Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Three things the knowledge manager needs to learn about before they start

If you are a new Knowledge Manager, implementing KM for the first time, you have three things to learn about before you start, and some of that learning may be closer to home than you realise.

One of the tenets of Knowledge Management is that if you face a new piece of work, then you need to gain knowledge before you make a start. You make a KM plan, you identify your knowledge needs, you identify the sources of the knowledge, and you set out on your learning journey.

You "learn before doing", as this is the surest way to build on the successes of others, and to avoid their mistakes and pitfalls.

So what do you need to learn about?

For the knowledge manager, there are three main things you need to learn about:
  1. How knowledge management works - what are the possible elements of the knowledge management framework in an organisation like yours;
  2. How knowledge management can be introduced to an organisation, including the elements of KM strategy and KM implementation;
  3. How Change Management works in your own organisation, and how a major change program should be run.
We see most Knowledge Managers focusing on number 1, and (to be honest) often getting very confused. KM is a complex field, with very many variants such as legal KM, practice-focused KM, product-focused KM, KM for customer service and R&D KM. There are also many variants that (in our experience) are suboptimal, such as KM only through social media push, or guerilla KM, or "KM as an IT system". The Knowledge Manager who Googles "knowledge management" will be overwhelmed by variety, and the risk is that they choose an answer that fits their prejudice, rather than an answer based on solid experience. 

Fewer Knowledge Managers focus on the second point. Implementing KM is a long term and risky business - many knowledge management programs fail and many knowledge managers lose their job. It is harder to find advice on KM implementation, as few organisations have implemented KM really successfully, and fewer people have been involved in more than one KM implementation. This is an area where it pays to find good experienced consultants to help you.

Even fewer learn about the third topic, which is strange because here the knowledge is close to home and accessible. Implementing KM is a change program, it is probably not the first change program your organisation has attempted, and there will be others in-house with valuable experience and knowledge to share. Find them, speak with them, and learn their lessons. Find out the secrets of their success and how they dealt with the pitfalls they encountered. Ask them "if you were starting a new program of change in this organisation, then based on your experience, how would you do it?"

You could, as an alternative approach, consider addressing these three areas in the reverse order.

  • Firstly, learn about change in your organisation, and the secrets of successful change.
  • Secondly, learn from experienced guides about the mechanics of KM implementation, in the context of your own change.
  • Finally learn about the details of KM, and how it works in your own organisation. 

Contact us if you need any help with your pre-learning

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