L&D: Push-Pull Knowledge Management Systems – Part 5

Push-Pull KMS – Stage 4

Link to Part 1 – here.

Link to Part 2 – here.

Link to Part 3 – here.

Link to Part 4 – here.

Note – this was written in 2000 for my former quarterly newsletter, and I’ve made only slight edits to it for posting here in 2018.


In our view, KMS should exist within the enterprise to improve and/or protect the enterprise. This is best measured by return on investment (ROI) and economic value add (EVA®).

No other rationale should exist for the investment of shareholder equity in the development/acquisition of knowledge products “content,” its administration and maintenance, and the development/acquisition of the human assets and environmental assets to provide human performers and infrastructure necessary to be in the KMS business. And for those investments there is always a need for an adequate return.

“Adequate” is always situational and is a moving target. It is determined by the level of return that the enterprise could receive for any investments that it could make elsewhere with its assets – its financial assets, its capital assets, and the time and energy of its human assets. ROI should rule KMS planning and decision-making.

The first-cost investments an enterprise will be required to make in KMS are for products, services, staff, and infrastructure. Those first-costs as investments are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. For it is the life-cycle costs that require the greatest scrutiny and consideration before embarking down the KMS path.

I believe that a KMS can be smart business, just as I believe that T&D can be smart business. But on the other hand, I’ve seen too many instances where shortsighted thinking has led to significant investments with inadequate returns from a shareholder perspective. Again, KMS and T&D should exist within the enterprise only to improve and/or protect the enterprise.

In push-pull KMS, I am calling for a set of systems and/or processes to facilitate the collaboration of T&D customers and others, and then a targeted approach, not a blanketing approach, to meeting the needs for knowledge products.

All I ask is that you judge every opportunity for each potential KMS product and service offering with an ROI measure. Do not get enamored with what it could be. Focus more on what it should be.

The following are our four stages of implementing and operating a KMS:

  • Stage 1: KMS Business Case Development
  • Stage 2: KMS Process and Infrastructure Development/Deployment
  • Stage 3: Initial KMS Content Development and Implementation
  • Stage 4: Ongoing KMS Operations and Maintenance

This post picks up at Stage 4: Ongoing KMS Operations and Maintenance.

Stage 4: Ongoing KMS Operations and Maintenance

A Knowledge Management System needs to be operated; it won’t operate on its own. The maintenance aspects of a Knowledge Management System include both maintenance of the knowledge products and the maintenance of the human and environmental assets.

As a business within the enterprise, the KMS has customers, owners, and many other types of stakeholders. My model for stakeholders follows, along with a short, generalized explanation of the “stakes” or interests of each group.

KMS Stakeholders

There are eight generic, or basic, stakeholder categories with many potentially different types of people in each of them. The categories are

  • Government

–   The government(s) represents the most formal and powerful of all stakeholder groups. Their needs are embodied in the laws and regulations that guard the interests of the public and business, and provide the guidelines for conducting business. In addition, there are a wide variety of regulatory agencies at the federal, state, and local levels aimed at controlling the business practices in particular industries. The government(s) requirements will take precedence, under the penalty of law for any noncompliance, over the needs of any other stakeholder group.

  • Shareholders

–   Shareholders are the owners of the business. Their shares represent capital invested in the organization with an expectation for an equitable return. Their goals are typically financial, long-term growth in equity or short-term income through dividends, but can be related to other things such as greater societal enhancement, environmental protection, etc.

  • Executive Management

–   The executive management stakeholders are those responsible for the operations and results of the entity. They could also consist of an elected board of directors responsible to all the owners and the executive management team in charge of overseeing daily business operations. They have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders for all operating decisions made. They must always balance the (conflicting) interests of various stakeholder groups when determining the course of action for the enterprise.

  • Customers

–   Customers are typically a nonhomogenous group. Segmentation schemes allow us to analyze them as distinct groups for the purposes of gaining insights into their situations, problems, and needs. This allows us to determine responsibly what customer requirements we will choose to pursue. And we should choose to pursue only those that meet the requirements of other critical stakeholders.

