The APQC Blog

What Is KM Maturity and Why Does It Matter?

In a recent thread in a knowledge management discussion group, I was embroiled in a KM maturity conversation (okay, truth be told, I embroiled myself—but I couldn’t help it). The initial post was innocent enough, something about existing maturity models. Since APQC has its own Levels of KM Maturity and an associated KM Capability Assessment Tool, initially I decided simply to lurk and not to extol the virtues of our model, which was created with significant subject matter expertise from a variety of sources. However, my thoughts for this monologue aren’t about our maturity model, although you can read more about it here if you’d like. (Ironically, the document linked above is very similar to the one that got me involved in the fray in the first place.)

What I’m really thinking about right now is the value of having and being assessed on a KM maturity scale in the first place. Well, if it’s to be believed, the often-used but rarely-accurately-attributed (the name of the original author lost in the dust bin of history) saying, “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been” applies here. That is, even if you begin with the end in mind (thanks Stephen Covey?), getting there requires a bit of knowledge to estimate how long the journey will be. Moreover, every journey, no matter how long, starts with the first step (Lao-tzu rolling over). Okay, enough with the poorly attributed words of others: In my own words, the value a KM maturity model brings to an organization is an understanding of (1) how much energy should be devoted to KM, (2) how much energy will be needed, and (3) what you have to do in a methodical fashion to get to your own KM maturity nirvana.

APQC’s Levels of KM Maturity follows the typical five-level maturity construct, from total knowledge sharing chaos to total intuitive knowledge sharing (all definitions mine; not really part of the scale). By itself, I don’t think that’s the most useful part of the maturity model, however. What is more valuable is APQC’s 150-item KM Capability Assessment Tool, which informs the final maturity level. The top five benefits an organization receives through a KM maturity assessment are:

N0. 5 - An understanding of the barriers holding it back from effortless knowledge sharing and retention

N0. 4 - Consensus on the final knowledge sharing destination it aspires to

N0. 3 - A list of actions that will provide the most bang for the buck (think Pareto and priority)

N0. 2 - A road map of steps required to achieve its knowledge sharing goals

N0. 1 - An ability to convey to business leaders and key stakeholders the value of good KM

The reason why benefit No. 1 is at the top of the list can be summarized by my new favorite saying, courtesy of Paige Kane, director of KM at Pfizer. She said KMers “speak a language that only dogs can hear.” So if a KM maturity model can show factually how well (or poorly) an organization takes advantage of its expertise and knowledge and convey that in a language that non-KMers (read: senior leadership) can understand, then the rest is just details.

With that in mind, why wouldn’t you assess your organization’s KM maturity? Come on, can’t you handle the truth?