Monday, 7 November 2016

You can't manage it all, so don't try. Focus on where the need (and value!) is greatest.

Where should we start?
When an organisation starts to investigate knowledge management (KM), it can be both intimidating and bewildering as to where to start.  Having made that vital leap in recognising that "this is something we should be doing", some clients get scared at the thought of how much work lies ahead of them, how long it will take and how much it will cost.

In these circumstances, a risk-based approach can help focus resources on those areas where the need is greatest.

At Knoco, we use a 'knowledge scan' to help clients identify the areas of knowledge where their KM programme should start, as well as what kind of KM interventions will help.  Sometimes the term 'Knowledge Audit' is also used.

Using either interviews or workshops, a 'knowledge map' of the organisation is created, which shows the numerous functional areas (i.e. departments, programmes, teams etc.) and the knowledge topics used therein (Note: some will cut across different areas).
Knowledge scan workshop underway

Then, the interviewees or workshop participants rank each topic against criteria, some of which are shown below:

  • Criticality now – how critical is this knowledge topic to success at the moment?
  • Criticality 3-5 yrs – how critical is this knowledge topic to success in the near future (3-5 years)?

Documentation level
  • Documentation level – how well documented is the know-how associated with this topic?
Knowledge spread
  • Spread now – how dispersed is the knowledge of this topic within the company?
  • Spread 3-5 years – how dispersed does this knowledge need to be in the near future?
Maturity level
  • K maturity level – How mature is this knowledge (from brand new, to fully mature and well established)
Level of in-house knowledge
  • Level now – How much does the company know about this topic at the moment, from “we are global experts” to “we know nothing”?
  • Level in 3-5 yrs - How much does the company need to know about this topic in the near future (3-5 years)
  • Replaceability – How easy will this knowledge be to replace if we lose it (eg can we buy it off the shelf)?
  • Process owner and experts – Who is the company subject-matter expert (SME)? Who are the back-up experts?
Retention Risk
  • Retention risk – How much is this knowledge at risk of loss through loss of personnel?
Some significant 'number-crunching' follows, which enables us to identify which topics are of greatest value to the organisation and which KM interventions would be most appropriate:
  • For example, for those topics considered critical, but with low levels of documentation, the creation of Knowledge Assets would be helpful.
  • For topics that are hard to replace and where the risk of knowledge loss is high (i.e. through retirement of key experts), a Knowledge Retention and Transfer project would be worthwhile.
  • Finally, for topics where there is a high-level of in-house knowledge and a high future criticality, Communities of Practice might be worth considering.
So don't panic and think you can manage everything or even need to - you can't and you don't.  However, what you do need to do is work out which topics are of greatest value, and then start there.  These will also be the areas where 'quick wins' can be won - meaning those which demonstrate great value, build trust in KM and create excitement as word spreads, thereby building momentum for other work that may require senior sign-off and/or investment.

I recently held a webinar on Knowledge Scans and Audits and would be happy to re-run this for anyone interested in learning more about this topic.  Please contact me direct or via the Knoco website.

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