Knowledge management involves the systematic identification, recording, and distribution of insights and experiences that enables their adoption in new situations.
The goals of knowledge management are to:
- capture useful knowledge from the management of projects, programmes and portfolios;
- make tacit knowledge from experienced practitioners available to all;
- support capability maturity management and continuous improvement in P3 management.
The most common examples of useful knowledge in P3 management are ‘lessons learned’. These should be recorded throughout the life cycle in a lessons log with a particular focus on capturing them during reviews at the end of a stage or tranche.
Reviewing lessons learned from previous projects and programmes is an activity during the identification process. Failure to use the experiences and insights from previous work will often lead to a repeat of past mistakes.
Knowledge management is an important element in developing an organisation’s capability maturity. Capturing lessons learned is an attribute of level 3 capability while implementing an integrated and structured knowledge management system is an attribute of maturity level 4.
Knowledge is usually described as taking one of two forms: tacit and explicit.
This aspect of knowledge management is the essence of what Praxis is designed to achieve.
The taxonomy of Praxis is the foundation on which tacit knowledge from the P3 management community at large can be recorded and made explicit in a highly accessible way.
Tacit knowledge is the sum of experiences, insights, observations and communications that every person holds in their memory. Clearly, experienced P3 managers, sponsors, business change managers et al, will have large amounts of tacit knowledge about P3 management that they use every day to successfully deliver projects and programmes.
A key role of knowledge management is to capture this tacit knowledge and convert it into explicit knowledge. This simply means that it is expressed and recorded in a way that is accessible by those who wish to develop their knowledge and learn from the experience of others.
The users of this explicit knowledge will range from novice project managers to experienced portfolio managers facing new challenges. A mature organisation will foster a culture of learning and development with knowledge management being one of its tools.
There are many theories and models of knowledge management with Nonaka and Takeuchi’s being a common example.
Within the P3 management organisation the steps involved in establishing knowledge management include:
ensuring senior management commitment to the principles of knowledge management;
assurance of the elements of the P3 method that capture and utilise knowledge;
implementing and maintaining a system for storing and maintaining knowledge.
Capturing lessons learned is only one way of creating explicit knowledge and is primarily based on the tacit knowledge available within the organisation.
This should be supplemented with external sources of knowledge through involvement with broader communities of practice including professional bodies.
Knowledge management reduces the inherent risk involved in the management of projects, programmes and portfolios through the use of proven methods and techniques and avoidance of known pitfalls.
It can also motivate management team members who see a vehicle for them to help improve P3 management at an organisational level through their personal contributions.
Projects, programmes and portfolios
In a more mature organisation there should be an existing knowledge management system that all projects, programmes and portfolios can access.
Without this, an individual project has limited opportunity to implement knowledge management unless it is large and complex. Smaller stand-alone projects in less mature organisations rely on individual management team members to apply their tacit knowledge.
In these situations, the host organisation risks losing its capability to manage projects when skilled staff leave. Simple actions to mitigate this risk can include the use of project diaries retained by the organisation and provision of time in which project managers can get together to exchange experiences.
By definition, a programme comprises multiple projects and has the opportunity to record lessons learned from earlier projects so that they can be applied to later projects. It will be down to the programme management team to provide that continuity.
The greatest opportunity for developing robust knowledge management lies within a portfolio. At this level the management team should secure funding for a knowledge management system if it does not already exist within the host organisation as a whole. This would typically be done during the initiation process.