Success Factors in Knowledge Management

Knowledge management professionals must keep in mind that KM’s explicit end-goal is profitability while its implicit purpose is to empower participants through intellectual platforms and processes that promote learning and practical knowledge.

Knowledge, without a doubt, plays an important role in the success of any organization. In fact, in order to maintain a competitive advantage, modern organizations incorporate knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, and knowledge management into their business processes. The mere survival of many organizations hinges on the strength of their capabilities; moreover, companies form decisions based on their relevant knowledge of their business landscapes.

Thanks to developments in information and communication technologies, it is now easier to develop, store, and transfer knowledge. This capability is particularly true among organizations with global workforces. After all, international competition and globalization are the driving forces behind most technological innovations, and companies quickly take advantage of these developments when it comes to managing the creation and flow of information.

“Ultimately, leveraging relevant knowledge assets to improve organizational performance is what knowledge management is all about,” says Murray E. Jennex in his book, Knowledge Management in Modern Organizations (2007). However, in spite of the lightning-speed creation of new knowledge and the improvements in communication technologies, many organizations still find that their knowledge management practices are lacking. Specifically, within client-consultant relationships, knowledge transfer does not always translate into better performance by all project team members, nor does it always translate into the successful delivery of projects.

To be successful, knowledge management programs require more than simply conducting training sessions or transferring knowledge. Practitioners must always remember that KM’s explicit end-goal is profitability – while KM’s implicit purpose is to empower participants by providing them with the intellectual platforms and processes that promote learning and practical knowledge.

Here are a few factors that contribute to successful knowledge management initiatives:

  • Linkage between knowledge and economic performance – Knowledge management exists because it enables the organization to reach its business goals. Otherwise, there is no point in putting together all the best practices, tacit knowledge, and skill sets in a cohesive system that is accessible by all parties – when and where they need it. As business increasingly becomes more global, the competition for greater market share depends on the capabilities of its players to a certain degree. KM practitioners must be able to identify the business value of knowledge management in their organizations – whether it is to manage projects, provide back-office operations services or to give ideas on how processes can be better optimized – among others. In most consulting relationships, knowledge is the currency by which all transactions are made.
  • Setting and communicating clear objectives for specific organizational or project levels – Heather Kreech, the Director of Knowledge Communications of the International Institute for Sustainable Development has some specific ideas on this very subject. In her paper, Success Factors in Knowledge Management (2005), she states that knowledge-sharing works best when knowledge managers “gather and communicate knowledge at the project/activity/field level before [they] begin to aggregate up to corporate systems and general knowledge marketing strategies”. Having a specific organizational level or project group in mind, results in better designed knowledge management systems, training programs, and tools that can meet the specific needs of workers.
  • Having the appropriate systems and infrastructure – Ideally, knowledge is created, processed, stored, and archived. Managing the process of creating knowledge, communicating this knowledge to participants, and making knowledge available to anyone in the organization, means that an organization must have the right communication systems and data storage facilities. However, it is not enough to simply store knowledge as this knowledge must be found whenever it is needed. Thus, the availability of internal search facilities and computer-based training programs is critical.
  • Having the right champions – KM initiatives need project and process champions who can rally the support of everyone – from top management down to individual staff members. Having management support can result in the freeing up of resources – such as financial, expertise, and infrastructure – all of which are critical to the successful implementation of KM projects. Financial backing means that KM managers can implement training programs, hire both internal and external specialists – as well as acquire the required infrastructure to manage training programs. On the other hand, access to experts from either within or outside the organization, means better identification of knowledge gaps and training requirements, and more importantly, engineering training and communication programs that meet the said needs.

By ExecutiveBrief
Technology Management Resource for Business Leaders

How to Create a Scrum Burn-Down Chart in Standard Time

Scrum burndown charts, or project history charts, as they are called in Standard Time help managers see the time remaining for projects in a line chart.  An example is shown below.  As many know, Standard Time is more than a timesheet.  It contains many project management features like task linking, resource allocation, earned value analysis, utilization percentages and rates.  These can be pretty boring topics unless you need to know where your project is headed.  And then they become pretty valuable tools all of a sudden.  Let’s take a look at the scrum chart.


Notice the falling line chart.  We’ll explain that shortly.


Scrum Burndown
Scrum Chart in Standard Time

The first step to creating this chart is to turn on project history.  Choose Tools, Projects and click a project to begin.  The project properties will display in the right-hand property panel.  Check the “Save task history” checkbox, as shown below.  This forces Standard Time to save time remaining for each project task when hours are entered into the timesheet.  Hours remaining are the raw ingredients for the scrum burndown chart above.


Save Task History in Standard Time
For Burn-down Chart


After turning on the “Save task history” option, now you’ll simply create project tasks and log time to them.  The image below shows a sample list of tasks.  Just remember that each task has a “Remaining” number of hours.  Those hours are plotted on a line graph in the scrum chart.  All tasks are combined to give a snapshot status of your project.  As you log daily time, those hours will fall, until they all reach zero.  Then the project is done!  You’ll see this gradual fall in the burndown chart.  Each week, you’ll notice trends developing.  Hopefully, going toward zero and completion.


Project Tasks in Standard Time



Vicarious Goal Completion

Bear with me…  Vicarious Goal Completion is a pretty obscure title, but there’s logic to it.  🙂

Psychologists have observed a strange human peculiarity.  And it relates directly to project management.  It’s called Vicarious Goal Completion.  Researchers first encountered it while studying fast food menus.  Can I get you to bite?

When fast food menus contain a “Salad” choice or other healthy food items, people purchase the junk food instead! 

Here’s why: People who see healthy items on a menu feel good about their weight loss goals and give themselves permission to indulge a little.  So, they eat the burger and fries instead.  In other words, they remember eating good and believe they have already attained their goals, so that gives them permission to splurge.  The goals are completed vicariously through the menu itself.

Obviously, this is just a slick way of tricking oneself into dodging responsibility.  They used to call this laziness.  Any excuse to pig out.

I’ve notice the same behavior with software downloads and project tasks.  The ratio of downloads to form-completions is pitifully low.  In other words, people take the time to fill out a download form, but never actually install and test the software.  Vicarious Goal Completion!  The person believes they have finished the job, when in fact, they have only just begun.  Filling out the form gives them a warm fuzzy feeling about the goal of procuring software, and that warm feeling is enough to satisfy them.  They don’t actually care if they download, install, and test.  They have met their goals and that’s all that matters.

The same is true of project management.  Beware of employees who start tasks, but never complete them.  Once a task is started, good feelings arise.  Those good feelings give the employee permission of quit because they feel they have already finished, or full completion is within sight.  Vicarious Goal Completion!  Nobody likes to take their project tasks to the uttermost level of completion – unless forced to do so.