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Is Your PMO Talking About Knowledge Management?

Knowledge Management | Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton | FuturePMO

By Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton

Knowledge Management takes on many forms when it comes to the professional world.

At the 2017 APM PMO SIG conference the keynote speaker was a specialist in the world of knowledge management and how it can impact the project management industry. Joanne Roberts, spoke about the different types of knowledge and not only how they manifest themselves in organisations but also how organisations can use it to expand and develop their USP.

A recent research piece written by Bening Siti Artika as part of a Masters in Project and Programme Management explored the Project Management Office (PMO) in Knowledge Management and its Effects on Project Performance, identified three variables that determine the Knowledge Management Maturity (KMM) of a PMO and how that translates to characteristics of the PMO and the effect on project performance.

The overall maturity of the PMO is the first variable and for me, one of the key points that needs to be considered when looking at knowledge management. Capability of the team when it comes to knowledge management is the second variable that can help or hinder – if you need to bring in more people to deliver this service to the organisation it is less likely that it will take off due to budget constraints. The last variable is the current performance of projects.

Only when you understand where your PMO is across these three variables, can you take a view on your ability to deliver knowledge management as a service. If your performance is not where it needs to be, or your people are not capable of carrying out activities related to knowledge management, you have more pressing concerns to deal with!

The research has found that low Knowledge Management Maturity (KMM) in a PMO is usually characterised by a strong focus on retrospective learning, and a lean towards delivering more administrative services; whereas a high KMM PMO likes to focus on prospective learning and acquiring knowledge to apply it to enhance project performance. These high KMM PMOs tend to have more authority and control than low KMM PMOs.

I found it interesting that the section on the key enablers identified that support PMOs moving into this space included top level support, social capita (a strong network), and the ability to build trust. What is fascinating about this for me is that these enablers are really the same for knowledge management as those you need to implement a PMO in the first place.

Yes, as always you need to have Senior management sponsorship, but in order to get that you must ensure that you are providing the services and value that they are expecting. Only then can you build trust and credibility and build an effective and strong network of practitioners to support knowledge management in your organisation.

The fact that these enablers will resound with all PMO people should help us to consider that knowledge management (in whatever form) should be part of any PMO’s service catalogue. But how can we focus on bringing this to the fore?

Lessons Learned/Lessons Identified (it really doesn’t matter what you call it!) is an obvious choice – although some entities believe that lessons learned and knowledge management are not the same thing; I believe that lessons learned is a real mechanism for acquiring knowledge. The problem is not that lessons are ‘not urgent or important’ but that we don’t commit to them and follow through.

There are many tools out there that promise to make your lessons learned process easier – even down to starting off with a set of standard lessons that could (or not) have something to do with the activity you are delivering. For me, it’s about making it part of the day job and TALKING to people to ensure that we learn the lessons through ownership and accountability.

I think it was the Nationwide that said in an advertising campaign that we are the most and least connected society there has ever been. We have information and knowledge at our fingertips but we continue to not learn from mistakes and opportunities because we don’t take the time to step back and have a look around.

The key to lessons is to commit – like communications; you can’t half do knowledge management!

  • Tip 1: Make knowledge management part of the day job – meeting agendas should include an opportunity to discuss this and the mechanisms for making them available to the wider organisation should be in place.
  • Tip 2: Set the baseline for lessons learned workshops at the end of activities – rules need to be followed for them to be effective.
  • Tip 3: Ensure that lessons are categorised in terms of importance to the organisation (low, medium and high is OK).
  • Tip 4: The important lessons need to have actions and a feedback loop to update those involved.
  • Tip  Do one of three things with lessons:
    • Low importance, log them in whatever form that is searchable when new activities similar in nature start – make that review part of project kick off
    • Medium importance, consolidate those lessons and communicate to everyone involved or impacted by the project
    • High importance, write a case study, and communicate widely about the changes, considerations, and dangers that this type of activity brings with it

It sounds easy right? Here’s the secret! It is easy… as long as you commit to it!

You can read more about Communities of Practice and set yourself some new year resolutions HERE