Metaknowledge Part VII : Governance

23 December 2023

The Metaknowledge Guide offers a concise, practical guide to knowledge management for both newcomers and experienced practitioners.

Part VII provides an overview of the different methods and tools to ensure a successful KM program.

While roles, processes, and technology directly contribute to the KM activities, governance is a collection of resources to ensure KM gets sufficient buy-in, and runs smoothly. In other words, it is the oil in the wheels of your KM program. 

Different activities have their own resources, there are a few for your KM program as a whole:

  • KM Business Plan. It might sound confusing if your KM program is internal, but it's the first step in answering the enduring question "how do I sell KM within my organisation?". The most powerful way to answer this question is to think of your KM program as a business. Someone has to pay for what you intend to do - and they won't pay for KM.

    Don't try to sell KM. KM isn't anything in itself. It doesn't solve anything - it facilitates the solution to a problem. It facilitates greater revenue, lower costs, higher employee retention, and happier customers. It enhances other parts of the company. Focus on the value you will be delivering. What problem or challenge will you help your "customers" deal with?

    The following KM Canvas is one of the best tools to help you outline your KM "business". This isn't a one-time exercise either. It should evolve as your KM program does.
  • Success stories. The value of KM will inevitably come into question. And as KM mainly enhances the value of other parts of the organization, that value is hard to put into numbers. Collect and share practical, human stories that illustrate how improved knowledge sharing and (re)use made things better. This doesn't only help secure investment - it also helps convince others it's worth their time.

  • Training and reference materials. You will need to provide the necessary training and support to those people with any KM roles. Templates, checklists, and other useful resources all make their work easier. This is especially important if the person has other responsibilities as well.

  • Policies for knowledge capture and before-action-learning. If there is no explicit policy, and management doesn't put money on the table, then your KM program stands on sand. Commitment will fade when your organization comes under pressure. That said, it's easier said than done to get that kind of commitment from a KM-skeptical management. That's why you need a strong case, and why success stories are crucial. You might need to secure a few small victories during a 'proof of concept' phase first.

Following are resources for the different KM activities :

1. Connecting People and Direct Knowledge Sharing

  • A list of knowledge-sharing communities in your organization. Which (explicit) communities exist in your organization? Who are they intended for, and what is their purpose? Provide an overview to help people find communities relevant to them, and for these communities to recruit new members.

  • A charter for each community. Like the KM program as a whole, knowledge-sharing communities have costs. The most notable of these are employee time. Not only the time of those organizing it, but also of those participating in it. And all that time has to be paid for... That's why it's important to keep the community focused on its intended purpose. A charter should state the community's mission and objectives, how it's managed, and the resources it requires. You can use the KM canvas (see above) as a base, and add the roles and responsibilities that apply in your community (see Part V: Roles). Creating the charter is not a one-time thing either. It should be validated regularly to see if the community still fulfills its purpose. If not, it may be better to shut down the community and move the resources to a new initiative.

2. Capturing Scalable Knowledge

  • Knowledge capture policy. It's important to turn management support for knowledge capture into explicit policy. That policy should state the expectation for knowledge to be an explicit output of projects and day-to-day work. It should clarify what kind of knowledge should be captured, how it is maintained, and how it should be (re)used.

  • Knowledge retention strategy. If loss of crucial expertise is a top-of-mind risk in your organization, then retention should be a core part of your KM business case. Include a defined strategy for identifying your organization's key knowledge. Identify the key individuals with this knowledge, the risk and impact of their departure, and the actions taken to manage that risk.

  • Templates, best practices, and style guides. Develop and provide the necessary tools to make knowledge capture as easy as possible.

3. Ensuring the Quality and Accuracy of Information

  • List of core knowledge topics and owners. It's important to know what to focus on, to keep your efforts effective. Which knowledge (competences, capabilities) do your 'customers' consider most important? This might depend on who you ask. Operational teams might emphasize retention of technical knowledge. Executives might emphasize development of new product or market knowledge. If you find too many "crucial" knowledge topics, ask your KM sponsor to make a selection. After all, they are paying for it.

  • Information lifecycle policy. When and how does information need to be reviewed? Who needs to be involved? Is an ad-hoc "flag it or fix it" policy enough? Or do you need a structured procedure with validators and explicit approval?

4. Making Information Findable & Reusable

  • KPI reporting. Recording and sharing success stories are a great way to get and keep buy-in about your KM program. But they can’t replace showing concrete, measurable results. You should distinguish between KM metrics (used to measure KM adoption) and business metrics (used to measure KM impact). Collecting and analyzing data is often overlooked in day-to-day KM work. But without it you cannot gain a clear, unambiguous sense of how well you are doing, and what to focus (more) on.

Metaknowledge Part VI: Technology

Metaknowledge Part V : Roles

A deep dive into the different roles involved in each of the knowledge management activities.

Metaknowledge Part IV: Process

An in-depth examination of the processes and practices related to the four knowledge management activities, with examples for each.

Metaknowledge Part III: The 4X4KM knowledge management framework

This part of the Metaknowledge Guide provides the 4X4KM framework, based on the four core KM activities. This framework is an invaluable tool in organizing your KM, and keeping your efforts focused and productive.

Metaknowledge Part II: The three kinds of knowledge management

This part of the Metaknowledge Guide outlines the the three kinds of knowledge management, and how knowledge management relates to learning & development.

Metaknowledge Part I: Knowledge, Information, and Data

A practical, intuitive interpretation of "knowledge", and how it compares to information and data. This will help you position knowledge management in relation to information management and data management in your organisation.

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