Interview d'expert : Jean-Louis ERMINE, Directeur de l'innovation, TELECOM Business School, FR

Jean-Yves BARBIER    

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

Ten years ago, some polemical articles developped the idea that two KM strategies compete on the basis of culture, history, nature of business, etc.

  • - A strategy of codification, by codifying knowledge into information (database, document databases, semi-structured data...)
     
  • - A strategy of socialization, by managing knowledge flows through people. Tacit exchanges.

According to that theory, organizations should choose one or the other of these strategies, the two of them being incompatible. Yet studies show that companies works in a 50/50 mode, depending on their nature, their culture, etc. For instance a company with a strong engineering culture will be more in the codification while a consulting company will use the socialization model. In the future, I think that KM will be a mix of both strategies, using different tools, methods and strategic management. Codification and socialization, both strategies are operative. The two approaches are not opposed but complementary!
 

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

There are two ways to deal with KM in companies:

  • - The defensive one: it consists in preventing the risk of loss of skills (for instance, developed countries are going to lose 40% of their workforce in the next 10 years because of massive retirement, that necessarily implies some knowledge loss) or no strategy of skills management (no strategic analysis of the knowledge portfolio, no anticipation, see Kodak for the digital photography for instance).
     
  • - The Offensive one:
  • > improving productivity: An OECD Study shows that companies that make KM a strategic priority increase their productivity.
  • > enhancing the economic value with Knowledge Capital: stock market appreciate companies that have an important Intangible Capital, including Knowledge Assets.
  • > improving the competitiveness: definitely, market shares are now conquered with knowledge and innovation in products and services.

To answer the question How?: It is necessary to initiate a “KM virtuous cycle” in four steps:

  1. Strategic analysis of the knowledge portfolio: mapping of Critical and Strategic Knowledge
  2. Knowledge capitalization: creating a structured repository of accessible, shared, scalable knowledge portfolio, codification and socialization… in short a “Knowledge Business Plan”.
  3. Knowledge Sharing: designing social tools, learning tools, etc.
  4. Innovation: designing an Innovation platform based on the knowledge repository.

The KM Virtuous Cycle is a process loop which enables the renewal of knowledge portfolio.


We just talked about the business benefits on a global perspective, but what are the benefits for employees?

There are benefits at all levels, not only for managers and stakeholders. It is essential to integrate the employees in the full cycle (strategic, operational, innovation). Benefits may be not enough recognized but they are real:

  • - Employees need recognition of their knowledge, their skills, their function…
     
  • - They love to share: "Knowledge shared is knowledge squared"
     
  • - They don’t necessarily experienced sharing as a loss of power
     
  • - They need Self-accomplishment within their job

For instance, in some engineering companies, there are “levels of expertise” patterns that rewards the knowledge contribution of employees. Thanks to this kind of approach, people can be recognized for the value of their knowledge which is very rewarding. The problem is that companies which only think about the bottom-line, the production process, don’t often realize it. Other type of benefits can be reached through KM: Customer Knowledge Management for instance provides better knowledge of customers to improve customer relationships management…


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

For the project deployment, organizations should adopt the “Water Lily strategy”. The water lily evokes a well known childish riddle: « a water lily doubles its surface every day, if it already took forty days to cover half of the pond, how many days are needed to cover the entire pond? ». An imprudent and too fast answer would be « eighty days» while considering that as much time is necessary to cover one half that the other. This answer neglects the water lily nature and the initial hypothesis! If you transcribe this riddle in term of project management, it may be: « a KM project is expensive, if the project costs 40 M€ to cover the needs for managing half of the Knowledge Capital, how much will be needed for managing the entire Knowledge Capital?». The linear extrapolation of costs will answer undoubtedly rather toward 80 M€ than 41M€! One doesn't have the habit to evoke the hypothesis of the water lily in this kind of problem.

Yet a KM project is not linear, but of exponential growth. The overall cost benefit from experience. Small projects that succeed are then spread within the organization. The Water Lilly is a strategy with constant effort and exponential results. My recommendation: when it comes to KM, do not use a “roadmap” strategy it does not work! Organizations must instead start small. It is the best way to include the change process, incentive factors, and the emergence phenomenon in complex systems. Organizations will also need the commitment of the top management. The benefits multiply with a constant energy injection.
In short: Start too small!


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

  • - 1st trap: "everything is information". > KM is NOT information management and information tools are not enough.
     
