What if you have no senior management backing for your Knowledge Management program? In a situation like this, your only recourse is to take a strategy known as “Guerrilla KM,” or “Stealth KM.”
KM implementation, rather than for implementation itself.
To understand the strategy, lets look at Military uses of the terms Guerrilla and Stealth.
- The purpose of a Guerrilla military unit is only to escape detection until they make a big impact on a strategic target, like a bridge or a railroad. Then everyone knows they are there!
- The purpose of the Stealth bomber is only to escape detection until it drops a bomb.
- Similarly the purpose of the Guerrilla Knowledge Manager is only to work undetected until you make a “big bang” and achieve a spectacular and strategic success.
The Guerrilla strategy
The first step of the Guerrilla Knowledge Management strategy is to choose your sphere of operation. Effectively, you are looking for a KM pilot project that you can get permission to run.
- Find a supportive manager – someone who sees the potential that KM can bring, and who already has a problem that KM can solve.
- Make sure you can demonstrate and measure success in business terms. You need a clear metric, and the opportunity to make a big difference.
- Make sure you have the potential to scale up the success so that when the pilot is over, you have not just delivered success to a supportive manager, you are bringing valuable knowledge to the rest of the company.
- Make sure you have the resources to do the pilot. The resources are likely to be your own time and energy, these are not boundless, and you cannot afford to fail. The Guerrilla who fails, vanishes without a trace.
- Focus on areas that will have high impact, high visibility and a high probability of success.
- Get clear on the organisational drivers within the pilot area, understand the critical knowledge, create a local framework, identify and work with the local stakeholders, and drive a change in behaviour at the local level.
- If you have little time and little money, focus on connecting people, and on Knowledge Pull. Techniques such as Communities of Practice, Peer Assist, Knowledge Exchange, and Knowledge Visits can all generate a quick value return for relatively little outlay.
- Publicise the success. Celebrate noisily. Get the individuals involved in the pilots to tell the story of the success. Record them on video. Embed the video into presentations for senior managers. Post the video on the intranet. Write stories in the company magazine or newsletter. Put up posters and banners. Make sure everyone notices. Much of Guerrilla Warfare is about propaganda – if nobody hears about the “big bang” then the Guerrilla has failed.
As Ken Miller says
The response you want is, “How did you do that?” Don’t make the mistake of piloting the concepts on low-hanging fruit. Think big. We’re not talking about moving the coffee-maker closer to the break room. If nobody notices what you’ve done, you’ve missed the point of Guerrilla Warfare. And if everybody notices what you are doing before you’re done, you have also missed the point.
Then you need to transform your success into high level support.
This is the point at which you start to bargain with the senior managers. Show them the local value you have created through KM, and promise them that you can scale this up across the whole company, with little risk and high levels of return on investment. All you need from them in return are resources and support to enable you to take the next step.
A Guerrilla Strategy is not an easy option, and it requires bravery. Sometimes people instinctively choose a stealth approach to KM because they believe it is less risky. They feel that by working undercover and out of sight, they can avoid high level challenge; the sort of challenge that might lead to the cancellation of the KM program.
However remember Ken Miller's words "If nobody notices what you’ve done, you’ve missed the point of guerrilla warfare". You are only working undercover until you can drop the Knowledge Management bomb.