  • Standards Bodies/Professional Associations

–   These groups may establish technical and business practice standards. A standards body stakeholder may generate requirements for the output of your business such as packaging/labeling, purity, “recyclability,” percent of parts manufactured domestically, etc. In addition, they may address the processes within your company, such as the implementation of your quality management system, hiring and recruitment processes, and so on. They typically do not have the power of law, but may use their marketplace influence to have their needs met.

  • Employees

–   This stakeholder group includes all ranks of employees below the executive management level—upper middle management, middle management, supervisors, and the individual contributors. At the heart of all employee requirements are a safe workplace and financial security, but other needs exist among the groups. Some employees want the opportunity for career growth and advancement. Others want a work situation where they can use their intellect and creativity. Others may simply want a nondemanding set of tasks to do before they head home each day. Each set of needs is as different as the individual doing the job. Global assumptions, such as one that assumes that everyone wants to be a team player, will only lead to a population of dissatisfied employees. Organizations need to listen carefully to all their employees.

  • Suppliers

–   As a business entity, suppliers also need to achieve a profit margin that will allow them to remain in business. If we want to promote a long-term arrangement with particular suppliers, we need to be aware of the impacts of our decisions on their business. Our objective should not be to drive our costs/their prices for their products and/or services so far down that they themselves become unprofitable and go out of business.

  • Community

–   The community stakeholders, although a less formal group, remain important through the influence they can have on our businesses. The community can choose to support your business or, if they do not agree with the ways in which your operations are run, bring it to the attention of the greater public. Their interests primarily lie in community and environmental safety, jobs for the members of the local community, and cooperation with community interests.

A KMS must have processes in place that connect with these stakeholders. Determining the voices of the stakeholders and turning that potential discordant “noise” into harmonious “insight” regarding the critical business issues, the strategic intent and focus, and the specific product and/or service needs of those critical needs, is itself critical to the success of the Knowledge Management System.

Knowledge Products

The products of a KMS that need to be developed, administered and maintained can include the following types:

  • Best practices
  • Performance/job aids
  • Electronic or paper desk procedures
  • Performance checklists
  • Simulation exercises
  • Knowledge tests
  • Performance tests (for pre- and posttesting and/or certification/qualification testing)
  • Case studies
  • Instructional content (at the awareness, knowledge, or skill level) via instructional activities, demonstration activities, and application activities

There are services (nonproducts) that a KMS can also deliver to its customers; perhaps including executive coaching, coaching by experts to others internal and/or external with a need for such, and expert search systems to help find and populate project efforts with the right people to bring their awareness, knowledge, and skills to bear on a business need.

A “Systems View” of KMS Operations

The operations of a Knowledge Management System is concerned with the efficient and effective operations of many systems and their processes. CADDI uses the same model for systems and processes for a KMS as for a T&D system . . .my T&D Systems View model that is represented via the following graphic.


The most important section of the model – is at 12 O’Clock IMO.

The 47 Processes of a Knowledge Management (or T&D) System

My model of processes for a Knowledge Management System is the same for us as for a training & development system, as we see them as too similar than dissimilar, in both business intent and in products and/or services to be offered.

Yes, there are some differences, some nuances; or there can be, depending on how narrow you wish to view each. We chose to see them from a shareholder perspective, which is reflected in this question: “In how many ways do we wish to see our investment dollars spent in providing the human assets within our enterprise on the awareness, knowledge, skills, and tools to accomplish their task assignments more effectively and efficiently?”

We believe that they want, and wish, that enterprise leadership would strip out all (or at least most) redundant efforts and expenditures to accomplish meeting that need more effectively and efficiently themselves.

The 47 processes necessary to those ends is presented below within a 12 systems view framework.

