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Don’t define KM strategy

Without assessing KM maturity

March 11, 2014

Home Blog Don’t define KM strategy

When it comes to developing a Knowledge Management strategy, we can’t over-emphasize the importance of understanding your organization’s level of maturity.

Since maturity is a key consideration, this article will share three KM maturity models that can help you develop or adapt the most effective strategy for meeting your goals and objectives. Each of them involve five levels that overlap and echo each other, but with different labels and other nuances.

KM Maturity from APQC

A quote from Jack Grayson, the founder and Executive Chairman of APQC, serves as a reminder of the importance of knowledge transfer:

“Your organization’s future will be determined by how well and how quickly you learn, adapt and improve.”

APQC is the American Productivity & Quality Center, a non-profit group dedicated to educating and helping organizations improve productivity and quality. Grayson’s quote also includes this phrase, “a race without a finish line”, which aptly describes the KM process in general.

The KM Maturity Model as defined by APQC encompasses the following five levels, as illustrated by the graphic, progressing from organizational knowledge that is ad hoc and inconsistently “managed” to dynamic knowledge that becomes a lever for continuous improvement:

  1. Initiate
  2. Develop
  3. Standardize
  4. Optimize
  5. Innovate

A recent APQC blog post discusses not these five levels, but five benefits that can be realized through a maturity assessment, which we have found in our experience of helping our own KM clients in their strategizing, planning and optimization efforts. Those five benefits include the ability to convey the value of effective knowledge management, what’s needed to achieve KM goals, the actions needed to attain those goals, consensus-building and greater understanding of barriers. Click here to view the entire article.

More on APQC Knowledge Management frameworks and other resources.

KM Maturity Model Developed by Siemens AG

Our next five-step maturity model (I may dedicate a future blog post to the significance of the number five in Knowledge Management) comes from global engineering and manufacturing conglomerate Siemens AG. The Siemens Knowledge Maturity Model is stated as follows:

  1. Initial – No formal KM practices within the organization.
  2. Repeatable – KM is recognized, implemented and tested.
  3. Defined – KM is supported in daily activities and through defined roles.
  4. Managed – Continued evolution with greater definition and measurement.
  5. Optimized – Perfection and mastery with flexibility for change.

Siemens demonstrates the value of capturing knowledge for sharing externally, something we are seeing more regularly as law firms, businesses and other organizations seek to demonstrate thought leadership and find ways to connect with new prospects in the markets they serve.

Click here to see some examples of how Siemens shares knowledge in the core practices section of the company’s website.

The Siemens maturity model is referenced in another good resource for KM information, the Knowledge Management Bible. 

Maturity Model from Arizona State University

The final resource we offer comes from academia. Arizona State University (ASU) developed a model based on a framework for software engineering from Carnegie Mellon called the Capability Maturity Model or CMM. Two professors in ASU’s business school translated the five capability levels of Carnegie Mellon’s CMM into KM maturity levels based on these qualitatively different states:

  • Level 1 – Possible – A state of general willingness.
  • Level 2 – Encouraged – A supportive culture that recognizes and rewards sharing.
  • Level 3 – Enabled/Practiced – KM activities are a required part of a workflow.
  • Level 4 – Managed – Tools are in place for easy finding and sharing of knowledge assets.
  • Level 5 – Continuously Improved – KM mechanisms and tools are leveraged and widely accepted throughout the organization.

ASU authors Uday Kulkarni and Robert St. Louis delve further into the topic with the identification of KMAs or Key Maturity Areas, which map maturity to areas of knowledge that an organization deems critical and instrumental.

They cite the following generic KMAs (only four this time):

  1. Lessons Learned – Accepted as the best way of doing something.
  2. Expertise – Knowledge held by people.
  3. Data – Facts and figures obtained from operations and other sources.
  4. Structured Knowledge – Reports, publications, diagrams and the like.

View the entire Kulkarni/St. Louis paper (pdf) at this link. 

Knowledge Management strategies formed without maturity assessment are at greater risk of failure. In the heart of ski season, I’ll compare KM maturity levels to ski runs that are classified green (easy), blue (intermediate) and black (difficult). A beginner would be intimidated (or terrorized) by a black run with a name like Wipe Out or Widow Maker, while an expert skier would sneer at one called Gopher Hill. Would you classify your organization’s KM maturity as green, blue or black?

Think of these constructs for assessing Knowledge Management maturity when developing or revising your own Knowledge Management strategy.

Rob Corrao

Rob Corrao

Rob Corrao is CEO at LAC Group and is responsible for business operations and integration of all company service lines, mergers and acquisitions.
Rob Corrao

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