What is the Chief Knowledge Officer Job? 14 Important Responsibilities and Accountabilities

Chief Knowledge Officer Job

What is the Chief Knowledge Officer Job? 14 Important Responsibilities and Accountabilities

What is the Chief Knowledge Officer Job?

At the highest level, the Chief Knowledge Officer job, or CKO job, includes managing the processes, practices, and technical specifications for the capture, retention, and use/reuse of an organization’s knowledge.

Many organizations infuse knowledge management into content creation and collaboration, distributing the Chief Knowledge Officer job through content leaders, marketing, and line-of-business professionals. Without a knowledge focal point, however, organizations can lose their connection, not with specific knowledge, but with the idea of knowledge as a strategic asset.

The CKO brings strategic focus and ownership. CKOs also help identify which classes of knowledge deliver value and therefore require attention, curation, and nurturing. In this process of knowledge cultivation, CKOs discover knowledge that can apply to customer and market messaging. Knowledge plays a role not just as an internal operations advantage but as a source of credibility and market leadership.

This raises another aspect of the CKO’s work, that of protector of knowledge. The CKO and the legal team should act as the primary overseer of intellectual property policy. He or she should influence what knowledge an organization considers proprietary, as well as the knowledge that confers competitive advantage.

Increasingly, the Chief Knowledge Officer job exists primarily in nearly pure knowledge businesses, such as research, management consulting, government agencies, and associations. The combination of knowledge cultivation and control, however, remains important, and many organizations would benefit from the leadership of a CKO.

The CKO should have a clear vision for the knowledge needs of an organization’s employees and partners. Because most people do not focus on how their knowledge fits into the overall value of the organization. The CKO needs to facilitate recognition of the knowledge context others can use to implement knowledge-oriented projects or programs.  

If data-driven insights from machine learning (ML) offer a competitive advantage, and the ML project results in employee displacement over time, the CKO should work with the lines of business to manage that transition. He or she should be involved in all aspects of such a transition, including how to leverage the emergent knowledge, the fate of the knowledge workers, and the protection of the proprietary knowledge that the company owns after the transition.

In organizations without a strong knowledge focus, the CKO also needs to master change management and act as one of the primary leaders in helping employees learn about the organization’s knowledge, its strategic importance, and their role in creating, managing, and sharing that knowledge.

A CKO should report as high in the organization as is necessary to address the organization’s knowledge. The role should be operational and not ancillary.

Chief Knowledge Officer Job CKO role

CKO as a team

In lieu of a leadership role, organizations should address their knowledge through design thinking. This will help ensure an inclusive view of knowledge that incorporates policy and practice, as well as technology. Organizations should create functional responsibilities that blend well their execution model and not build “knowledge bureaucracies” that burden the organization, create political tension and consider their own sustainability ahead of pragmatic needs.

Regardless of the implementation, the Chief Knowledge Officer job is a management role. The person or team filling the CKO role needs to be able to make operational decisions.

Organizations with strong communities of practice (CoP) can complement the CKO with recommendations or advice. Those structures are ill-fit for strategic decision-making across the organization, though they are the best positioned for making domain-specific and localized recommendations about knowledge use and management. The CKO should, however, be a member of the CoP leaders CoP where the members raise issues of knowledge opportunity and obstacle.

Table 1: Key Chief Knowledge Officer Responsibilities and Accountabilities

This table is written so that recruiters or those seeking to create new knowledge
leadership roles can cut and paste items into job descriptions.

Knowledge visionDevelop the organization’s view of knowledge as an asset and how that knowledge manifests in employees and systems.
Intellectual property policyWork with the legal team and information technology to develop policies that protect the organization’s intellectual property.
Knowledge-based competitive advantageIdentify key knowledge that provides the organization’s competitive advantage. Work with other leaders on how to protect this knowledge, and how to further leverage its value.

Intimately involved the valuation of knowledge during an acquisition or merger.
Thought leadershipDocument a firm’s positions on its strategic knowledge as a means to increase credibility and create relevance for the market. A CKO in a process or product firm can also play a key role in helping craft case studies that capture client knowledge-based transformations as proof points for their capabilities.
Measurement frameworkCreate key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect the value derived from knowledge, and the ongoing measure of knowledge quality.
Learning architectureLead the definition and design of the organization’s learning architecture. This includes collaboration technology, communities, e-learning and content management. Depending on the firm, the learning architecture may also include more operational elements such as rule-based systems, knowledge bases, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. While emergent technologies may appear more product dependent, a CKO can provide a more holistic view not only of the data leading used as input to learning algorithms but can also help provide context for the validation of outcomes and recommendations made by such systems. The learning architecture should also spell out encoding and codification standards to aid in the representation and retrieval of knowledge.
Knowledge TransferHelp process owners master the transfer of knowledge to new employees. Codify lessons learned and practices so the organization can internalize and incorporate them rapidly and effectively.
Learning Process MonitoringIdentify and monitor learning opportunities such as operational processes, professional development, and voice of the customer. This could include investigations on why customers leave or why key employees shift jobs or the facilitation of learning events designed to transfer knowledge.
Barrier-BreakingChallenge legacy assumptions and practices. Many times an organization will say it wants to share knowledge, but is often unwilling or not able to move beyond its own history to make the transformation. The change-agent skill is important.
Manage Knowledge GapsIdentify knowledge gaps that need to be filled in order to drive operational excellence, leadership, product and process design and innovation.
Nurture InnovationFacilitate the building of practice repositories that foster creativity and innovation, leading to new products, services or radical improvements in existing products or services.
Change ManagementLead transformation for knowledge-intensive processes. Assist leadership in the application of change management practices across the organization.
Knowledge RetentionDevelop knowledge loss awareness processes and systems, including those associated with attrition, retirement, and divestitures.

Each organization will drive its own knowledge retention agenda, but these practices typically include knowledge related to operations, sales, customers, markets, competitors, internal practices, policy dissemination, competencies, government policies and continuity.

The CKO should be responsible for ensuring key differentiated knowledge remains accessible regardless of circumstances, such as natural disasters or market forces that may cast doubt on the stability of the organization.
Knowledge RetirementIdentify obsolete knowledge that may be damaging to operations, market perceptions or employee engagement. Knowledge cultivation includes pruning. CKOs should see knowledge retirement through the risk management lens, and not through the lens of “nice-ot-have as time permits.” In fast-moving industries, like technology, or highly regulated industries like banking, what you chose to “retire” or “forget” can be critical to avoid legal action. Messaging the knowledge retirement can also play a major role in change management as the action unleashes time for innovation that might otherwise be applied to maintaining irrelevant knowledge.

Source: Serious Insights LLC

What would you add?

For more on knowledge management from Serious Insights see:

The Tens — Knowledge Management Success Factors

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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