Thursday, May 27, 2010
Linked-In has a discussion group for chief knowledge officers. A discussion thread was started on the topic of "killer" stories where knowledge management had created value. The request came from a consultant who was trying to answer the skeptical senior executive's questions about the value of KM. Below is my contribution to the discussion. KM success stories are not widespread these days because high performing organizations have done KM long enough that the practice and the successes are embedded and part of the organizational culture. So I shared what I think are Canada's best examples of KM success stories.
By the end of this, if this sounds like advertising for the Conference Board of Canada's Knowledge Strategy Exchange Network (KSEN) ..... it is. Any organization in Canada serious about KM would get significant value by joining KSEN. I know I did.
The Conference Board of Canada has a KM CoP (Knowledge Strategy Exchange Network) that includes the big four accounting firms, KPMG, Deliotte-Touche, Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), plus the Bank of Canada, the Auditor General of Canada, Hydro Quebec, the Business Development Bank of Canada and Farm Credit Canada. There are also law firms, various departments of provincial governments and cities involved in the network. The network started in 2001 and with a reorganization in 2003 has supported the exchange of practices and strategy for KM in these organizations in Canada.
As long time practitioners of KM, most of these organizations have significant KM success stories. You don't get continued investment and resources to KM year after year unless senior managers judge that there is value for the organization.
Some of these firms have world class initiatives in KM. For example, Farm Credit Canada has Communities of Practice that evolved to be a key feed of information for strategic planning. Think about it. Who is exploring what is coming over the horizon (for clients, for the practitioners in the CoP, for their organization)? A good CoP will be doing this. The impact of CoPs on executive culture led to a restatement of cultural values and an employee code of conduct. That's just Farm Credit Canada. Hydro Quebec has a deliberate and organizational wide focus on succession management that has driven their KM program. If the deep expert on trouble shooting electricity power line malfunctions leaves the organization, the North American east coast may be at higher risk of a brownout. So Hydro Quebec has had success getting middle managers to pay attention to KM in their work units.
KM is an attribute of high performing organizations and as a result, I doubt that you will find studies that can show definitive rates of return solely to KM. You will also find those high performing organizations paying attention to innovation, project portfolio management, employee recognition, business process improvement, organizational learning and corporate values.
Good organizations consciously do KM (even if they don't call it that). Less effective organizations do KM poorly. But in some fashion they all do KM.
"Killer" KM success stories are out there. But the organizations who are successfully doing KM are not bragging about it because "It is the way we work".