12 – T&D Governance and Advisory System

  • 1 – T&D Governance Process
  • 2 – T&D Advisory Process

1 – T&D Strategic Planning System

  • 1 – Enterprise Strategic Plans Surveillance Process
  • 2 – T&D Strategic Planning Process

2 – T&D Operations Planning and Management System

  • 1 – Annual Operations Planning and Budgeting Process
  • 2 – Quarterly Operations Planning and Budgeting Updates Process
  • 3 – Forecasting and Accounting Process

3 – T&D Cost/Benefits Measurement System

  • 1 – Cost/Benefits Measurement System Design and Deployment Process
  • 2 – Ongoing Cost/Benefits Measurement and Feedback Receiving Process
  • 3 – T&D Project Lessons Learned Process
  • 4 – Results Reporting and Archiving Process

4 – T&D Process Improvement System

  • 1 – T&D Issues Generation and Assessment Process
  • 2 – T&D Improvement Project Planning and Management Process

5 – T&D Product and Service Line Design System

  • 1 – T&D Product and Service Line Program Management Process
  • 2 – T&D Product Line Design Process
  • 3 – T&D Service Line Design Process

6 – T&D Product and Service Line Development/Acquisition System

  • 1 – T&D Product and Service Line Development and Acquisition Program Management Process
  • 2 – T&D Custom Development Process
  • 3 – T&D Purchased Product Acquisition Process
  • 4 – T&D Purchased Product Modification Process
  • 5 – Existing T&D Maintenance Process

7 – T&D Product and Service Line Deployment System

  • 1 – T&D Master Materials Storage and Retrieval Process
  • 2 – T&D Master Materials Change Management Process
  • 3 – T&D Scheduling Process
  • 4 – T&D Facilitator and Coach Development and Certification Process
  • 5 – Facilitator-led T&D Deployment Process
  • 6 – Self-paced T&D Deployment Process
  • 7 – Coached/Mentored T&D Deployment Process

8 – T&D Marketing and Communications System

  • 1 – T&D Stakeholder Communications Process
  • 2 – Individual T&D Planning Process
  • 3 – T&D Ordering and Registration Process

9 – T&D Financial Asset Management System

  • 1 – Organizational T&D Plans and Budget Roll-up and Adjustment Process
  • 2 – T&D Physical Property Management Process

10 – T&D Human and Environmental Asset Management System

  • 1 – T&D Staff Recruiting and Selection/Succession Process
  • 2 – T&D Staff Training and Development Process
  • 3 – T&D Staff Assessment Process
  • 4 – T&D Staff Compensation and Benefits Process
  • 5 – T&D Rewards and Recognition Process
  • 6 – T&D Organization Structural Design Process
  • 7 – T&D Facilities Development and Deployment Process
  • 8 – T&D Equipment and Tools Development and Deployment Process
  • 9 – T&D Materials and Supplies Acquisition and Deployment Process
  • 10 – T&D Information Systems Development and Deployment Process
  • 11 – T&D Methods Deployment Process

11 – T&D Research and Development System

  • 1 – T&D Methodology and Technology Surveillance Process
  • 2 – T&D Internal and External Benchmarking Process
  • 3 – T&D Methodology and Technology Pilot-Testing Process

Operating the KMS in a Push Mode and in a Pull Mode

A KMS can be best operated in a Push-Pull mode. The diagram below portrays our intent. Note that the KMS itself does not push knowledge products; their customer’s management or enterprise leadership stakeholders decide “what to push to whom,” just as they decide who does not get this attention. Enterprise leadership decides who are the push audiences and who are the pull audiences, and if that view needs to be changed to reflect the potentially ever-changing needs of the dynamic enterprise.

Push KMS

In this approach, not all potential target audiences are addressed. Only business-critical audiences are ever addressed, and these are the “push” audiences.

From a customer (KMS user) perspective, a Knowledge Management System operating in a Push mode only develops/acquires knowledge products (or T&D products) for critical target audiences. Never for “low-hanging fruit” knowledge products.

