Relationship of KM with other functions in an organization

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After working in the KM arena for many years now, one thought has started puzzling me — “The relationship of KM function with other functions in an organization and the consequences of these relationships — in terms of the KM viewpoint & outlook, success etc.”

I have observed many different Indian IT organizations [I presume it must be similar in other countries also], that each organization has it’s own structure for KM within the organization. For example in one organization, KM reports into quality and is part of the quality function, In another organization KM reports in Education, Training & Research, In another it is heavily distributed and some parts report into Marketing & Sales, some into HR etc. In another one we have a separate KM function that reports directly to the COO.

I have observed the KM initiatives in all these above organizations from close quarters, through various interactions and in all of these cases, the results of KM and the road map, the view of KM, what KM is, is all different and very heavily influenced by the function/person KM reports into.

– KM being a cross-functional discipline, also is similar to an elephant being viewed by blind-folded persons and each person [function] having it’s own view/perception of the elephant [KM] depending on what part of the elephant they are seeing.

– At the same time, KM’s cross-disciplinary nature can create structural tensions within an organization if it is a separate function, with developing working relationships, alignment on directions, strategy, over stepping on other functions toes.. being just some of the issues..

– KM being a relatively new discipline and not very well understood by the stakeholders also contributes to this dilemma. For example, Quality as a function has been there for ages and is pretty well understood. You will very very rarely see quality reporting to say CIO or HR or Marketing or Learning/Training function..

– Also, KM itself is a journey within an organization and goes through various stages.. from repository/technical platforms [CIO function alignment] to communities [HR/Learning function alignment ] to reuse of knowledge [Quality function alignment] to deep integration within the line function [function head alignment] to complex change management & Innovation [COO/CEO alignment]

Surprising isn’t it? We are in the knowledge era and the position of KM function within the organization structure is neither well understood or defined….

I think every organization that is starting a KM journey needs to ponder over this in great depth and align KM function appropriately within it’s organizational structure


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