Discussion on KM strategies

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Open Space Discussion (9/30/11) on KM Strategy’s for organizations

"We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down." - David Snowden 2008

Is a KM strategy any different in a multilateral or bilateral org?
Questions to reflect on: Why do you need a KM strategy? Before addressing what it looks like, consider what you plan to do with it and what functions you see it serving.

Key Takeaways

  • Identity and needs of organization need to be the same
  • There need to be a sense of ownership for KM strategy, this opinion was shared with the majority of the group. Most succesful KM strategies benefited from ownership, people within the organization need a group/person to call the architect of the strategy to fully accept the initiatives; but in the end the KM strategy needs to be owned by the organization as a whole!
  • How can KM help achieve organization's objectives? Are they different?
  • 'Depends on the people' - A recurring statment that highlighted the need for a cultural assesment within the organization, how is change percieved? Your initial strategy will feed from this analysis; the way you approach the implimintation matters, want to avoid organizational/personnel freezes.
  • Is there an understanding of how a KM strategy will help you in practice? Is there a definition that particiapants can feed off and rely on?
  • Look at what is already being done within the organization, conduct a Knowledge Sharing Audit. Many practioners have confessed that their organizations had pre-exisitng KM principles, but most would have never called them Knowledge Management principles. "Even if you aren’t calling it KM, they are happening and they are KM activities (ad hoc)"
  • KM strategy from the bottom up- then the vision, mandate needs to linked to what they are trying to do
  • KM Strategy is a possible outcome of the Knowledge Sharing Audit
  • KM Strategy has to be tied to organization strategy
  • KM is a reaction not proaction

Knowledge Sharing Audit4

According to Olivier Serrat from his 2008 publication in Knowledge Solutions auditing knowledge helps organizations identify their knowledge-based assets and develop strategies to manage them. Developing a knowledge-sharing culture is a change process on the way to better organizational performance. To achieve that change, an organization needs a vision of where it wants to be and an accurate picture of where it is now—that is, its current reality. A knowledge audit is one way of taking that picture. What is a knowledge audit? The traditional concept of an audit is an evaluation of a person, business, system, process, project, or product by an independent third party. Financial audits are well understood. They examine the financial statements of a company to check performance against standards. A knowledge audit works differently, and some demystification is called for. It is by and large—granted differing objects, breadth of coverage, and levels of sophistication—a qualitative review (or inventory, survey, check) of an organization’s knowledge health at both the macro and micro levels. The defining feature of a knowledge audit is that it places people at the center of concerns: it purports to find out what people know, and what they do with the knowledge they have. It can be described as an investigation of the knowledge needs of an organization and the interconnectivity among leadership, organization, technology, and learning in meeting these. Put in a different way, a knowledge audit is an investigation of the strengths and weaknesses of an organization’s knowledge, and of the opportunities and threats that face it.


A knowledge audit can have multiple purposes, but the most common is to provide tangible evidence of what knowledge an organization needs, where that knowledge is, how it
is being used, what problems and difficulties exist, and what improvements can be made. Although there can be no blueprint, a typical knowledge audit will—not necessarily at the
same time or level of detail1—query the following:

  • What are an organization’s knowledge needs?
  • What tacit and explicit knowledge assets does it have and where are they?
  • How does knowledge flow within the organization, formally and informally, and to and from clients and relevant organizations?
  • How is that knowledge identified, created, stored, shared, and used?
  • What obstacles are there to knowledge flows, e.g., to what extent do its people, businessprocesses, and technology currently support or hamper the effective movement of
  • What gaps and duplications exist in the organization’s knowledge?


Deliverables from knowledge audits are multiple, and can impact organizational performance and the individuals and groups associated severally with it. Not all can be quantified. Regardless, to be of any use, benefits cannot just be shown; they must be realized. Specifically, depending on its thrust and coverage, a knowledge audit can be expected to:

  • help the organization identify what knowledge is needed to reach its goals and support individual and group activities;
  • recognize the knowledge created and help assess its value and contribution to organizational performance, thus making it more measurable and accountable;
  • give tangible evidence of the extent to which knowledge is being effectively managed and indicate where changes for the better should be made;
  • identify intellectual assets and facilitate the creation of an intellectual asset register;
  • distinguish pockets of knowledge that are not being used to good advantage and therefore offer untapped potential;
  • review the use of external knowledge and suggest ways in which it might be used to better effect;
  • assess the use and effectiveness of knowledge products such as flagship publications, how valuable they are, and how they might be improved;
  • circumscribe knowledge flows and current bottlenecks within those flows;
  • make out present and future knowledge gaps;
  • develop knowledge and social network maps of the organization;
  • supply data and information for the development of knowledge management initiatives that are directly relevant to the organization’s specific knowledge needs and current situation; and
  • pinpoint quick wins that could be implemented easily to produce clear, tangible, and immediate benefits.

