Transparency and communication enabled widespread adoption of KM at Transport for London


Liz Hobbs, Knowledge Management Functional Lead at Transport for London (TfL) asserts that promoting a culture of transparency and removing a blame culture helped TfL employees embed KM into their every day work. In this Q&A, Liz Hobbs talks through key learning experiences that enabled her to embed KM into every day business processes and grow a participating community to more than 6,000 people.

1. Managing people, processes and technology at an organisation employing almost 24,000 people is surely a huge task. How is KM structured at TfL?

Knowledge Management within TfL started life with the focus on learning lessons from the project and programme area, but quickly spread to functional management such as Commercial and Finance. It is now working within the operations part of the business as well trying to close the loop to achieve better outcome definition at the start of projects. The project community and functional areas is more than 6,000 people.

2. You have worked hard to embed KM into everyday business processes at TFL. How long did this process take from start to finish and what 3 factors contributed most to a successful outcome?

I would say that the journey took around two to three years before reaching a tipping point. Three factors that I feel contributed to the successful outcome are:

  • Continuous communication and engagement across the community – training, facilitation of workshops, coaching and mentoring team as well as presenting at forums, team meetings and lunchtime learning sessions
  • Development of a network of Knowledge Sharing Champions across the organisation with large programmes now have knowledge sharing plans, lead champions and champions across the whole programme. Knowledge sharing is on all meeting agendas
  • Changing the lessons learned process to include opportunities to reflect and learn during a process, not just at the end

3. In the past, 'pockets of learning' had taken place at TfL but now a full learning programme has been implemented. How did you ensure a consistent roll-out of this initiative across the company?

For me it is about visibility, going out into the teams and understanding where they are starting from and supporting them on their journey. I had a mandate to implement knowledge management from a change management programme that recognised that we didn’t learn from our lessons. A key lesson for me is that consistent support and buy-in from senior management is needed. Messaging needs to ensure people understand that knowledge sharing is part of the day job. 

4. What new behaviours have been encouraged to help employees embed KM into their everyday? What strategies have KM teams used to develop this?

Transparency and openness, taking away some of the blame culture that existed. Also teams and programmes have undertaken their own analysis on initiatives that could have performed better and looked for solutions to prevent these things happening again. They have also been instrumental in identifying good practice from other teams and external partners rather than starting from a blank piece of paper.

5. What customer-facing benefit has KM brought about at TfL?

I'm not sure the public would notice but KM has brought about better planned projects, completed in less time so there is less disruption to the travelling public in the long run.

6. Are there any real-world examples of KM currently in action at TfL?

Yes; one programme carried out analysis of lessons learned, identified an issue, found a solution and managed to increase productivity on site from around 40% to 83%

7.  You're a member of the Cross Rail Learning Legacy Executive Steering Group. How does this work feed into your aims for a world class learning organisation?

By creating the same learning legacy culture of being open and transparent.  This is only the second learning legacy to be created, but it is anticipated that there will be more from other large infrastructure projects such as Thames Tideway and HS2.  All are aimed at ‘raising the bar’ in the construction industry across the country. 

Liz will be sharing her experiences of rolling out knowledge management at Transport for London at Knowledge Management 2018, part of the KM Summit 2018 on 15-16 May 2018.