  • - 2nd trap: assigning the KM strategy to HR only. > HR must work with other departments (strategy, information systems, quality, operationnal department…) and with “field people” as it is from them that most KM requests come…
     
  • - 3rd trap: starting too big at the beginning of the project
     
  • - 4th trap: "we have always done it this way" so the usual tools (training, documentation, database, talent management, etc.) are enough. > It is completely untrue because we have entered the new era of knowledge economy and must make the transition from knowledge as an “handicraft” to knowledge as an “industry”. The issue is historically new as, for instance, the extent of the aging population in the scale of humanity. The importance of knowledge in the economy also has a new dimension therefore is no longer handled with traditional tools. That’s why KM has to be reviewed in new perspectives, to be optimized and developed.



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

For sure !

For example: there are socialization countries (e.g. Latin cultures) and codification countries (e.g. northern developed countries). The issues do not arise in the same way depending on countries. Depending on their historical situation, there are different approaches to the problem. For instance in India there is plenty of young people. For them, the main problem is "the last mile problem": they possess the knowledge, but 1 billion people need to be trained so for them this is more an issue of knowledge dissemination. In the Industrialized countries we have exactly the opposite: we are going to lose 40% of our workforce in the next 10 years therefore it’s more a knowledge preservation issue…

Interview d'expert : Nicolas NADAL, IBM Global Services, FRANCE

Nicolas NADAL    

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

Quoting Jean Pierre Le Goff, sociologist,  “Knowledge, techniques and competencies are continuously renewing themselves, and time seems too short to adapt oneself”. There is a challenge because knowledge takes years or even centuries to harvest and digest. Indeed management means nowadays short term overexploiting of resources. What’s the sake for a manager to invest in knowledge in his entity while he is going to move to another job role or company in the following two years?

So the trends today are: knowledge management is shrinking in most organizations, and the tendency is to try and google or source or crowdsource what you need to know at little or no cost. The overall result will be obviously poor or of ill-omen. In a few areas, knowledge centers will specialize and attract knowledgeable people. A little like middle-ages universities or monasteries.

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

They must select who to ask for important questions, whether internal or external. They must use technology watch (ranging on all continents and cultures).

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

First thing you can ask is:

- Do you believe sincerely a tool (e.g. Web 2.0) will solve your problems and that people will capitalize knowledge just because you said so?

- Is it mission critical or some desirable or fashionable purpose?

- What are you ready to invest in terms of time, money? Who will capitalize and drive others to do so? Which effort-recognition are you going to provide?

Well if the management can answer these questions and is ready to persist over time, you can face launching a project. If not, forget it.


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

The short-term, overexploiting management tends by nature to limit time spent on knowledge. The term “management” implies knowledge is something that must be “managed”. Why is it then that “management” often ends up being inefficient?


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

Knowledge brings social status as much as money, which is a good thing to begin with.

Interview d'expert : Jens Øjvind Nielsen, CEO LeadingCapacity ApS, DANEMARK

Jens Ojvind Nielsen    

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

Collaboration and improved performance...
 

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

- Faster implementation of changed business procedures and methods
- Lower costs per delivered unit
- Reduced risk in projects


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

- Convince top management about the feasibility on KM and commit them to their role in their new learning organization
- Select an important pilot and execute with success
- Delegate KM support/management to a qualified change manager


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

- To get priority for a long term strategy
- Risks related to the focusing on organisational learning competing with other needed efforts
- Yes - we have allready a learning organization
- Managing by cost budget in public organisations may be a hinder for commitment to learning and performance improvement


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

Yes – some cultures focused historically on IT-environments and failed. High power distance may limit delegation of learning power and horizontal communication

 

Interview d'expert : Jean-Yves BARBIER, Ecole Polytechnique, FRANCE

Jean-Yves BARBIER    

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

The rise of Knowledge Management (KM) in the 90’s was, according to me, tightly connected with project management. Seen as a response to an accelerated competitive environment, project management started to change the way organizations use knowledge.
In the years 2000, Internet and networking tools, by creating a real collective mind, deeply changed the practice and speed of knowledge creation and management. From a hierarchical and analytical way of dealing with knowledge, we start moving to a more fuzzy and intuitive knowledge management pattern.
I think, in the next decade, two main trends will be essential :  instant everywhere access to  quite all explicit knowledge will shape a new scheme of interaction between humans ;  and  thanks to neurocognitive science research progress,  we will upgrade our understanding of the tacit dimension of knowledge and its unconscious part, seen as a core competency regarding creativity and innovation.
 

