During my strategic foresight degree, I conducted a survey amongst public service agencies of their use of various foresight tools. I modelled the survey on the Bain and Company Management Tools Survey which has a pretty strong following in corporate circles featuring international comparisons and a long timeline on which to identify some trends. When investigating the Bain survey, I was interested in the use of KM and now see that scenario and contingency planning has been added to the list as one of the management tools.
KM was one management tool that was consistently ranked in that 15th to 25th bracket of most frequently used – far less than many of the others. In the 2006 survey, it is now ranked equal 8th which means that more organisations are engaged with KM than ever before.
What I also found interesting in previous surveys was that KM was consistently rated as one of the lowest in satisfaction from the use of the tool. Those people that did use it were not satisfied with the results – unlike other management tools which were a bit easier to apply and where the results were more tangible. The results from the 2006 survey state:
- Knowledge Management moved into the top 10 most used tools in 2006 despite being ranked in the bottom 5 for satisfaction in every survey for the past ten years
- Knowledge Management is used more heavily in Asia-Pacific but with a significantly lower rate of satisfaction to the rest of the world
- Some satisfaction levels vary by company size, though large companies are generally more satisfied with tools with the one exception is that large companies are less satisfied with Knowledge Management
- Three tools, Knowledge Management, Balanced Scorecard and Outsourcing, are heavily used but have satisfaction scores below the mean
- More Asian firms seem to be early adopters of tools, with much higher usage rates of tools such as Consumer Ethnography and Corporate Blogs
Also interesting to note that corporate blogs is now one of the 25 tools and has by far the lowest satisfaction rating – although 15% of companies plan to start using them in 2007.
How do Bain and Company define KM?
“Knowledge Management: Develops systems and processes to capture and share a company’s intellectual assets. Related Topics: Groupware, Intellectual Capital Management, Learning Organization, Managing Innovation.”
So what about scenario and contingency planning – defined as Involves raising and testing various “what-if” scenarios. Related Topics: Crisis Management, Disaster Recovery, Groupthink, Real Options Analysis, Simulation Models.”
More than 70% of companies in Europe and North America and nearly 80% of large companies are using this management tool. Usage rates and satisfaction levels are trending higher over time. That’s certainly good news for budding futures consultants but linking this back to smaller organisations remains a priority and the potential for Asia is also high.
So what else do the general survey results tell us? It seems paradoxical that companies are increasing their use of tools that have consistently failed to satisfy managers, that Asia is more interested in things KM and early adopters of new tools than other regions, and that KM works best (or perhaps is better implemented) in smaller organisations.
There’s an opportunity here for KM and futures practitioners. How can the satisfaction levels for KM be increased, particularly for larger organisations and Asia, in an environment when more organisations are adopting KM? How can scenario and contingency planning be further heightened in Asia and in smaller companies? And why is it that futures methodologies have a higher satisfaction rating than KM? Be interested in anyone’s comments. I’ve raised these issues for KM on the actKM list and might post back some responses if any come through.