Tuesday 19 May 2009

Knowledge Management and the thorn in the lion's paw

Lion's paw
In a conversation with Mary Abrahams on her excellent Legal KM blog Above and Beyond KM, Mary said that "the ones who need and use the knowledge systems the most work on the front lines and are far removed from senior management".

I completely disagree with this viewpoint, that KM is something that naturally operates at a low level. I know its a common viewpoint, that knowledge is something the fontline workers do, and so KM needs to be focused at them, but it misses a huge lot of value, and a huge opportunity. Why not look at how KM can help at a management level? I see KM as a mechanism for decision support, and you get as much value from influencing the relatively rare but very high value descisions that project managers, divisional managers and senior managers make, as you do from supporting the much more common but much lower value decisions of the front line staff.

One of the most valuable pieces of work we did in BP, for example, was at senior management level, taking the lessons from the Amoco merger and applying them to the Arco acquisition. There we were working with the CFO, the chief counsel, one of the VPs - very senior level people, and massively valuable learning that really accelerated the Arco process, and made for a much smoother ride.

One of my clients likened their senior-level approach to "KM removing the thorn from the lion's paw". If you do that, the lion will always be on your side! The biggest decisions are made at the highest level, and there the need for knowledge may be greatest and the application of knowledge can yield the best return. Thats where some of the thorniest issues can be resolved through the application of Knowledge.

Try applying KM to some of senior managers' big topics - mergers, acquisitions, divestments, integrations, New Market Entry, business restructuring, recession survival. Not only do you deliver huge value, you get instant buy-in from the very people you need on your side.

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