The Knowledge Management engagement process is an important step in KM Implementation. Once you have begun your communication strategy, you begin to move people to the next step - the step of taking action.
The text below is taken from Performance Through Learning, by Gorelick, Milton and April (2004), and described how the Knowledge Management team at BP undertook engagement activity in 1997, with the goal of identifying a series of high-profile pilot projects for 1998.
This story shows not just the approach taken in Engagement, but also how the whole team became united behind a single message.
With awareness raised and the three step process available, the team focused on engaging the organization with the intent of identifying pilot projects. Engagement involved motivating someone to do something as a result of a conversation; it was not the same as a traditional ‘show and tell’ presentation for the Knowledge Management Team.
The message was “We have used KM tools successfully and we offer to share our experiences with you. We are not coming as experts”.
The team developed a method to create possibilities for the future by harvesting learning through real conversation and stories. The outcome of an ideal session was action, a pilot project. At a minimum the conversation created awareness.
Kent Greenes (the BP KMT leader) spent a month engaging ten local business teams. This forced the team itself to get clear on the message they wanted to give, and the best way to give that message. It was the team’s own pilot process. They created a powerful way to engage people in the possibilities of Knowledge Management to impact business performance using the tools we had developed.
Then Barry Smale, Keith Pearse and Kent spent three weeks in South East Asia engaging businesses in Chemical joint ventures in China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Singapore. During this time Kent learned the value of leveraging presentation styles. It was often effective for another team member with a different style to present, and for Kent to intervene with his emotion and stories.
A turning point for the team came when Barry, Keith and Kent returned from the South East Asia trip and enthusiastically reported their successful experiences engaging people. It was obvious that other team members did not share Barry, Keith and Kent’s enthusiasm. Geoff Parcell challenged Kent saying, “why are you the only one doing the engaging?” Kent was not convinced and confident that other team members would deliver the same message as he did, and believed there is only one chance to engage business leaders. He had not been willing to risk not doing his best to accomplish the task at hand.
Kent offered to go through the presentation with the whole team to show them why he believed that the presentations were best done by him. He found himself presenting the engagement material to the team as if they were a business unit. He says: “I was not pretending!” To everyone’s surprise Kent was pleased with the confrontation. The entire team had started to understand and learn about themselves. It helped make the individuals become a cohesive team.
Kent says: “We all learned together. I taught them what I expected and they taught me by asking many levels of "Why?" questions. The result was the first formal KM Engagement presentation. It encouraged the team to think about what we needed to do and where we needed to focus. We generated three areas of focus with deliverables that steered us through the rest of the year. At the end of that intense engagement session I believed everyone on the team had “got it”. Engagement was not giving a talk but creating something that motivates someone as a result of your conversation. Everyone had the master script to work from. Most of the team members decided to do one or more engagements with me.”
This continued the practice of partnering on engagements that Barry, Keith and Kent had started in South East Asia. It was very effective. Everyone had his or her own style of presenting the standard material but the content was the same. At this point the individuals were functioning as a team with one message, despite having individual styles and implementation techniques.