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How To Apply Knowledge Management to Your Projects
By Stephanie SimonGlobal Knowledge

Knowledge management and project management are complimentary practices that can work hand-in-hand to improve organizational performance. The key is to first demonstrate the value of knowledge management practices to the organization, and then introduce KM practices into the project management process and methodology. Ginger Levin and Parviz F. Rad, in their paper titled Moving Forward with Project Management: A Knowledge Management Methodology, introduce a number of ways to integrate knowledge management tools and practices throughout the project management lifecycle.

According to Levin and Parviz, in the initiating process, the importance of knowledge management is defined in the project charter. The charter indicates that each project team member is responsible for creating knowledge assets during the course of the project. In addition, a process is established during initiation for how this information will be collected, organized, tagged, stored, and retrieved. Also, a determination is made regarding what tools and technology will be used for storing and retrieving the knowledge assets. A team member is assigned the role of “knowledge broker,” who has responsibility for reviewing the content created by team members and posting the information to the portal, repository, forums, blogs, wikis, or other tools used for data storage, review, and retrieval. One of the keys to success is making the knowledge management process as streamlined as possible and ensuring the technologies employed for managing the data and information are easy to use. If you utilize a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) on your projects, according to Levin and Parviz, the RAM can be used to reinforce roles and responsibilities associated with the creation, review, approval, and posting of knowledge assets.

As you move forward into the planning process, Levin and Parviz suggest that knowledge management activities be included as a work package that is part of the work breakdown structure. The work associated with identifying, capturing, and storing project learnings are then viewed as part of the project work, and included in the project schedule or workplan. This is a more formal way of embedding knowledge management processes into project management practices.

According to Levin and Parviz, during Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, what they refer to as the “Intermediate Phases” of a project, the creation of knowledge assets is occurring as a continuous process. They suggest ways to ensure that learnings are being identified and captured.

  • Discuss and reinforce the importance of capturing this information at project team meetings.
  • Conduct after-action reviews focused on capturing and documenting lessons learned at the end of each phase of work or after key milestones are reached.
  • Track and monitor the number and quality of postings to the portal, forum, or data repository.

In addition, look for opportunities to use and apply learnings during the course of the project. Once team members experience the benefit of knowledge sharing, they may be more inclined to participate in the process. Update the project schedule to reflect all the work activity associated with KM on the project. According to Levin and Parviz, the project manager can serve as a mentor or change agent to establish knowledge management activities as part of the project work. Project managers can also lead by practicing and facilitating knowledge sharing during the course of the project.

When closing out a project, don’t forget to store important project artifacts that may serve as templates for future projects. Examples of artifacts include the project charter, work breakdown structure, schedule, communication plan, risk and issues log, and change control documents. According to Levin and Parviz, when closing out a project, the post-project review will serve as a vehicle for reviewing the knowledge assets captured during the project and for capturing any remaining learnings for the knowledge repository. There are different ways to conduct these reviews, either through formal or informal interviews, debriefing meetings, surveys, or some combination of these methods. The knowledge assets collected should be reviewed and a determination made as to whether some of these learnings should be moved forward and recommended as project management or organizational best practices. Knowledge assets that are ideal for implementation are those that provide longterm benefit in terms of improving organizational performance and fostering a learning organization.

Initially, you may need to offer some incentives to encourage individuals to participate in identifying and documenting project learnings. Examples of incentives may be cash or prize awards for the number of times the learnings were shared and reused, peer group or company-wide recognition, or performance evaluations that are tied to participation levels. The reward system should be standardized across the organization and built into a larger knowledge management initiative.

Stephanie Simon, MHA, PMP is a training and project management consultant. She has over 15 years of experience in managing projects, mentoring, consulting, and teaching project management and professional skills courses. Stephanie has worked primarily in the health care and pharmaceutical industries for companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and GlaxoSmithKline. She has managed increasingly complex projects working with geographically dispersed, cross-functional teams. She teaches and utilizes tools, methodologies, and best practices in project management. Stephanie has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in Health Administration from the University of Washington. She enjoys building collaborative working relationships and developing high performing teams.

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