In this post I would like to share insights on;
- When to move from a central to a de-centralised team
- What does success look like for the KM team verses the business
When to move from a centralised to a de-centralised team. This client like most organisations started with a centralised KM team. The work progressed well, results were delivered and everyone was happy. However the majority of the organisation was organised around business units and there was always a tension to split up the team and embed them in the individual business units. The team successfully resisted that pressure until one of the key players left the team (I think they move back into their original line position). The pressure built up until inevitably the team was split up and individuals were embedded in the individual business units.
The plan was that while they were sitting in their individual business unit assisting them to deliver their business objectives, the knowledge management people would operate as a community of practice and support each other even if they weren’t sitting together.
While this was a good idea in principle it lacked one vital ingredient, a community charter. There was no formal agreement on how they work together, behaviours, technology, goals or work focus. Slow but surely the group started to fragment; ‘friends’ helped each other while ignoring others. Approaches to implementation of KM and even application of processes started to become ad hoc; some business units continued to make significant progress while others downgraded KM to an almost non existent status.
Within a relatively short period of time at a company level KM didn’t exist, at best it existed in isolated pockets in individual business units. There was no coordination, everything was ad hoc, the company had lost the benefit of its initial investment.
An incident happened that demonstrated to senior management that knowledge and experience was not being transferred across the organisation and as a result a new group was established as the ‘corporate’ KM team to overseas the work of the individual business unit KM teams. Even if you wish to de-centralise your KM effort, having a corporate team to provide assurance and governance is highly beneficial.
What does success look like for the KM team verses the business. When this company started on it’s KM journey, the focus was very much on improving business outcomes. The vast majority of the KM team’s objectives were associated with or described how they were going to work with the business to assist them to either deliver their objectives or improve their productivity / efficiency / safety record. Everyone was highly focused and aligned on what was to be achieved.
Then something called the MAKE Awards appeared and suddenly the KM team wanted to achieve something that they business had no interest in. There were some very interesting meetings at which both sides fought their corner;
- "MAKE Award winners have consistently higher share prices"
- "I don’t care if we win a MAKE Award, I want help increasing our market share"
- "What are the workforce going to be more interested in, we won a MAKE Award or we are going to invest in this project"
- "It will be a public recognition that we are doing the right thing"
- And so on.
The KM Steering Team summarised the position as “Are we doing KM to be the best in the world at KM or are we doing KM to be the best company in the world? After that the focus reverted to assisting the business achieve it’s goals but to a certain extent trust had been lost between the KM team and the business unit leaders and the pressure to disband the central team and embed them in the individual business units intensified.
Balancing the needs of the KM team and the line business is a careful juggling act. Sure if you are the head of KM, winning a MAKE Award is a big thing for you and your team but you have to balance that with ensuring that your main customer, the line businesses believe that you are fully committed to the successful out come of their objective.
I would highly recommend that you view and then re-use this video “How to implement knowledge management in anorganisation”