E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Five Steps to a Successful Knowledge Management Initiative

Over at Tom Godfrey‘s weblog he has recently shared a post that I have actually enjoyed quite a lot since it is referencing another news article where it is stated how important it is for any Knowledge Management strategy to count on the people and not necessarily on the tools nor the processes (“After researching and reviewing numerous KM initiatives, comparing those that succeeded with those that failed, the answer becomes clear: KM isn’t simply about technology. It’s about people.“). Indeed, over at People Who Need People Tom provides his view on the article and I thought about doing a similar thing and provide some further insights to add up into the conversation taken directly from the article itself and combine it with Tom’s comments. Thus here you have got my thoughts on the five crucial steps to the success of a KM initiative:

  • Understand key business drivers: Indeed, like Tom mentions, it is certainly not obvious and perhaps one of the main issues that Knowledge Management has had all this time: measuring its value against other initiatives with a much more visible business value and ROI. Apart from the items that Tom states I think that one other key fundamental aspect that can contribute to measure that KM value is the recollection of success stories or anecdotal references that can contribute into building a repository of stories where the ROI can be much clearer and easier to prove.
  • Get executive sponsorship: In this particular item I would be taking things a bit further up. Sponsorship is perhaps not longer good enough. It is indeed crucial but not sufficient in order to get things moving with the KM initiative. I think it will be equally important to be able to demonstrate a strong leadership with that KM strategy so that knowledge workers can perform better at their jobs not only because of their sponsors but also because of their leaders who are leading the way towards a successful knowledge sharing and collaboration culture.
  • Analyse knowledge: Certainly, it will be futile trying to capture all of the knowledge out there and like Tom mentions I also believe that it would be more than enough to just capture the knowledge “that will best help support the key business drivers“. However, what I think is also important in the analysis of the organisation’s knowledge is to try to identify and combine in a balanced way the dichotomy of tacit and explicit knowledge. I have always felt that throughout the years we may have been paying far too much attention to the latter, the explicit knowledge, as opposed to the tacit one and through time it has been proven over and over again that what really matters is the tacit knowledge, the know-how from the knowledge workers, i.e. indeed, the people. I think that while analysing that knowledge there needs to be a good balance between both types of knowledge in order to get the best out of them and put them both together walking hand in hand.
  • Provide rewards and recognition: I am not sure why but I have never been convinced about using rewards or incentives in order to encourage the sharing of knowledge. Perhaps more than anything else because people associate rewards with financial incentives and that is something that I have always been opposed to since that would trigger lots of people sharing whatever piece of information without really having worked on it and just sharing it for the sake of sharing it (The $$$). I think that this quote from the article is quite accurate and something I have always advocated for: “Incentives do not need to be in the form of direct financial compensation: Visible recognition across an organization as an expert who contributes his or her knowledge may be incentive enough.” Indeed, sometimes peer recognition and the subsequent reputation as a subject matter expert is much worthier than whatever the amount of money.
  • Implement in phases: Yes, indeed, one step at a time. Sharing knowledge and collaborating is a daily routine, something that we get to do on a very regular basis and in multiple contexts so to try to put all that knowledge together in a single system in just one go would be almost impossible. Certainly something we shouldn’t be doing. Instead, we should be facilitating and preparing the way for knowledge workers to share what they know whenever they feel they are ready. We should not put pressure on the knowledge sharing culture. Instead we should just encourage it in a way where people feel they would want to share their knowledge, their know-how, at their own pace. Yes, one step at a time.

As you may have been able to see it is about time that we are starting to see a shift in the key importance from a successful KM strategy where the technology hasn’t got the preeminence it once had. Now it is all about the people and somehow I feel that the so-called Web 2.0 may have got a lot to do with that. But that would be a good topic for another weblog post.

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  1. Thanks a lot, Tom, for dropping by ! I am actually working on a second weblog post that I will be sharing over the next couple of days that will talk about my thoughts on how we may be witnessing a revival of KM related topics, and its multiple sub-disciplines, thanks to the so-called Web 2.0 where the knowledge workers seem to be the ones up front in the chain of knowledge sharing and collaboration. Thus stay tuned !

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