posted 2 Sep 2002 in Volume 6 Issue 1
5 minutes with… Ford Motor Company
Jacquie Bran, project manager with the Knowledge Management events team, spent five minutes talking to Stan Kwiecien, best practice replication deployment manager for Ford Motor Company, about the firm’s unique experience developing and implementing a taxonomy.
When and why did you first consider implementing a taxonomy?
We implemented the use of taxonomy right at the beginning, seven years ago, knowing that, at that time, taxonomies (or ‘topics’, as we call them) were necessary both from the search point of view and to help the users better associate their knowledge with a process or function.
What have you done to encourage and promote knowledge sharing and what barriers have you faced?
Knowledge sharing is promoted as being a part of every day work-life. Indeed, knowledge sharing can and is included in our performance reviews. One barrier we often run into, though, is when managers don’t consider KM to be a priority.
How useful has your taxonomy been in retrospect?
In our opinion, taxonomy is mandatory for sharing knowledge efficiently and effectively, otherwise content is merely words and data, not knowledge.
How have you incorporated a provision for your taxonomy to be updated and maintained on an ongoing basis?
The taxonomies are the property of the communities. It is the responsibility of each community leader (or ‘gatekeeper’) to maintain the taxonomies, and the system will not allow for the deletion of a taxonomy if it is associated with an entry.
What are the main lessons learnt and are there any new milestones on the horizon?
The major lesson to be learnt is that once you have a sound process that works, do not deviate from it. Experimentation and improvement are necessary, but stay with the basics you agreed at the start of your implementation process. Also, keep the executive sponsors informed periodically, and if they change, be sure that the new person in the sponsorship position understands, agrees and supports the work you are doing.
In addition, you need to monitor the activity and performance of the different taxonomy communities, as inactivity or lacklustre leads to poor knowledge management and an ineffective taxonomy. Thus, inactive communities need to be disbanded. More importantly, successful communities need to be recognised and publicised.
Ford Motor Company is just one of the company’s presenting at Ark Group’s forthcoming ‘Real World Taxonomies’ conference, which takes place in London from 17-19 September 2002. For more information or to register your attendance, visit www.kmmagazine.com/events or call Henry Anson on +44 (0)20 8785 5900.