Friday 16 October 2020

Why, in KM, the best generals should not be on the battle field.

Your best performers are far too important to be working on projects - they should be teaching others to work on projects.

Image from Creazilla
under creative commons licence

Several times in my career I have been met with the objection that Knowledge Management will not work because the top experts - the people who hold most of the knowledge - are too busy to take part in KM. They are working full-time on the toughest projects or working with the most demanding clients. The theory is that the highest priority project should have the best people working on it. 

If the organisation has aspirations for growth or improvement, then that is a waste of knowledge. The expert can only be in one place, on one project or with one client, but their knowledge is needed in every place, on every project and by every client. 

 KM needs to offer them a new role (which should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat) - to be the stewards and sharers of knowledge, rather than the sole holders. Their role is to make the organisation knowledgeable, not jut to be knowledgeable themselves. 

The best generals should be in the war college, not on the battlefield. Your best expert on disarming bombs should not be disarming bombs, but teaching others to do so safely. Knowledge needs to be spread as much as (or even more than) it needs to be concentrated.

We can see this approach in Shell, where the best experts become internal technical consultants, or in Rolls Royce, where the best experts are given a "Fellow" role. You can also see this approach in the Customer Service world, as illustrated in this article

In KM, the best generals should not be on the battlefield.

The role of the expert should not be to dedicate their knowledge to the toughest project, but to make sure that every project can apply their hard-won knowledge and experience.

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