Tuesday, 16 December 2014

12 ways to build trust in a KM system

We all know that trust is a key factor in the success of Knowledge Management, but trust in what, and how do we build that trust?


I think we can look at the issue of trust from two points of view - the knowledge seeker and the knowledge supplier.  The elements of trust described below are independent of the system used to share, store and/or find knowledge, and independent of the relative balance between Connecting and Collecting.

Trust and the Knowledge Seeker

The knowledge seeker needs to be able to trust that seeking for knowledge will not be a waste of time, nor will it bring negative consequences. For example

  1. They need to to be able to trust that use of a search engine will bring useful results without too much effort
  2. They need to to be able to trust that any knowledge they find on knowledge bases is trustworthy and reliable 
  3. They need to to be able to trust that asking a question of a community of practice will bring valuable knowledge
  4. They need to to be able to trust that they will not be ridiculed for asking, nor drawn into unproductive discussions
  5. They need to to be able to trust that attending a Knowledge management process such as a Peer Assist will deliver more value than the time and effort it will cost
  6. They need to to be able to trust that spending time searching Knowledge Management systems will not have negative consequences such as management disapproval

The trust is in the systems, rather than in the individuals (see my blog post on why people trust crowds). Trusting a Knowledge Management Framework is like trusting a vending machine - you put money in, you get chocolate out every time, and it's good chocolate, so you trust it to deliver next time. For a KM Framework, you put in time and effort, you get knowledge back, and it's useful knowledge, so you trust it to deliver next time. 

Trust and the Knowledge Supplier

The knowledge supplier or sharer needs to be able to trust that supplying or sharing knowledge will not be a waste of time, nor will it bring negative consequences. For example
  1. They need to to be able to trust that any knowledge they supply to knowledge bases will be reviewed and used
  2. They need to to be able to trust that answering a question in a community of practice will make a difference to someone
  3. They need to to be able to trust that the knowledge they offer will not be ridiculed, nor will they drawn into unproductive discussions
  4. They need to to be able to trust that attending a Knowledge management process such as a Retrospect is a valuable use of time
  5. They need to to be able to trust that Knowledge offered during a KM process such as a Retrospect will not be ridiculed, and they will not be made to look bad by offering it (especially when learning from mistakes, or from failed projects)
  6. They need to to be able to trust that spending time providing or sharing Knowledge  will not have negative consequences such as management disapproval

Developing the trust

People develop trust for themselves, by trial and error. If they try a community of practice, for example, and find that they get no answer to their question, and that their time had been wasted, they lose trust and don't return (see my blog post on "losing trust in a community").

So we have to make the systems trustworthy.

For each of the trust issues above, this is how you deal with them

  1. Make sure you have good search, and well owned and curated knowledge bases
  2. Make sure the knowledge bases are owned, updated  and validated
  3. Make sure that CoPs are well led and facilitated
  4. Make sure that CoPs have a good Charter, which is enforced
  5. Use experienced trained facilitators for KM processes. Ensure that KM processes are applied only to important business issues
  6. Make sure that managers understand their role in supporting an appropriate level of KM activity
  7. Make sure there is a demand for knowledge, and that knowledge seeking gets as much attention as knowledge sharing
  8. Make sure that CoP discussions are focused on problem solving, and addressing business issues
  9. Make sure that CoPs have a good Charter, which is enforced
  10. Ensure that the lessons system is complete and managed, so that lessons are carried through to action
  11. Use experienced trained facilitators for KM processes, especially when learning from failure.  Use a no-blame process. 
  12. Make sure that managers understand their role in supporting an appropriate level of KM activity

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