Following my note about Joining Dots' article on Why is KM so difficult?, I tracked down an article of the same title by Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School. He says, "The problem with knowledge management is that most companies struggle to make it work." And then he gives some suggestions on how to make it work.
Julian Birkinshaw, "Why is Knowledge Management So Difficult?," Business Strategy Review (vol. 12, no. 1, 2001). (abstract only)
Abstract: Knowledge management promises much, but often delivers very little. There are no simple solutions to this challenge. This article starts by trying to define what knowledge management is. It then identifies where the problems lie and suggests five steps to resolve those problems. The article is based on research in a dozen leading companies, including HP, Ericsson, ABB, Skandia and Xerox.
Birkinshaw acknowledges the complexity of knowledge management: It's not simply a matter of installing new software or changing a small aspect of the business. As he views it, KM is about knowledge sharing amongst people in the organization, technologies that help the sharing and mechanisms for bringing new knowledge into the organization. He also suggests that formal KM efforts must acknowledge that people are already sharing and archiving knowledge today. The KM effort must be about discovering the existing methods and enhancing (or replacing) them. Of course, this implies a more robust effort around change management and organizational design than the typical approach to installing some new software. This is the heart of what has made KM so difficult.
And what does he recommend to make KM work? These are general guidelines, but this gives a reasonable approach to any KM effort. Interesting that he starts with mapping, as I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately, including doing a workshop this weekend.
Map the knowledge flows in the organization
Map the stocks of knowledge and use them to encourage sharing of best practice
Focus efforts on mission-critical, rather than nice-to-have, knowledge
Raise the visibility of knowledge management activities
Use incentives to institutionalize knowledge-sharing activities