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

What we could call : “KM compass” in project management is  “to aim locking a degree of freedom only when having raised optimal  Knowledge level”, as put by Midler (1993)[i]. Project management and its core teams patterns focus more on multi-dimensional shared visions and ability to create a learning trajectory. Dassault System 3D conception software’s efficiency is based on this statement : to see the same things !

To leverage competitiveness i.e nowadays largely an ability to create competitive advantages through innovation, companies can thus turn to this spiraling model of product conception. Arising against classical, more sequential, profession based processes where the emphasis is put on field expertise, the spiraling model aims to speed up interactions as the best shortcuts to support innovation.
Another channel is to learn from creative industries their manner to manage creativity and talents. Paris (2011)[ii], for instance, focuses since many years on how to create organizational environments and disposals to foster business oriented creativity.

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

First, you have “to know what you know” and this is really a huge problem. That means creating a kind of datacenter automatically alimented with business datas, in which your teams can share information and knowledge.
But, as put by Cholle (2011)[iii], intuitive intelligence (80% of our cognitive process is done by our unconsciousness) is as important as rational and analytical approaches. So, your KM needs to care about the tacit dimension of knowledge, uneasy to catch, difficult to deal with, but critical when regarding performative interactions.



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

One of the major hurdles to overcome is surprisingly just reaching a clear diagnosis about KM potential, as we generally make confusion about data, information and knowledge on the one hand, and on the other hand, underestimate the role of tacit knowledge. Then, as knowledge is power, the risk of sharing and its organizational impact in terms of management is always a concern. But the biggest risk is certainly to avoid the KM subject.
The best way to address KM stakes is may be to rely on external tools specialists, creating a partnership that has three advantages : 1) staying neutral regarding power distribution, 2) improving maturity of KM schemes and disposals, 3) having a clear vision of the “self-acting” dimensions of tools when introduced into organizations - and that’ s essential !
To improve our skills to tap into things we know but we don’t know we are knowing”, I’ve proposed a matrix to understand how to leverage tacit knowledge in business situations, by paying attention to the type of managerial mandate (Barbier,2005)[iv]. This model was applied for instance to French clusters (Barbier, 2009)[v].


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

In France, land of Descartes, we are certainly overestimating explicit knowledge. We could certainly learn a lot from oriental civilizations and even from so called “ancient primitive societies”.

[i] Midler C. (1993), L’Auto qui n’existait pas, management des projets et transformation de l’entreprise, Dunod, Paris

[ii] Paris T. (2010), Manager la créativité. Innover en s'inspirant de Pixar, Ducasse, les Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Hermès...

[iii]Cholle F. (2011), The intuitive compass : why the best decisions balance reason and instinct, Wiley.

[iv]Barbier J.-Y. (2005), Breaking the tacit dimension : the double helix of knowledge creation, Passion for knowning Colloquium, Trento, Italy.

[v] Barbier J.-Y. (2009),  « Comment modéliser la dynamique collaborative des pôles de compétitivité pour orienter les politiques publiques : une approche par la connaissance tacite », XVIIIe Conférence Internationale de Management Stratégique, Grenoble, 3-5 juin.

Interview d'expert : Stephanie Barnes, Chief Chaos Organizer, Missing Puzzle Piece Consulting, CANADA

Stephanie BARNES    

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

My vision on the future of Knowledge Management is one that sees it integrated in the normal, everyday operations of all organizations and that uses supporting technology efficiently and effectively. The trends today seem to be towards the socialization of knowledge; I think that will continue over the next few years.

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

The benefits of Knowledge Management are widespread but often intangible and hard to measure. This makes Knowledge Management a difficult activity for many to understand and implement. This intangibility is one of the reasons why, in the early years of Knowledge Management becoming a discipline, IT vendors and indeed organizations latched on to technology as the solution to the problem. Technology makes Knowledge Management tangible, people could see it and understand it, but technology by itself is not the answer. Implementations that focused on technology largely failed as Akhavan (2005), et al identified in article entitled, “Exploring Failure-Factors of Implementing Knowledge Management Systems in Organizations.” Technology is only an enabler. It is the people and processes that are critical. It is the intersection of all three: People, Process, and Technology that leads to the most significant payoffs and benefits for organizations.

