Friday, 6 January 2017

The Knowledge Manager as translator

One of the most important roles for the Knowledge Manager is acting as a translator, translating the ideas and concepts of KM in the the language and context of the organisation.

Knowledge Management is a fairly well established field now, with a jargon of its own. Two Knowledge Managers talking together would understand the difference between Peer Assist and After Action review, between Curation and Synthesis, and between Lessons Identified and Lessons Learned.  Knowledge Managers need a good understanding of KM theory and concepts, and are perfectly entitled to use the jargon and the technical terms when planning, designing and delivering a KM approach. But that jargon has to stop when you reach the internal customer.

Imagine someone, centuries ago, introducing financial planning to an organisation. They wouldn't have got very far if they started talking to managers about fiscal prudence, and flow of liquidity. They needed instead to say "we would like you to count your money, and record payments and receipts in this book". Similarly in KM you won't get very far talking to the business about lessons management and communities of practice. Instead you say "we would like you to record the lessons you have learned by filling in this form on the screen", or "you can ask a question using this software, and any one of your colleagues who knows the answer will reply".

A good KMer can translate the jargon and the terminology into business terms, and relate it simply to what people do on an everyday basis.

Here's what a knowledge manager said to me recently
"I would be suspicious of (a KM leader) using knowledge management terminology.
I would like to hear business and customer terminology. When queried and
challenged on that, then they can explain it in a knowledge management way. To
me, that would suggest they understand the customer, and they understand
knowledge management and how to apply it to the customer and vice versa".

That's one of the most valuable things a KM leader can do - translate the woolly, theoretical, airy-fairy world of KM into real practical operational words and actions.

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