Establishing Support Roles and Structures

Establishing Support Roles and Structures

Establishing Support Roles and Structures

3M has begun to use what it calls a federation model. Two full-time KM practitioners, based in HR, lead and facilitate a cross-functional corporate steering team to develop strategy and coordinate and align 3Ms wide array of KM resources and activities. This two-person resource is becoming known as the Knowledge Transformation Program Office. Knowledge transformation is becoming the 3M term for KM. In addition to facilitating the steering team, the program office is beginning to develop a process and toolkit for KM projects with business units. The business units pay for any KM projects.

Awareness of KM as a discipline at 3M began in 2001. At that time, Kay Grenz (vice president, HR) sponsored a thought leader panel, which researched KM in the public domain. Using that research, the panel developed a common KM approach. It also conducted an assessment of the state of KM in the company looking at strengths, opportunities, and strategies. In July 2001 the panel delivered a white paper to Grenz indicating that the KM value proposition in 3M was strong. Panel members included representatives from HR, R&D, and other disciplines and business units in the company.

The panel found that KM was important to the technical community. The panel often heared two questions from the work force: How can we make it better? And how can we extend it to other parts of the organization (functions and parts that are customer facing)? Essentially, the request was to make existing systems more integrated and cross functional. According to Dayton, this recognition of the importance of knowledge sharing was more than enough to get people to show up to the KM meetings.

3M now has a KM steering team composed of representatives from various areas around the company (e.g., Six Sigma, IT, HR, library and information services, and marketing). The steering team developed six strategies for KM at 3M.

  1. Foster awareness and understanding of KM in the organization.

  2. Promote high value KM initiatives.

  3. Leverage existing technology.

  4. Develop KM methodology and processes.

  5. Benchmark.

  6. Maintain sustainability.

In September 2001 (before the six KM strategies were developed) the team knew it needed to connect with the five corporate performance initiatives in order to determine which ones they could support with KM. Members of the team talked with the Six Sigma leader about how KM could help him. They developed a plan for collaboration between the two groups. This effort led to Six Sigma representation on the KM steering team.

With approximately 2,500 Six Sigma projects running and large numbers of best practices and lessons learned coming out of these projects, large amounts of new, explicit knowledge and content are being created. 3M must organize this information so it can be retrieved and reused in order to prevent someone from reinventing the wheel. The steering team provided the necessary guidance and alignment for Six Sigma and corporate IT to develop a knowledge replication and reporting database, which was launched in September 2002. It is expected that the database will improve resource allocation and cost savings for the organization, reduce future project cycle times by reusing valuable knowledge, and help link people to share tacit knowledge.

In December 2001 corporate marketing began a KM effort for 3Ms Sales and Marketing Council to replicate KM best practices from the R&D community and has partnered with the steering team and program office to leverage their work.

Knowledge Validation

3M does not have a rigorous document management system across the organization. The only areas where this system exists are those where regulations, specifications, and standards require it, such as pharmaceuticals. Otherwise, use of such a system is left up to the individual businesses or communities. 3M admits to problems with version control where there is no document management system.

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