Every salesperson needs to know their market and their customer base, and for selling Knowledge Management, you can think in terms of three market segments.
1) The one in five people who instinctively "get" KM.About 20% of staff are supporters of the idea from the beginning. When you talk to a room full of people about KM, the "KM Light Bulb" will switch on over the heads of about a fifth of your audience. That 20% will become your allies, your supporters and the early adopters.
2) The 3 in 5 people who don't care about KM one way or the otherThey don't get it instinctively, the light bulb doesn't switch on. They will engage in KM if they have to, if it's part of the job, of if everyone else is doing it. If they don't have to do it - if KM is voluntary, or "encouraged" - they won't bother. They have better things to do. They just want to get on with their job. For these people, we need to make KM "part of the job".
3) The remaining 1 in 5 who really don't like KM at allThey think it a waste of time, or a personal threat, or a way of "stealing their ideas". These people will resist KM, unless it is made unavoidable and fully embedded into performance management so that their job prospects suffer if they refuse to share.
There are a few implications of these demographics.
Firstly, if you introduce KM from the bottom up, you only reach about 20% of the people.If you introduce some new KM tools and allow people the time and space to use them, then KM behaviours will emerge, but only among about 20% of the population (see here for example). You will get a lot of buzz, you will find some exciting projects, but you are preaching to the choir. The KM fans will create a KM bubble, but you won't penetrate the rest of the organisation, so 80% of the knowledge remains untapped and unmanaged. The recent Gartner report showed even worse figures, and concluded that a "Provide and Pray" approach has just a 10% success rate.
Secondly, you need to use the 20% of enthusiasts to make the case to managementManagement are not going to set the expectation or the requirement, unless they believe KM really adds value. So use the 20% who are your supporters and early adopters to conduct the pilots, deliver the benefits and write the case studies that will convince management to set KM as a corporate expectation. Use this resource as a stepping stone to the next step. To continue the ecclesiastical metaphor, its OK to preach to the choir, if you then use the choir to produce the required miracles that will convince others.
Finally, you won't complete the journey until KM becomes inescapableIf the company is committed to KM, then the last 20%, who really don't like it, need to know that their future is at risk if they continue to avoid or sabotage the KM efforts. If you let KM remain optional - if you let people avoid it with no sanction and no follow-up - then the word gets round, the 60% stop doing it (as they have other things to get on with), and you get to the "the tipping back point". Soon there's nobody in the church except the choir.
The proportions may vary from company to company and may not always be 20%, 60%, 20%. In a truly progressive company, it may be 40%, 55%, 5%. In a cynical old-style firm, or a public sector department riddled with politics, it might be 5%, 50%, 45%
However the market segments will be there, and your KM implementation program needs to recognise this. Its fun to preach to the choir - you get lots of positive feedback - but it won't get you very far in the long run.