying this blog post.

The point, however, is that there needs to be ownership at every stage of the maturity of the topic, to ensure the corporate memory is maintained and update.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.