Case studies

This section is one of two (see also good ideas) that allow users to see what the strategic management of knowledge looks like in practice, using the capability model as a framework.  The BC Forest Service and BP (formerly known as British Petroleum) provide two case studies – one in the public sector, the other in the private sector – of how similar knowledge management concepts and tools can be applied in different settings. 

Note: We did not conduct a full review or audit of either of these entities to learn about their knowledge management practices. Rather, we describe their practices as relayed to us through secondary source research and, in the case of the BC Forest Service, through ministry documentation and discussions with staff. 


The BC Forest Service: Mobilizing knowledge in a complex and unpredictable environment

The BC Forest Service, officially referred to as British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range, has approximately 3,600 employees working in 45 offices throughout the province. It is the main agency responsible for protecting the public interest in the use of the province’s forests.

Approximately 95% of British Columbia’s forest and range lands are publicly owned and managed by the provincial government on behalf of the public. The BC Forest Service includes a wide range of business areas such as Fire Management, Forest Health, First Nations, Stewardship, Range, Tenure and Engineering, Timber Sales and others.

Many BC Forest Service employees began their careers working in forests, and have operational, technical or scientific skills. The organization has a high number of long-term staff, and employees we interviewed described the Forest Service as a family. The Forest Service culture was also described as well-established given the high number of long-term staff and the relative stability on the land base as a result of long term tenure arrangements. Many employees consider “real work” to be work in the field, away from boardrooms and computers.

The work across the organization varies. Some work is complicated but predictable and repeatable. However, in recent years the environment and therefore more of the work has become more complex and unpredictable. Several significant trends and issues are impacting the Forest Service, from wide economic swings and increase in globalization of markets, to climate change.

BP: Knowledge mobilized across silos to support success

BP (formerly British Petroleum) is one of the world's largest energy companies, with almost 100,000 employees. BP provides its customers with retail services as well as fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, and petrochemical products for everyday items (BP 2009). For many years, Lord Browne – who joined the company in 1966 – was the CEO. He retired in 2007. Two of his areas of focus were knowledge management and green energy. This case study focuses on BP with Lord Browne as CEO.