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Consortium for Service Innovation

KCS Adoption Overview

While the basic premise of KCS is quite simple (solve it once, use it often), adoption of the methodology is not. KCS challenges traditional practices in how we think about organizational structure, process, and measurements. For most organizations, a successful KCS adoption requires a significant transformation. As a result, a thoughtful adoption and change management strategy is required.

Two important concepts have emerged from successful KCS adoptions: 

  1. Go with the flow 
  2. Start small, create some success and excitement, and then invite others to join

We have learned that the best place to start the adoption process is at the point of demand: as close to the audience you serve as possible. The “go with the flow” concept uses demand to drive the adoption. Capturing issues at the first point of contact preserves the context of how the user experienced the issue. If the resolution is not known by the first point of contact, a work-in-progress (WIP) article is created and that draws others in the organization into the knowledge base to add resolutions. In the traditional tiered support model, levels 2 and 3 should be finishing the WIP article as they learn or develop the resolution. One approach we know does not work is starting at the back end of the support process (level 2 or 3) and pushing knowledge forward to level 1; the knowledge article is like a fish swimming upstream. If the organization has moved to an Intelligent Swarming model (no tiers of support) the person requesting assistance from others should finish the WIP article as the resolution becomes known.

Start with a small group to create internal referenceability.  

The "start small, create some excitement, and then invite others to join" concept suggests starting with a small group (we call it a wave) of 25-50 knowledge workers and creating some success and internal referenceability, which in turn generates curiosity and interest from others to get involved. This creates an environment that draws or invites people into the process.  Unlike many technology implementations that impose change on people (and which inevitably create resistance), KCS adoption is designed to create interest in KCS across the organization.


Creating an environment where people see value in KCS and want to learn the practices is key for a healthy and sustainable knowledge-centered organization that will evolve over time and continue to produce value for the knowledge workers, the business, and most importantly: the customers.


The foundation for a successful adoption includes the creation of a performance assessment model, workflow, content standard, strategic framework, and adoption strategy. These critical foundation elements are developed during the design session, which we will discuss later. 

Waves and Phases

We cannot overemphasize the “start small” concept. We have never seen a large scale “everybody starts the KCS journey at the same time” approach work in organizations of more than 50 knowledge workers. For most organizations, KCS is a big change.  Starting small enables us to learn and tune the foundational elements based on experience. It also minimizes the resource impact of coaching during the learning phase.

KCS is a journey, not a destination.

We call the groups or teams adopting KCS “waves.” As a wave of adopters progresses on the KCS journey, they move through phases. The phases are milestones on the journey. Where waves are groups of people, the phases represent the maturity of the wave. A simple example is an organization of 30 knowledge workers (across levels 1, 2 and 3): they start the adoption as one wave of adopters. As they learn to do KCS and the knowledge base grows to include most of what they know, they will move through the phases of maturity.

If the organization is 280 knowledge workers and they all work in the same knowledge domain, then this adoption would have multiple waves. The initial wave might include 35 or 40 people. The second wave might be 100 people and the third wave would be the balance of the organization (about 150 people). Each wave creates coaches that support the next wave.

A more complex example would be a large organization that supports multiple knowledge domains. This would require multiple KCS adoptions, potentially with multiple waves. For example, if the company supports both hardware and software, or operating systems software and application software, the organizational structure would reflect two (or more) distinct groups that have very little interaction with each other. In this case, each group would have their own KCS adoption and each adoption may have multiple waves. Each wave would progress through the phases of transformation based on their indicators.

Determining the waves for adoption is discussed during the Plan and Design phase.

The transformation phases are cumulative and based on key milestones along the KCS journey. Each of the four phases defines the focus and actions for that phase, as well as the indicators of transformation. The four phases are:

  • Plan and Design
  • Adopt in Waves
  • Build Proficiency
  • Optimize and Innovate

The graphic on the Adoption Activities page shows a sample timeline of the four phases of transformation. This should be considered purely as an example. Each organization moves at its own pace.  Large organizations often have groups or waves of adopters at different phases of adoption at the same time.

Change Management

As we have mentioned, KCS represents a significant change for most organizations. Organizations who treat KCS adoption as a serious change initiative create greater benefit than those who approach it casually. We have found that organizations that embrace a formal change management methodology like Kotter or ADKAR tend to do well with their KCS adoption. If you have change management professionals in your organization, by all means engage them in supporting your KCS adoption.

Large organizations should consider building a KCS Center of Excellence (CoE) in order to manage multiple adoptions across the organization. The KCS CoE is a small team of dedicated resources with a deep understanding of KCS and change management. The KCS Center of Excellence is described in Appendix B

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