Creating Value from Knowledge-The Chief Knowledge Officer

Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) — Still Relevant

Success requires a guiding strategy to enable individuals, teams, and the organization, to become more knowledge enabled by complementing and supporting both operational and infrastructure components in their everyday work, providing tools and techniques that make work easier, the leadership and workforce more productive and effective, all resulting in improved overall organizational performance. As organizations develop and scale, there is an increasing urgency to intelligently leverage what they know about what they do. This enables the agility that an organization must have to remain competitive, adapt to change quickly, and to sustain its momentum. For organizations that recognize this value, creating an enabling a Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) position, and assigning a senior leader who is responsible for ensuring that the organization maximizes the value it achieves through one of its most important assets, its knowledge, is critical. The CKO is not a relabeling of existing positions like a Chief Information Officer or a variation of another position. The CKO is a unique, integrated, hybrid manager possessing skills and attributes that include an ability to think conceptually, manage people and projects, communicate effectively both internally and externally, and very importantly, an ability to persuade and advocate. The CKO is very often a principal “agent of change.”


What is the Organizational Context for the CKO?

It is helpful to think of the CKO in the context of other organizational leadership and the functions and responsibilities they have with respect to developing and managing the organization’s assets. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO), for example, manages the financial assets of the organization; the Human Capital Officer (HCO) manages the workforce, and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) managers the technology assets of the organization. It makes sense to have an organizational leader that is responsible for and focused upon developing and leveraging the intellectual assets of the organization. This individual is the CKO.


Where Should the CKO Fit in the Organization?

Successful advocacy of the tools and techniques that leadership and the workforce must use to successfully capture, adapt transfer, and reuse knowledge is better enabled by the right positioning for the communication of the message. This includes a reporting structure where the CKO reports to the senior leader in the organization. This sends a clear message that the organization views leveraging the intellectual assets from the same value perspective, for example, as leveraging the financial assets of the organization.


What Attributes Should the CKO Possess?

Since KM involves integrating people, processes, and enabling technology, the Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) requires a specific skill set – a person who can understand the organization and its big picture and tie all of this to the strategic plan and measures of success for the organization. The CKO must be someone who not only can be cheerleader and a teacher, but also has a vision of knowledge sharing with the authority and experience to enable the corporate culture and processes achieve the KM goals. The skill set for the CKO is a range of skills including the following:

  • Interpersonal communication skills to convince employees to adopt cultural changes
  • Leadership skills to convey the KM vision and passion for it to leadership and the cross-functional teams supporting KM in the company
  • Business acumen to relate KM efforts to efficiency and profitability
  • Strategic thinking skills to relate KM efforts to larger goals
  • Collaboration and facilitation skills to work with various departments and facilitate their ability to work with each other
  • Understanding of the relationship of information technology and its role in enabling success through KM

The right organizational positioning and reporting structure is only a start. Actual success also depends on how well the CKO takes advantage of the skill set they possess. In fact, one of the most powerful attributes, and the one I believe is most required for success, is the CKO’s ability to achieve results through their peers. Seeing the value of leveraging knowledge and then adapting business and operational processes to make this happen “as part of the way the organization does business” will only occur if the peer leadership and the organization really understand and believe there is value in doing do so.


What are the CKO’s Key Messages?

Organizations that can move knowledge effectively across the organization to improve their performance recognize the following concepts:

  • Leadership has enabled a framework for “performing and learning” — sharing experience and insight from doing, supported by appropriate enabling technology, that enables people at all levels in the to improve their performance
  • They recognize and understand that helping people and teams learn before, during, and after the work they do is the single, most effective way to improve performance in the short term and establish the value of capturing, transferring, and reusing knowledge in the long term
  • Experience and learnings are captured, stored, and made accessible after each project in a format designed to meet the needs of the re-user of the knowledge
  • A process is in place to integrate captured knowledge with what the rest of the organization knows and to make it visible and usable for others
  • Responsibilities are defined for maintaining all knowledge processes and activities.


What Support Does A CKO Really Need for Success?

Success also really depends on providing the CKO with sufficient resources to take the organization from KM concept to strategy to practice.” This means resourcing the CKO team with sufficient budget and people. While it’s important to place the CKO in a position that visibly reflects the organization’s view of the CKO’s value, without a budget, the CKO skill set and that of the CKO team will be marginalized at best.


How Will You Know that You Are Successful as a CKO?

CKO success can be measured in many ways and depends on the context of the organization, its culture, and its leadership. I offer the following general measures, which if achieved, reflect success for a CKO and their organization:

  • A consistent and disciplined process for the explicit or formal leveraging of knowledge is a part of ongoing operations
  • There is an ongoing effort to improve the ability to leverage the hidden value of corporate knowledge in business development and organizational growth
  • There is an ongoing focus on improving the ability to learn from past challenges and successes in strategic decision making
  • There is an ongoing focus creating value from knowledge (information, experience, and insight) held by employees
  • Capturing and reusing knowledge is woven into the organization’s business and operational processes as part of the way work is done to provide real value to the individual and the team in their day-to-day activities.

Questions, comments, insight..please share your thoughts, especially if you are or have been a CKO. @billkaplankm