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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 3-5 years team leader/project manager/solution architect experience
- 2-3 years business pursuit/customer engagement experience
- Reports to HP Services KM Lead
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;
- 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
- “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?”
“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.
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.
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
- The CKO can lead a small team to help with the support activity. The role of the KM support team 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.
- This sponsor could be supported by a high level steering team. The role of the KM steering team 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 the US Army, there is a role within each operational unit, which is less about championing KM, and more about acting as the conduit for lessons. This Lesson Learned Integrator role is described 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.
- A role for facilitating knowledge management meeting processes, such as Peer Assist, After Action Review, and Retrospect. The facilitator role is described here and here.
# of responses
KM Technology support
Content Management support
Community of Practice leader
Knowledge Manager for a department or division
“Owner” for a specific knowledge topic
Knowledge Management Champion
Community of Practice facilitator (in addition to leader)
Knowledge Manager for a specific project
No other roles
Other (please specify)
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 process management;
Chief Innovation Officer,
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,
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),
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,
Knowledge Management Ambassadors,
Leader for “Learning from Experience” (learning about what we are doing well, doing wrong, etc,
meeting host (rolling position in CoP membership),
on Consumer Market Insights role ,
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,
Team and sector Knowledge Lawyers,
The team is being build.,
Training Leader / Training Analyst,
Are there additional KM roles in your organisation?
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).
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.
- 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.
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.
|total K people 2014||total K people 2017|
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).
|K people per million LinkedIn users 2014||total K people per million LinkedIn users 2017|
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.
Why are processes important in KM?
Think about learning, and about corporate memory.
- 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”.
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.
Community of practice leader
Research and development team
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.