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Knowledge Management - Should It Be Mandatory

Knowledge Management - Should It Be Mandatory

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Published by Alan O'Neill
Decide for yourself; Should KM be mandatory?
Decide for yourself; Should KM be mandatory?

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Alan O'Neill on Aug 24, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/22/2011

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In my opinion yes!, and that is not because I am a so-called Knowledge Management Consultant or Practitioner, but more because I can see what KM has to offer and at the simplest level it is ‘Good Business Practice’ (I don’t like the term ‘Best Practice’ because it conjures up ideas that it is best and there is no room for improvement! So why should organizations adopt Knowledge Management? I have been saying for the last 4 – 5 years that Knowledge Management should be mandatory. I worked for the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) for 23 Years, and been involved in Procurement and Project Management on Defence Equipment for about 11 years, and involved with ‘Knowledge Management’ for about 8 years; and sharing Knowledge for a lot longer, and have experienced the impact of not utilising Knowledge Management. Purely based on my experience with the MOD, I believe that KM should be mandatory not only within the MOD Procurement Function, but also a contractual requirement on any contractor that wants to supply goods and services to the MOD. You may well ask why?, but if we look at Defence Contractors supplying to the MOD; as the Head of Procurement surely you would ask yourself this question; “Would I place a large Multi-Million (possibly MultiBillion) contract with a company that wasn't protecting the key Knowledge associated with that contract?” It sounds stupid doesn't it?,...but it is happening everywhere, and the consequences are disastrous and very costly; look at the US Government - and here I will return to my favourite scare story (sorry but this is just the greatest reason to implement KM); how the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) "lost knowledge" and it cost them $69 million - http://www.heraldscotland.com/how-the-us-forgot-how-to-make-trident-missiles-1.826976). So that’s the outcome of one of the more extreme examples, let’s take a look at a more ‘dayto-day’ scenario and some of the other considerations of not capturing knowledge, and again I ask you “Would you place a contract with a company that wasn’t protecting their key Knowledge?” Think about the likes of Coca Cola, the Knowledge is in the Formula. The Knowledge was created, and the Knowledge is the exact blend of ingredients that makes Coca Cola…., Coca Cola! What if John Pemberton hadn’t written down the exact ingredients for his drink? What if he forgot the exact ingredients, quantities, etc? There would be no consistency….so the Coke that you had on Monday might be good, and the Coke that you had on Friday might taste awful, or at best different!

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Think about that in a Manufacturing perspective; use the Trident example above, the missile that was made for you in the first batch works well and delivers all of your performance requirements, so you accept it. You then need another batch so you go back to the supplier and ask them to build you a second batch, only to be told “Ooops, sorry we have lost the Knowledge to build that!” Would you be pleased?........I wouldn’t. So they offer to recreate the Knowledge…..at a cost of $69 Million……..Who foots the bill for that? You?, or the Contractor? Lets just assume for the moment that the Knowledge can be recreated; what has it done to the reputation of the Contractor, your confidence in the Contractor, has it delayed the Project/Programme, What other impact has it had?, and these are the good points, assuming the Knowledge can be re-created….but it’s still inefficient; reinventing the wheel, doing something twice…Is that efficient? What if the re-invented Knowledge isn’t the same as the knowledge created the first time? What if to get the same yield from the warhead, it took up twice the space? and the physical size of the missile had to increase? or the weight was increased! What if it no longer fitted in the launch tubes of the delivery platform? And that is still assuming that the Knowledge can be recreated! What happens if the Knowledge can’t be recreated? So we have used the Loss of Knowledge by the US Government on the Trident Missile programme as an example of the impact of Knowledge Loss, so what do they do about it? With other negative examples of ‘Not sharing Knowledge or good practice’; such as the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the poor response to the aftermath of ‘Hurricane Katrina’ and the ‘9/11 Terror Attacks on the World Trade Centre’ the US Government made a commitment to make Knowledge Management mandatory in all Government departments and established the US Federal Knowledge Management Working Group http://wiki.nasa.gov/cm/wiki/Federal%20Knowledge%20Management%20Working%20Group %20(KMWG).wiki/home/home.html - headed up by Neil Olonoff http://www.linkedin.com/in/olonoff This is based on my experience with the UK Ministry of Defence, and limited experience of how not sharing/capturing Knowledge has impacted on the US Government. I have also witnessed first hand how similar examples have impacted commercial and private organizations. From a Government perspective Knowledge Management should be treated like ISO 9000, a pre-requirement before a company should be allowed to contract with the Government; demonstrating that the organization has the capability to protect Knowledge and is practicing Knowledge Management. If a certification type approach was introduced, then it would be easy to recognise the organizations that are protecting knowledge, hence, our decision to work with them becomes more informed. How would this work?, that’s the subject of another posting, for the moment let’s conclude that I believe that KM should be mandatory!

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