Originally published on June 1, 2016
This is the last in a series of posts on the steps to follow for starting a KM program. From Implementing a Successful KM Program:
- Create a Top 3 Objectives List of challenges and opportunities which your KM program will address. These objectives align business direction with program goals.
- Provide 9 Answers to questions about people, process, and technology. This information defines who will participate, which processes will be required, and how tools will support the people and processes.
- Define the KM Strategy. These are specific actions which will be taken to implement the program.
- Gain the sponsorship of your senior executive through The 10 Commitments. These commitments from the leader of your organization will enable the KM strategy to be implemented.
- Create and execute the Implementation Plan. Spell out the details of implementing the KM initiative, and then follow through on those details.
The implementation plan should include the following content:
- A. Program governance
- B. Desired modes of knowledge flow
- C. People, process, and technology component selection
Each one of these needs to be followed as part of implementing the overall plan. It will be useful to create the implementation plan as a presentation which can be given to leaders and participants in the KM program. It should be published on an easily-accessible web site.
A. Define program governance
Define how the KM program will be governed. This includes:
- Roles and job descriptions for KM leaders, project leaders, and knowledge assistants
- Composition of program staff, virtual teams, and leader communities
- Objectives and schedules for recurring conference calls and meetings
- Processes for creating and updating the plan of record and schedules for implementation, new releases, and reporting
- Process for decision making
1. Roles and job descriptions for KM leaders, project leaders, and knowledge assistants
A knowledge manager should be assigned to lead the KM efforts of an entire organization, or any group within an organization. In this role, they will be the KM leader for their group. In the ideal case, this is a full-time job, but in some cases for smaller groups, it may be a part-time role.
Appoint an organization KM leader, and group KM leaders for each key group within the organization. Groups include regions, large countries, business units, functions, and major work teams.
Depending on the size of the organization and the available resources, project leaders should be assigned to lead the key efforts included in the implementation plan. Project leaders should report directly to the KM leader for the organization.
The project leaders should work closely together as a team. Projects will regularly overlap between these categories, but assign one team member as the leader for each, and enable and lead collaboration on a regular basis.
A project leader needs to perform the following tasks.
- Define, maintain, and implement their portion of the plan of record for the assigned area of responsibility. This provides the details of the projects planned and being worked on.
- Report regularly on progress. This keeps other members of the KM community informed on the latest status and the availability of future enhancements.
- Resolve problems in the assigned area of responsibility. This provides the response to users who report difficulties, malfunctions, and unacceptable performance.
- Actively participate in communities. This allows desired behaviors to be modeled and connections to be made with users.
- Network with KM leaders and other project leaders. Use social networks to be aware of prevailing conditions and to be responsive to needs.
If possible, appoint project leaders for people, process, and technology projects. If this is not possible, combine categories based on the backgrounds of the project leaders. Make the extra effort to select strong candidates with solid reputations, since the work that is performed (or not performed) by these people will determine in large part how the overall KM initiative is perceived.
The people project leader serves as the liaison from the KM team to the Human Resources organization to coordinate all HR development and support for KM. They are responsible for all people components from the Top 50 list.
The process project leader serves as the liaison from the KM team to the operations organization to coordinate all business process and methodology development and support for KM. They are responsible for all process components from the Top 50 list.
The technology project leader serves as the liaison from the KM team to the Information Technology organization to coordinate all IT development and support for KM. They are responsible for KM tools, including all technology components from the Top 50 list.
Providing a human connection to knowledge sources is important to the success of a KM program. Relying only on automated resources leaves open the possibility that some users may not be able to take advantage of what is available. Knowledge assistants provide support to users by phone or email.
A knowledge assistant needs to perform the following tasks.
- Help users learn about and use the Top 50 Knowledge Management Components. Provide consulting on processes and tools.
- Facilitate collaboration. Connect people to others who can help them or whom they can help.
- Direct users to the right knowledge sources based on their specific needs. Locate relevant knowledge resources.
- Assist users in searching for content and knowledge. Find reusable content.
- Actively offer assistance to work teams. Engage by contacting users, not just waiting for requests to arrive.
- Review content submitted to repositories for compliance to quality standards, and follow up as required to improve quality.
- Solicit user feedback. Direct feedback to the right person within the KM team.
- Conduct training. Create and record self-paced courses.
- Search for information to help meet deadlines. Send search results to users who are not connected to the network.
- Network with other knowledge assistants. Back each other up. Help respond to requests. Take over open requests at the end of the work day based on being in different time zones.
Good knowledge assistants need to be able to relate to others and put them at ease. They should have good communications skills, be able to quickly learn about tools and processes, and be eager to be of help to users. They should have experience in one or more of the following areas: knowledge management, collaboration, help desks, intranet/Internet searching, and peer-to-peer networking.
Appoint an organization knowledge assistant leader to coordinate efforts between all other knowledge assistants. This can be a role assigned to one of the KM leaders in addition to their other duties.