Knowledge audits might be small and discreet. But they must all give a clear direction regarding what can be achieved and must engender a realistic expectation of what might then be done with requisite resources. They must also create active interest and highlight important facts to management. They will work best if their original purpose is discussed in some detail before the audit begins. Reporting may be done both through short written reports, presentations to managers—preferably one at the divisional level and another at the departmental level—and collation of detailed results for later use.

Constituents of Knowledge Audits

The typical constituents of knowledge audits, each of which can be conducted at different levels of complexity using a variety of tools,3 are shown in the figure.4 They are preferably, but not necessarily, in order: knowledge needs analysis, knowledge inventory analysis, knowledge flow analysis, and knowledge mapping. Throughout investigations, elements of knowledge, relationships, context, and external environment should be borne in mind, together with the fact that about 80% of an organization’s knowledge is tacit—the greatest challenge lies in the audit of that.


Source: Author.

  • Identify Knowledge Needs. The objective of knowledge needs analysis is to identify what tacit and explicit knowledge individuals, groups, and the organization possess; and what knowledge they might require in the future to perform better. The analysis can help an organization develop strategy. Besides shining light on bread-and-butter wants, it can also draw attention to staff skills and competency enhancement needs; opportunities for staff learning and development; organizational culture practices concerning leadership, collaboration, team work, and the performance management and rewards system; and staff relationship with management, peers, and subordinates.
  • Draw Up a Knowledge Inventory. Knowledge inventory analysis is stock-taking to identify, locate, and document existing knowledge assets. It involves, to the extent possible, counting, indexing, and categorizing tacit and explicit knowledge. For explicit knowledge, the analysis might cover numbers, types, and categories of documents, databases, libraries, intranets, hyperlinks, and subscriptions to external knowledge resources; knowledge locations in the organization and in its systems; the organization and access of
    knowledge; the purpose, relevance, and quality of knowledge; and use of knowledge. For tacit knowledge, the analysis might relate to staff directories and academic and professional qualifications, skills and core competency levels and experience, staff learning and development opportunities, and leadership potential in employees. An organization will be able to identify knowledge gaps and areas of duplication by comparing the results of the knowledge inventory analysis with those of the knowledge needs analysis.
  • Analyze Knowledge Flows. Knowledge flow analysis investigates how knowledge moves from where it is to where it is needed in an organization, revealing good and bad practices. The analysis determines how employees find the knowledge they must have, and how they share what knowledge they have. Knowledge flow analysis should examine people, business processes, and technology. Regarding people, this entails exploring attitudes toward—and experiences, beliefs, values, and skills in—knowledge sharing. In relation to business processes, one should look at how people go about their daily business and the extent to which identification, creation, storage, sharing, and use of knowledge forms part of that; policies and practices concerning knowledge flows, for instance, on data and information handling, management of records, or web publishing. For
    technology, there should be a focus on information and communications technology infrastructure, such as portals, content management, accessibility and ease of use, and current levels of usage.
  • Create Knowledge Maps. Knowledge maps—whether they are real, Yellow Pages, or specially constructed databases—are communication media designed to help visualize the sources, flows, constraints, and sinks (losses or stopping points) of knowledge within an organization. They can specify, for instance, creators, critics, collectors, connectors, and users of knowledge. They are useful navigational guides to tacit and explicit knowledge and underscore importance, relationships, and dynamics, for example, within social
    networks. They can flip perspectives on knowledge from bottom-up to top-down, and focus knowledge management initiatives on the highest potential opportunities.


World Food Program - Policy division was first to initiate the KM strategy, in the case of WFP penetrating key division within organization benefited the overall strategy.

Food and Agriculture Organization - "we were asked to do a strategy, no choice. Member countries asked for them and was required. Worked well has been the bottom up  but still required for the top down justification." (Gauri Salokhe, FAO)

Nancy White -  Implementing KM strategy within divisions has been a positive experience, thematic departments are good at implementing KM. Other departments for initial implementation: M&E, Communications, High managment level personell. Where does the command come from? Very important issue, especially in highly bureaucratic institutions.

Gauri Salokhe - Too many competing strategies, initially everyone will want to have their own tailored approach. IT, especially, holds their processes with a strong grip.