One of the biggest benefits of any Knowledge Management system is making available information and knowledge from the rest of the organization. Whether we are talking about business intelligence, CRM, expertise location, records management, enterprise content management, portals, blogs, collaboration, or any other KM technology, they all make knowledge available to improve consistency and standardization in processes, and enhance decision-making. This often results in staff delivering better quality products and services as they are not re-inventing the wheel every time they have to do something.


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

Understand what problem the organization needs to solve/resolve and consider how to align people, process, and technology with the organization’s strategy in order to solve the challenge/problem that was identified, using knowledge management activities.


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

Silos

Silos are created when too much emphasis is placed on a single activity whether it’s the Technology, People, or Process to the exclusion of the other two key success activities. For example, focusing on technology and ignoring the people and process part of the programme. Technology is easy to focus on, but it only addresses one of three keys to success.  Developing and implementing people and process initiatives in conjunction with the technology will enable the success of the over-all initiative. By ignoring people and process activities, an organization will have another technology platform that is underutilized.

People/groups not participating

There is always a risk of people/groups not participating, i.e. they will create their own local solutions or will just not participate and that they will continue in their less efficient and effective behaviours. Lack of participation also results in a sub-optimal solution being rolled out, having user input is critical to designing a solution that will be user-friendly, and address pain points helping rather than hindering people’s ability to do their jobs.

Loss of momentum

Loss of momentum occurs when the excitement, enthusiasm, and interest built up in the requirements phase of the project is lost due to delays in selecting and implementing the technology or otherwise moving forward with the KM initiative. At the early stages people are interested and involved, but it is easy for them to lose that focus and commitment /enthusiasm and transfer it to other initiatives.

Passion to lead KM

Not identifying someone with the capacity, commitment and passion to lead the initiative. The KM initiative is not technically difficult but there are significant risks around how it is led, developed and implemented because people have to change their behaviours; facilitating/championing this change requires passion and commitment on the part of the leader. It needs to be someone who has credibility with both management and front-line workers. It also needs to be someone who is senior enough in the organization to have positional power, i.e. someone with influence and visibility.

Link to the business case is lost

Losing the link to the business case is a risk, especially when KM has been viewed as a quick fix for a problem or if a solid business reason for KM is not established. It is critical that the focus remains on solving the business issues that gave rise to this KM initiative in the first place. Losing that link will result in a lack of direction and potential failure of the initiative.

Organizational Culture

The culture of the organization can result in implementation issues and failure. The culture must be taken into consideration and factored into in the change management activities for the programme through communication, and rewards and recognition initiatives.

Sponsorship

There is a risk that sponsorship of the initiative will not be clear and directed. Should the programme lose its sponsorship or that sponsorship wane, the programme will be in jeopardy. It is important that people understand the management team supports and endorses the initiative.


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

Yes, and depending on the culture of the organization, and the individual teams within the organization.

 

Interview d'expert : Pascal Bernardon, Directeur de Programme KM, FRANCE

Pascal BERNARDON    

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

In my opinion, I think Knowledge Management is going to be more valued by companies. The economic context provides the real value of knowledge and skills used every day by employees, team managers have to explore different ways to achieve their goals, customers claim more agility to get the right service at the right moment for the right price. So to get or to save more customers, companies would have to manage and improve every day their Knowledge Networks. A Knowledge Network is an environment in wich people share and capitalize connections that provide access to the right item, employee, process, information, supplier, customer. In other words, I call this environment the RELATIONSHIP ECONOMY.
 

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

First organizations have to launch pragmatic actions to demonstrate the benefits, to become aware of the organisational change, and to involve more business communities in future Projects. Change managment has to be built by everybody, everyday, and become a new behavior in the culture of the organization. Knowledge Management is a new way to work with all stakeholders, KM gives the power to empower business communities. The big challenge is to know what is the right knowledge I could use to be more efficient. And the right knowledge is the cognitive trigger to extract, to capitalise, to share and to improve everyytime it is necessary.

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

To be pragmatic, to begin with a little project, to put in place an open-minded environment where skateholders could exchange with complete transparancy. Do not forget to put in place measurement criterias in accordance with business work unit to demonstrate benefits.


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

To forget to put in place an individual and a collective, and a internal and external reward system.


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

Oh yes, the culture of the organization is one major point to manage at the beginning of the project. On the same subject the approach and the meaning of each stakeholders  is often different. The community manager has to foster exchanges between members of the community to build a common language and meaning share by everybody. Then the mutlicultural community is able to build knowledge capitalisation and transfers.

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

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