Assign additional knowledge assistants for each key group within the organization. Groups include regions, large countries, business units, functions, and major work teams.
2. Composition of program staff, virtual teams, and leader communities
To manage the KM program, engage the constituents, and ensure alignment with the Top 3 Objectives, the following teams and communities are recommended.
Program Staff: A work team with formal reporting lines. It manages projects, resolves problems, and reports progress. It includes the organization KM leader and the project leaders.
Core Team: A virtual team, by invitation of the organization KM leader. It sets the direction of the organization program, debates issues candidly, and makes decisions. It includes the program staff and the group KM leaders.
Knowledge Assistant Team: A virtual team, by invitation of the organization knowledge assistant leader. It monitors trends, manages performance, and facilitates backup in responding to requests. It includes the organization knowledge assistant leader and all knowledge assistants.
Group Teams (e.g., for a region or business unit): Virtual teams, by invitation of the group KM leader. They set the direction of the group program, debate issues candidly, and make decisions. They include the group KM leader, all KM leaders within the group, and all knowledge assistants within the group.
KM Community: A leader community, open to all within the organization. Its purpose is to share, innovate, reuse, collaborate, learn, communicate, solicit input, and provide feedback on knowledge management. It includes the core team, all other KM leaders, and all knowledge assistants.
For the program staff, hire strong project leaders. For the core team, influence the managers in the groups to hire strong KM leaders. For the knowledge assistant community, ask all knowledge assistants to participate. For the group teams, the group KM leaders should influence the managers in the sub-groups (departments, countries, etc.) to hire strong KM leaders. For the KM community, reach out to as many people as possible who are involved with or have a passion for KM and invite them to join.
Here are three examples of possible group teams.
- European KM Team: Sub-groups are countries within Europe and region-level teams.
- Human Resources KM Team: Sub-groups are functions within HR, such as training, organization development, compensation, etc.
- Services KM Team: Sub-groups are business units within Services, such as consulting, outsourcing, and support.
Create collaborative team spaces for the core team, knowledge assistant team, all group teams, and for the KM community. Create a threaded discussion for the KM community, and discourage any KM discussions from taking place outside of this one. Funnel all knowledge sharing, requests for help, and general KM communications through this single threaded discussion. And use it to model behavior for community leadership, participation, and communications.
3. Objectives and schedules for recurring conference calls and meetings
When you have formed KM teams and communities, you need to decide how and when to meet. Before scheduling calls and meetings, define the objectives for meeting.
Here are suggested objectives from which to select:
- communicate progress
- receive feedback on work
- solicit inputs on future direction
- educate and inform about new ideas, industry trends, and what other organizations are doing
- stimulate discussions
- make decisions
- initiate pilots
- evaluate prototypes
- collaborate on analyzing information, solving problems, and innovating
- share good ideas, success stories, and lessons learned to encourage reuse
After you select your objectives, poll the members of each team with three possible meeting frequencies and durations, and ask them to vote based on their preferences. For example, a weekly 60-minute conference call, a biweekly 90-minute conference call, or a monthly 120-minute conference call.
Once you decide on the frequency and duration of calls, use whatever technology is available to you to make the entire process as smooth as possible. Consider the following possibilities:
- Use the integration between Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint to create a meeting space for the calls and send out recurring meeting invitations.
- Choose a conference call provider who can cover the countries of the team members with reasonably-priced dial-in numbers.
- Use tools such as Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet for video conferencing.
- Record the calls and provide playback on demand via the intranet or dial-in.
- Use a virtual meeting room tool for presentations, white board use, and live demonstrations.
- Post the meeting agendas to the team space, along with copies of presentations and links to virtual meeting rooms.
- See Low-Tech Webinars are the Most Reliable for additional suggestions.
Here are some keys to making regular conference calls successful.
- Work hard to ensure that the calls are lively by carefully creating agendas, stimulating discussions, and asking questions.
- Schedule dynamic guest speakers, both internal and external.
- Allow any member to add items to the agendas for future calls.
- If agendas don’t fill up, suggest topics and speakers until they do.
- Moderate the calls to ensure no background noise, adherence to agenda times, and to regulate discussions.
After the calls have been held for a few months, tune the schedule, duration, and content. You may need to increase or decrease frequency and/or duration. Don’t hesitate to do so. This reflects being adaptable, one of the attributes of a good knowledge manager.
One of The 10 Commitments is: Ensure that all KM leaders have the time to do a good job in the role and are allowed to meet in person once a year. And one of the Top 10 Priorities is: Get the senior executive to live up to The 10 Commitments. This priority includes: Submit a proposal for the first annual meeting. Another of the Top 10 Priorities is: Hold annual worldwide face-to-face meetings to get all KM leaders informed, energized, and collaborating. Top 10 Priorities has further details on how the meeting should be structured.
Once your KM community has been formed and met by phone a few times, you can ask them for their inputs on when, where, and for how long to have the first face-to-face meeting. Try to include as many of the key KM leaders as possible, but limit the total attendance to no more than 50 to keep the meeting manageable.
