Leaders and Laggards

David J. Skyrme and Debra M. Amidon

In our research for Creating the Knowledge-based Business we identified significant differences between very successful and less successful (or failing) knowledge management initiatives. We found ten recurring characteristics that separated the leaders and the laggards

Ten Characteristics of Leaders

1. They can clearly articulate a vision of what the knowledge agenda and knowledge management is about. Their thinking about their business, their business environment and their knowledge goals was clear.

2. They have enthusiastic knowledge champions who are supported by top management.

3. They have a holistic perspective that embraces strategic, technological and organisational perspectives.

4. They use systematic processes and frameworks (the power of visualization).

5. They "bet on knowledge", even when the cost-benefits cannot easily be measured.

6. They use effective communications, using all the tricks of marketing and PR.

7. There is effective interaction at all levels with their customers and external experts. Human networking takes place internally and externally on a broad front.

8. They demonstrate good teamwork, with team members drawn from many disciplines.

9. They have a culture of openness and inquisitiveness that stimulates innovation and learning.

10. They develop incentives, sanctions and personal development programmes to change behaviours.

Ten Characteristics of Laggards

1. They simplify knowledge to information or database model, often applying the "knowledge" label without a comprehensive understanding of what knowledge is about.

2. They package and disseminate knowledge that is most readily available (vs. that which is the most useful).

3. They work in isolated pockets without strong senior management support. Thus, they may hand over responsibility for knowledge systems to one department, such as MIS, without engaging the whole organization.

4. They focus on a narrow aspect of knowledge, such as knowledge sharing rather than all processes including new knowledge creation and innovation.

5. They blindly follow a change process e.g. BPR (Business Process Re-engineering), without understanding the associated knowledge dimension.

6. They downsize or outsource without appreciating what vital knowledge might be lost.

7. They think that technology (alone) is the answer. For example, that expert systems by themselves are the way to organize and use knowledge.

8. They have a major cultural blockage, perhaps caused by a climate of "knowledge is power"

9. They "know all the answers" i.e. they are not open to new ideas.

10. They get impatient. They think knowledge management is simply another short-term project or programme. They do not allow time for new systems and behaviours to become embedded.

See also abstract of 'The Knowledge Agenda'.

Last updated: 29th March 2011


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