KM Our Story
KM Our Story
As typical consultants, who survive and succeed through selling knowledge and expertise, we needed to be effectively managing our knowledge - if anybody did!!!
But, as typical consultants, we were so busy, and trying to get new project proposals out on time, and too busy performing client consulting engagements, that we had no time to even think about managing our personal knowledge more effectively, let alone more systematically and more collectively across teams, the entire organisation, and with our clients, customers and partners.
For example, every time a request for a proposal or invitation to tender appeared, we scrambled around as best we could to get it out on time. For most of the time, we started again from scratch. Furthermore, there was no way to know if our proposals were likely to succeed or fail. We had not even captured from previous proposals why we were successful or why we were not successful. We had no effective way of knowing who or what or why or where or when to most things.
Once one client consulting engagement
was finished, we rushed on to the next consulting engagement. After all, thats how we could earn the most fees and profits. (At least, that's what we thought at that time).
What we didn't realise fully was that we were forever 'reinventing the wheel' and regularly repeating the same mistakes, at an enormous cost!
Our time to respond to clients and prospective clients was just too long!
The time it took to find the right information, or even know who might know, was also far too long!
Our quality of work could and should have been much much higher!
We were like the 'best builders' for other people who badly neglected their own buildings.
Because we were so busy working hard for our clients, which inevitably meant that we were highly stressed and forever chasing deadlines, we put our own knowledge management on the 'nice to do later' list.
Fortunately, we saw the light. We realised that this was no longer acceptable, especially for a management consulting firm. We started to practice what we preach ourselves. We quickly realised that our business case for knowledge management was too compelling, too beneficial, to ignore a moment longer.
We realised that although consultants can be effective by teaching others what they know, they are so much more effective if they teach what they know and what they have personally experienced on a daily basis. So much so that we now strongly recommend to all people considering the engagement of knowledge management consultants to,
'Ask the prospective consultants how they practice knowledge management, and ask what benefits they get as individuals, as teams and as an organisation?.
If they can't answer well - run away from them as fast as you can!'
Step 1 KM Assessment
Our first step was to ask all our consultants to complete the online KM Assessment (the same multi-choice survey as freely available in the KM Assessment and Survey section on the home page of this website).
The results and report for us, before we started our own internal KM initiative were as follows:
Knowledge Orientation Survey
Contents of the report
1. Overall Scoring & Big Picture
2. Critical Success Factors for Knowledge Management
3. Knowledge Management Infrastructure
4. Knowledge Networking Levels
5. Summary Action Plan - What could you do next?
1. Overall Scoring & Big Picture
Climbing the mountain
First of all, you will notice 3 columns of scores, using the analogy of climbing a mountain’ entitled:
‘Still at Base camp’ – if you score in this column it means that your Knowledge Management (KM) awareness and understanding is low and, probably, no KM initiative has been started in this area. As per the mountain analogy, you may be at base camp ready and willing to start, or you may not even have started your journey to the mountain base camp!
‘Knowledge Aware’ – if you score in this column it means that some things are happening, (the mountain climb has started). The organisation is now more aware of the need to harness knowledge and senior management, though perhaps not completely convinced, may be willing to experiment with the concept. A good beginning has been made.
‘Knowledge Leveraging’ – if you score in this column it means that Knowledge Management is showing clear signs and measurements of benefiting the organisation. At this stage, the ‘mountain top’ is more visible, more often and soon to be reached. Senior management are now fully committed to providing the resources and time for explicitly managing knowledge assets in the organisation, and there is a clear KM strategy and direction. Knowledge resources have been identified, inventoried, evaluated and classified. The organisation is also effectively knowledge networking with clients, customers, partners, suppliers and competitors.
In the case of our organisation, it scored, as to be expected, very highly with eleven of the thirteen measurements/indicators as 'Knowledge Leveraging or 'Knowledge Aware'. Only two were critical indicators:
▪ Incentives and rewards for knowledge sharing
▪ KM Structure
Normally, for most organisations who are not yet aware of knowledge management, it is normal for them to score mainly in the 'Still at Base camp' position. And, naturally, most organisations that are new to knowledge management start off with some KM education.
Initially, for us, we were surprised and confused. With so many good indicators, why were we still not performing as well as we knew we could?
The answer then became simple and clear.
No matter how much we might know about knowledge management, as KM consultants, (we certainly didn't need any KM education)unless we, ourselves, were prepared to invest in creating the right KM structures, roles and responsibilities internally, to be able to perform the new KM processes, and unless people were paid specifically, and therefore given proper time, to perform the new roles - it simply will not happen!