European Centre for Development Policy Management - The best approach was to win over the suits, and then initiate the strategy. It was very common for insubordination to set in if top level managment did not dictate strategy/policy. There needs to a distinction between policy and strategy, some people believe that strategy is short term therefore they cannot see themselves investing their time in it. In different organizations the terms can be synonymous, but in some they convey a different message. A culture audit is necessary to determine the initial strategy, how to convince, how to penetrate, and most importantly how to keep attention.

Johannes Shunter - KM needs to be organic, from my own experience you can only inject it from within, also departments need to buy into the vision of the strategy.

UNDP - KM strategy was implemented on a needed basis, a common strategy was constructed and each department that showed a need adopted and links were made. The action plan was demand driven.

International Labor Organization - KM activities are successful because it is included in the mission statement, to learn was in the mission (the anchor is presented). Implementation of KM varies and strategy came out of the mandate.

Lessons Learned

  • Expectations should not be too high
  • Rais awarness of KM - Share fair, tools, activities, working with HR
  • Create a movement for teh current workers - grassroots
  • Convince your workers that they are already doing KM, but under different names/processes
  • Poor formulation of strategy will result in poor results
  • KM is a reaction not proaction

How do you bring this up to the higher level? That is the challenge and a need (case of ILO) for Knowledge sharing audit?

Want to see what is there, where are the gaps?

IFAD knowledge audit (patterns with supervisors), tension between identified need and working conditions. Knowledge stategy—to address issues—has to be tied to strategy.  A means for helping the organization.

Strategy has to be done by the whole organization not just a KM champion. Processes have to be
- Job descriptions change, processes change as a result, shared ownership
- Learning diary “case manager”, grants manager, then gets repackaged (knowledge extraction)

Which depts. Are good ones to start with? Who is the owner of accountability? In WFP it started in policy. Gender and diversity often are good ones- if they are thematic, not dept- this is a leverage

Depts seen successful, much harder to find examples of successful strategies that work accross organizations

GTZ- 2006, 2008/2009 (6 KM in headquarters, now 12) cooperate with M&E and also with communications/ corporate identity. Of course high level management support- and now it is really big. Need to use what is there- see what is there, document lessons (often communications). In WFP, IT thinks that they are knowledge managers. In FAO, communications separate from KM.. separate and unrelated strategy.

KM strategy that connects strategies across the agency? Is that possible?  People react and see KM strategies as foreign agency’s (not part of their mandate)

Identity of the organization is varied. Communications- voice, IT- owners and managers of the infrastructure, management needs to set the town and tie together.
Performance reviews, systematized/ mainstreamed implementation of strategy.

Knowledge as explicit, with authority (not ability or mandate) can be a paradox, harder it becomes to achieve

Here at IFAD, Lucie and Nancy, Corporate KM people are custodians (HQ), regions/countries need to be incorporated into their country strategies (how are they interpreting and developing them into their), trying to incorporate and relate to the corporate strategy but interpret to their context.

Broad strategy, was so general not worth revising, IFAD

UNDP has a strategy- if you have senior level support, willing to ask the question what do they want to be? And answer/endorse it, then your document is powerful . The only way to get substancial resources to achieve and reference it. A rare but possible tool.

Strategy- easier to implement a policy rather than a strategy (changes all the time) GTC Yaelle Lin…

Policy framework that shows the organization is committed- this is what is perhaps the most important. WFP

Who says let there be a strategy.. or let it be a policy…? Who makes this decision? What is best for us in achieving our goals and work? Maybe it is better to develop a policy. Does it really make sense to have an org.

(2) Pitfalls/lessons:
-- good practice—empower the good KM that people are doing, not just the gaps and what people aren’t doing to build ownership/ demand.
--Motivate them to feel it relates to them, that they understand the definition.. good to come from people that have had a good experience (not the KM people)
--reacted to the policy, came up in a risk management that they weren’t managing knowledge well- due in large part to different understandings of what KM is. Not agreement on the definition.
--FAO, strategy is very high level. Struggling with this- individual action plans at different levels. Cencentralized plans- happen at other levels.  Support their work- demand driven action plans. The big strategy, raising awareness of what it is parallel to the strategy, building demand across the agency, work with HR in the competency framework (job description). Creates a movement- lesson learned. Then the KM teams support the different groups in their action plans (not taking top down).
Knowledge management is threatening sometimes, depending on how implemented- needs to be at a higher level. Needs to be above the different depts. Or else they will be competing for it
--Flexibility built into the strategy
--Incorporate it into the processes that already exist
--Mistake to consider KM separate, seen as part of the DNA of the organization (UNDP) once an organization identifies it by itself, then the KM and different dept people can carry it forward. Transformation from within- need to buy into the vision.
--Knowledge strategy is a change process. If you don’t combine the strategy with a change manager it will be difficult.