The total life-cycle costs for knowledge products is much greater than the first costs. Answers are needed for the issue – “If you build it will they come,” and for the question “Do the total returns warrant the total costs?”

The answer to “What is the cost to the enterprises of doing nothing” will determine the cost of nonconformance (CONC) and establish a forecasted return.

The percentage of the CONC that can be reduced for an investment cost, the cost of conformance (COC), allows you to calculate ROI.

We should always be concerned with whether the push audiences “finish their modules” and/or “test out.” We should be very concerned with their evaluations of our knowledge products.

Pull KMS

In this approach with these potential target audiences, the “pull” audiences are never addressed deliberately, other than content created for the business-critical push audiences that is chunked and made accessible for them as a “byproduct.”

From a customer (KMS user) perspective the Knowledge Management System operating in a Pull mode makes available knowledge products built for others. They don’t get anything specifically for them, simply because there are better places for the enterprise to “strategically place their resource bets,” and those are on the needs of the push audiences.

We should never be concerned with whether the pull audiences “finish their modules.” We should never react to their evaluations of our knowledge products.

KMS Maintenance

Maintaining a KMS includes both the keeping up-to-date of the knowledge products and the systems and processes of the Knowledge Management System.

To protect and/or improve the enterprise, the system needs to ensure that critical content (the only content developed in our Push-Pull approach) is up-to-date. And as technology evolves, and the needs of the enterprise evolve, the systems and processes of the KMS need to take advantage of “new ways to do new or old things” and keep up where the return is sufficient to warrant the investment.

The following KM systems are central to this effort:

12 – T&D Governance and Advisory System

  • This system’s processes ensure the voice of the stakeholders (including customers) make it into the decision-making processes, regarding priorities and resource allocations.

1 – T&D Strategic Planning System

  • This system’s processes ensure that a longer horizon than “what will we do today,” is used for long-term planning for “where you are going and how you will get there,” is in place and is driven by the long-range plans and needs of the KMS stakeholders.

2 – T&D Operations Planning and Management System

  • This system’s processes ensure that projects are planned and resources are provided to put the systems and processes in place to operate the KMS and enable the development/acquisition of knowledge products, and then keeping everything up-to-date.

4 – T&D Process Improvement System

  • This system’s processes ensure that the KMS processes are improved (continuously or discontinuously, as needed).

6 – T&D Product and Service Line Development/Acquisition System

  • This system’s processes ensure that the KMS products are up-to-date.

10 – T&D Human and Environmental Asset Management System

  • This system’s processes ensure that the staff and environmental assets are both up-to-date and adequate to their tasks.

11 – T&D Research and Development System

  • This system’s processes ensure that research and benchmarking is going on and uncovering potential improvement opportunities, for both the products and the processes of the KMS.

Ongoing KMS Operations and Maintenance Summary

If you feel that my view of KMS is overly complicated (overkill in the extreme), we suggest that the issues (problems/opportunities) that a KM/T&D system can address, and the returns that can be expected for the investments, can be quite significant themselves.

The amount of rigor/control applied will be a situational business decision. Our intent was to uncover the systems/processes that exist (either formally or informally) so that you can get out ahead of the decisions and plan accordingly.

I don’t believe that the critical needs and complex business issues can be handled successfully with simple solutions; as much as we would all prefer that to be the reality. The complexity is already there; we have tried to acknowledge it, understand it (and its implications), and describe it.

Without the involvement of the key enterprise stakeholders, the business issues addressed by a KMS could be inadvertently aimed at “low-hanging fruit” with high consequences for success or failure.

KMS and T&D done right doesn’t come cheap. But they can be done efficiently to great effect if approached seriously and professionally.

The measures of success for KMS are neither “butts in seats” and/or “butts on sites,” but rather ROI and EVA.

My next post in this series, #6, will wrap up my view of Push-Pull KMS.

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One comment on “L&D: Push-Pull Knowledge Management Systems – Part 5

  1. Pingback: L&D: Push-Pull Knowledge Management Systems – Part 6 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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