Interview d'expert : Nick Milton & Tom Young, Knoco Ltd., UK

Nick Milton    Tom Young

What is your vision on Knowledge Management future ? What do you think the main trends are today and will be in the next years ?

Nick: I think the main trend I see that is closest to my vision, is that KM is becoming a requirement from big companies, who are increasingly requesting that their suppliers and subcontractors develop or demonstrate a capability in KM. This will lead to the mainstreaming of KM.

Tom: I agree, it will take the big companies to make it a requirement of their suppliers and partners to drive it forward.  Thankfully we are already seeing signs of this happening.

Nick: I also see a confusion between content management, information management, social networking, and other elements of KM. Each of these is pulling in a different direction, and there is no integrating model to unify them. I also see a tendency to apply western Km theories to non-western cultures.

Tom: There is very significant confusion between content management, information management, social networking , web 2.0 etc etc which is leading to what I would term as an ‘un informed buyer’; they ask for ‘knowledge management’ but they don’t know what it is, what it can do and more especially what they want it to do for them.  I am not suggesting we need a global definition of ‘knowledge management’ that would be too hard but a better understanding of what each of the other terms mean.
Forcing western models of KM on non western cultures is leading to disappointing results which could backfire on all future km projects.  If a lot of organizations say ‘it didn’t work for us’ people will only hear that message, they won’t think to ask, why not?

How organizations can use Knowledge Management to improve their competitiveness and optimize their businesses results? And what are the main expected benefits?

Nick: Introduce a Knowledge Management Framework. The KM framework approach developed at Knoco is our compilation of nearly 20 years of experience in this field, and represents what we believe is the best approach. The framework is described on the wiki and the website
Introducing a framework is the key at corporate level, introducing knowledge management plans is key at project level

Benefits vary from organization to organization, but may include:

  • Lower cost
  • Higher profit
  • Higher market share
  • Better use of resources
  • Faster delivery
  • Faster time to market
  • Safer operation
  • More environmentally compliant operation
  • Happier stakeholders
  • Greater success rate in development, And so on...

What are your recommendations to start an effective Knowledge Management project and its successful roll-out?

Nick: These recommendations are fully documented in our wiki, and again represent our experience over the years. A very brief summary would be :

  • Assess the current state
  • Develop a business led strategy
  • Test the elements of a KM framework
  • Pilot the entire framework
  • Roll out the framework

In your opinion, what are the major hurdle to overcome and the pitfalls to avoid?

Nick: The 7 most common pitfalls are in this blog post. In summary these are :

  1. KM is not introduced as a change program
  2. The KM team does not have the right people to deliver change. Tom : they create a km team with IT people
  3. The KM team preach only to the choir. Tom : they only talk to km team and people who are interested in km, not to people in the business who want to solve business problems
  4. Only parts of the KM solution are implemented. Tom : framework approach is needed...
  5. KM is never embedded into the business
  6. There is no effective high-level sponsorship
  7. KM is not introduced with a business focus.

Nick: the major cultural hurdles are in this blog post. In summary these are :

  • Knowledge is power
  • Building empires
  • Individual work bias/Local focus
  • Not invented here
  • Fear of "not knowing"
  • Penalising errors
  • No time to share

The main missing enabling and elements are mentioned here.

Nick: Most common enablers :

  • Most companies had a good selection of technology for communicating knowledge - i.e. for enabling dialogue and discussion to exchange tacit knowledge. (This element scored an average of 3.3 on a 1-5 scale, in our same dataset of 28 companies)
  • Most companies also had pretty good processes for knowledge identification and capture, whether these were after action reviews, project debriefs, or debriefs of individuals. (An average score of 3.1)

Most common missing elements :

  • Many or most companies had no way of checking whether knowledge management was being applied - in other words, no performance management of KM(An average score of 1.9 on a 1-5 scale). If it's not managed, it remains options, and if it's optional, many people will opt out. We find that 80% of people in an organisation don't care about KM, and unless it is seen as part of the job, they won't bother.
  • Also many or most companies had no clear accountabilities assigned to ensuring that knowledge is reused (An average score of 2.1). They might be very good at "knowledge capture" or "knowledge sharing", but if it's nobody's role to ensure re-use, then the capture and sharing is wasted effort.

Do you think there are cultural specificities on Knowledge Management maturity depending on your geographical location?

A short overview is below :

  Maturity of KM Culture Approach to KM
USA V high High individuality, low power distance Heavily technology-focused
UK V high High individuality, low power distance Communities of practice, learning from experience
Scandinavia V high Moderate individuality, very low power distance Communities of practice, learning from experience
India Medium High power distance Totally dominated by portals
Middle east Medium to low Very high power distance, low individuality Early days, but looks like rigid systems focused on learning and on knowledge ownership, dominated by experts and heirarchy
Indonesia/Malaysia /Thailand Medium to low Low individuality, high power distance A portal–led approach
China Very low Low individuality, high power distance Impossible to say yet
Russia Very low    
Japan, Singapore High Low individuality, high power distance Relationship focused
Brazil/Argentina/Chile moderate med power distance, low individuality Expert-dominated
Australia High High individuality, low power distance Based on relationships and storytelling

Also see here :
- KM and national culture 1 - UK and Thailand/Malaysia
- KM and national culture 2 - Australia and South Africa
- KM and national culture 3 - Scandinavia and South America