Friday, 1 July 2011

"The director's blog"


Grand Rapids Interim City Manager Eric DeLong Community Budget Input Meetings 3-12-09 4How do you start blogging in a company?

Let's assume

1) that you want to introduce Knowledge Management,
2) that you want to improve exchange and re-use of knowledge between peers in the organisation,
3) that you want to make a difference to business results, and
4) that you have chosen Blogging as a component in the toolbox (though personally I would put it way down the list of places to start, preferring always to start with Tacit Pull, not Explicit Push).

So how do you get blogging up and running?

Here's a good way, and a not so good way.

The good way is to take the already existing internal communication mechanisms within communities of practice, and replace some of these with blogs. Take the ways people currently try to share knowledge, and improve them. For example -
  • Maybe your community of practice has a quarterly newsletter, with a dozen articles. Replace this with a weekly blog, in order to get the news out more quickly, and in order to for allow commentary on, and discussion of the key items (which was never possible in a hard copy newsletter).
  • Your community of practice may routinely send out email alerts about new lessons, improve practices, and other things that the community members really need to know about. Replace these Email alerts with blog items, which can be searched, can spawn comment threads, and which to avoid the curse of "reply all".
In both cases, the blog is a better alternative to existing mechanisms of sharing knowledge between peers within a community of practice.
not so good way to get started is to set up a director's blog. This is tempting ; you can ask your senior sponsor to take the lead in blogging and set an example for the organisation, and he or she will very often agree. However the problems are as follows;
  • A director blogging is a bit like a director standing up behind the lectern and making a speech. It's heirarchical - it's seen as "me preaching to all of you".  Is not really very conducive to two-way discussion or dialogue. Most of the directors blogs that I have seen have been one-way, with little or no comments. And if you want to know more, there are pressures against picking up the phone and asking the director for more details.
  • Very rarely is it knowledge. Most of the directors blogs that I have seen have been general musings, or thought pieces. They may sometimes be of interest to the audience, but they're not going to teach the audience anything that helps them do their job better. It won't make a difference to the way people work. It won't add immediate value.
  • If you are a director, you care about style (with a few happy exceptions, of course). You want your post to be well crafted.  You may even get somebody else to write it for you.  It becomes formal, it becomes a publication, and not the start of an informal conversation. That's not the KM message you want to give.
  • It's "something extra to read". Instead of providing a better alternative to existing mechanisms of sharing knowledge between peers, you have created something new to read which doesn't teach you anything that really helps you, but is just "yet another communication from management". And that's probably the last thing that anyone wants - yet another communication from management!  You have just turned your KM offering into a burden and not an aid. 
 Think carefully about how you promote blogging. Start by modelling the outcome that you want to see, which is sharing of useful knowledge that others will use to improve the way they work. Think about the WIIFM for the reader, and make sure the blog gives them something they can use immediately to make their life easier.

Beware the seductive but potentially damaging option of the director's blog.

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