So simple and obvious - so true - and so embarrassing to have to admit to ourselves. We learned even moreso that:
Its not about how much intellectual knowledge you have - its about how you are 'applying the knowledge'.
We often say that wisdom, when we realise it, is so simple and obvious. So we came to the conclusion that an aspect of wisdom for us is 'applying the best knowledge' - the key word being 'applying', or if you prefer, its not just about gaining knowledge, its more about 'knowledge in action'.
Step 2 Putting the KM Structure in place
Our Chief Executive agreed to take the 'Knowledge Leadership'. He became the CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer)with the primary responsibility for managing the organisational knowledge effectively as a strategic asset to further the organisations objectives. He agreed to creating a small KM team to advise and assist in the KM implementation.
Furthermore, he agreed that in the first instance he would also take on the role as the founding 'knowledge base(s) owner' to ensure that as much of our current critical knowledge was made explicit in these knowledge bases as quickly as possible. Consultants could then immediately 'apply' the best knowledge more consistently across the organisation and, thus, increase response time and reduce costs of re-inventing the wheel and making the same mistakes.
Once this had been done, he would then set in motion the 'knowledge harvesting' and 'new knowledge creation and improvements' processes to more systematically and collectively improve and apply the best knowledge.(As described in the Directory of KM Processes, Methods, Tools and Techniques).
Finally, he agreed to the organisation developing and implementing the best way to incentivise and reward knowledge sharing.
From automating what we already did - to transforming our business!
Not long after starting to implement KM internally, we had the next major realisation.
Our business structure, business models and our business thinking had to literally be turned 'upside down'.
We had to change from a people led consulting firm, that provided supporting KM strategies, processes, methods and tools, supported by a website to a 21st Century organisation that was 'web-centric, and provided KM strategies, processes, methods and tools through the web, online, supported by a growing network of consultants!
We had to change from expecting a relatively small number of local clients to pay high fees for 'what we knew in our heads', as consultants, to expecting a large number of global customers (some of which would become clients also)to be able to purchase codified knowledge assets at a very low cost!
We had to change from 'telling clients what to do, whilst engaged, and then hoping they would sustain the change, to educating, supporting and coaching/facilitating new internal KM teams, within the client organisation, so that they could implement and sustain their own KM programmes!
Finally, and most importantly, we had to change our values from 'the best consultants are those who have the best knowledge content and experience' to 'the best consultants are those who practice the best knowledge management processes'! (By the way, that would also probably mean that they also, as a result of applying the best KM processes, would have the best knowledge content and even richer experiences too! )
So we literally turned our thinking upside down and developed our KM vision to become a global webcentric organisation that would provide the best knowledge assets that we could continually develop and/or obtain, and support and improve them through a growing international network of KM consultants and KM practitioners.
Consultants would be incentivised and rewarded for their contributions to creating new and improved webcentric knowledge assets, as well as performing high value client consulting engagements. In other words, they would be rewarded to turn their continual flow of new daily learnings, ideas and experiences into practical improved KM processes, methods, tools and techniques.
Step 3 Taking our own medicine
The next step was for the CKO and the KM team to start to implement our own KM Consulting methodology (as available on this website) within our own organisation.
In essence we created a KM Strategy that strongly linked to the new business transformation and new business objectives, and contained:
▪ a vision of the new webcentric organisation to be communicated and created
▪ an assessment of where we currently were
▪ an identification of our key knowledge assets to manage and measure
▪ a both 'top down' and 'bottom up' strategy and action plan, with key performance indicators, to achieving our vision.
For us, the key knowledge areas to manage were identified as:
▪ Customer and Industry sector knowledge
▪ Knowledge of the best KM processes, methods, tools and techniques
▪ Developing the knowledge management and knowledge working competencies and skills of our consultants
▪ Best and most successful Knowledge (Management) driven organisations
We set ourselves the target to develop and capture all of the above knowledge explicitly in knowledge bases, in the first instance, as a first version of what we best knew and could then best apply, within a year.
We set ourselves a target to then embed the new KM processes within our work practices and support knowledge communities, (or communities of practice)to be able to then share new knowledge faster and to be able to better 'surface and harvest' the new learnings and ideas in the networks as they occured, critically review them, and turn them into improved knowledge. Out time target for this was within the following two years. Overall we set ourselves a three year plan.
More to follow shortly
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