Knowledge Managers

Accountabilities within the business line for knowledge management are very similar to accountabilities for any other form of management, such as people management, safety management or financial management. In other words, the business units and divisions are accountable for compliance with the company s expectations. So if the company expectation for people management (for example) is that every employee has clear objectives, a personal development plan and a performance appraisal, then the line managers in the business are accountable for complying with this expectation. For knowledge management, if the company expectation is that every project should hold a peer assist and a retrospect, then the business line managers are accountable for making sure this takes place. The divisional manager makes sure that the business unit managers comply, and the business unit managers make sure that the project managers comply. Accountability is clear, provided the company expectations are clear.

At the basic unit of business delivery such as individual projects, or individual manufacturing teams, the leader may actually set up a role to ensure compliance. Much as a project leader may set up a safety role within a project to make sure the project complies with safety expectations, or set up a quality role within a manufacturing unit to make sure the unit complies with quality expectations, so they may set up a knowledgemanagement role. This role might be described as the knowledge manager for that team, manufacturing unit or project.

The role of the knowledge manager is a governance, assurance and champion role. They need to make sure that the team or project that they are working with, are doing the knowledge management that they are supposed to do. They make sure that the expected knowledge management processes happen at the right time. They make sure that the expected knowledge management technologies are applied at the right time. They ensure the project staff get the knowledge they need, that this knowledge gets applied to the project work, and that new knowledge is captured and shared. They monitor the processes of learning before, during and after, working by mentoring, coaching, and prompting to make sure these processes happen.

One project management company that we work with has set the expectation that each of their projects will write a knowledge management plan, and will capture lessons at the end of the project stages. Each of the projects in the company has assigned somebody to take the role of knowledge manager, to prepare and deliver the project knowledge management plan, and to ensure that the lessons capture session are held and attended by all staff. This is very much a front line role in the world of knowledge management, and a role which can have huge influence on business performance. If you can help a team to learn, and to share their learning, then you can help them not only to improve, but also to help the rest of the business improve as well.

One of the more common reasons for failure of knowledge management initiatives within organisations has been the absence of this sort of role. If nobody takes the accountability to ensure knowledge is managed at the sharp end of the business in the projects, in the service teams, or in the factories then all too often knowledge management never takes root. Everybody knows knowledge management is important, but it s not as urgent as completing the next production run, or fixing the latest problem to hit the project. Somebody needs to give knowledge management urgency, and somebody needs to promote and champion it at the work face. If you take away this Knowledge manager role, KM suffers, just as safety would suffer if you removed the safety roles, or financial management would suffer if you removed the finance roles.

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