If possible, try to rotate the meeting location between different parts of the country or world. To take advantage of the meeting location, invite as many KM leaders who will incur low travel expenses to attend. For example, when meeting in Europe, invite the KM leaders from all of the European countries, but only a few key leaders from other regions.
4. Processes for creating and updating the plan of record and schedules for implementation, new releases, and reporting
The project leaders are responsible for defining, maintaining, and implementing their portion of the plan of record for their assigned areas of responsibility, and reporting regularly on progress. Based on the results of user surveys; inputs from the KM community; and the details in the Top 3 Objectives List, the 9 Answers, and the KM Strategy, each project leader should select three key projects to lead.
Here are three sets of examples of possible selections.
1. Example: Public Sector Organization
- Embed KM goals and measurements into the employee review process.
- Develop and deliver training courses, self-paced modules, user guides, and admin guides.
- Conduct employee satisfaction surveys to measure progress and identify needed improvements.
- Develop a KM Management of Change plan and help implement it.
- Define a governance process for repositories and libraries — how content is captured, improved and reused.
- Implement a collaboration process for project teams.
- Define an overall information architecture and data model.
- Make it easy to join all communities by clicking on a single button.
- Implement a data warehouse for self-service KM indicator reporting.
2. Example: Manufacturing Company
- Coordinate a series of regional KM webinars.
- Develop, pilot, and roll out an incentive program.
- Publish a monthly newsletter.
- Develop a quality improvement plan for repository content.
- Implement a process for creating and maintaining a standard taxonomy.
- Implement a process to identify and designate proven practices.
- Automate data flows from business systems to repositories to reduce the need for redundant data entry.
- Provide an offline capability for repository content.
- Implement a prototype social software tool for personal home pages and social networking.
3. Example: Systems Integration Firm
- Improve KM web sites and develop new user interfaces that map to different views.
- Develop and implement a plan to improve employee satisfaction.
- Increase participation in communities and threaded discussions.
- Implement a capture process for software source code.
- Implement a reuse process for proposal management.
- Define a process for creating and updating sales kits.
- Integrate repository search with corporate intranet search and add localized search capability.
- Add external access to collaborative team spaces for customers and partners.
- Automate archival of content from team spaces and repositories.
In the recurring core team conference calls, include a regular time slot on the agenda for reviewing each project leader’s portion of the plan of record. The plans should be updated prior to the scheduled calls, including implementation schedule details, timing and features of new releases, and reasons for any schedule changes.
The overall plan of record should be maintained on an easily-accessible web site. It should include the implementation schedule, the new release schedule, the reporting schedule, the change management plan, the training and communications plan, the standard employee goals, the organizational measurements, and the standard taxonomy.
The core team should decide on the details for reporting. These should include which metrics to report, the targets for each metric, the format of reports, what level of detail and how granular reports should be, to whom reports will be distributed, where reports will be stored, how frequently reports will be produced, who will produce reports, how and when to revise metrics and targets, and how to produce custom reports.
5. Process for decision making
The core team should decide on the details for decision making. These should include a change request process, a process for setting priorities, a voting process, when consensus is needed and when it is not needed, and a conflict resolution process.
Here is an example of a decision making process.
- Change request process: KM leaders can submit requests using a form on the team space.
- Process for setting priorities: The core team meets once a month and ranks all current and proposed projects.
- Voting process: Voting is done using a poll on the team space.
- When consensus is needed, and when it is not needed: Major changes to the user interface require consensus of the core team. Minor changes do not.
- Conflict resolution process: The organization KM leader resolves all conflicts in any of the virtual teams.
Decisions should be made with as much diversity of opinion, debate, and discussion as is reasonable. Whenever a consensus among the core team can be achieved, that is desirable. But when there is no consensus, after an appropriate amount of discussion, the organization KM leader should make decisions so that progress is not stalled.
How the KM program is governed is critical to its success. Without strong leaders, representation from all constituent groups, regular calls and meetings, and effective processes for planning, reporting, and decision making, the implementation plan can’t be properly executed, and thus the Top 3 Objectives won’t be achieved. Pay close attention to getting this right, and it will pay off later.
C. Select and implement people, process, and technology components
Knowledge management helps people share, innovate, reuse, collaborate, and learn through people, process, and technology components. It is important to maintain a balance between people, process, and technology as you implement a KM program.
From the 50 KM Components, select the ones which you will use as part of your KM Strategy. Use the results of your user survey to help select the right ones. Define detailed implementation plans for the selected components, including training, communications, and change management. Then follow those plans.
Publish and maintain on an easily-accessible web site the implementation plan, including program governance, knowledge flows, overall implementation schedule, overall new release schedule, and detailed plans and schedules for all selected people, process, and technology components. The implementation plan ensures that the KM program is put into action in order to achieve the Top 3 Objectives previously identified.