Thursday 18 July 2019

KM change is not top down or bottom up, but side to side

Is KM change better seen as top-down, or bottom-up? The answer is Neither; it's side to side.

Lighting a prescribed fire, from
Thanks to Steve Dale for alerting me to this post from Digital Tonto entitled "True Transformation Isn’t Top-Down Or Bottom-Up, But Side-To-Side, which offers a really interesting take on transformation. The author, Greg Satell, explains that

Change never happens all at once and can’t simply be willed into existence. It can only happen when people truly internalize and embrace it. The best way to do that is to empower those who already believe in change to bring in those around them.
Some key points here;

  • Change does not happen all at once, and some parts of the organisation will change first;
  • In KM, change happens once KM is embraced and internalised;
  • People who have embraced and internalised KM will bring in others around them.
As I explain in this post, change moves like a fire.

You cannot light a fire all at once - you light a small part, and once this is burning, adjacent areas will also catch fire, until finally the whole area is ablaze (see picture above). 

Greg Satell gives several examples of side to side change -
  • How a revolutionary movement toppled the Serbian dictator Milosevic; 
  • How Experian moved to the cloud;
  • How Wyeth Pharmaceutical introduced Lean; 
  • How Circuit City transformed, and why it later failed. 
He proposes three main pillars of a side-to-side transformation, which I explain below in a context of introducing Knowledge Management into an organisation, and delivering KM transformation. 
  • Identify your apostles. As I explain here in my blog post about knowing your three internal market segments for KM, about 20% of staff are supporters of the idea from the beginning. Their response to KM is an enthusiastic "Yeah!", or even "Hell Yeah!". When you talk to a room full of people about KM, the "KM Light Bulb" will switch on over the heads of about a fifth of your audience. That 20% will become your allies, your supporters, your first followers and early adopters. These are the people who will run your KM pilot projects,  who will apply KM to problems of the organisation, who will embrace KM and deliver successful outcomes. 
  • Don't try to convince - empower. Don't try to sell KM on theoretical benefits; instead empower the first followers to sell KM based on the benefits they were able to deliver. Enable them to share their stories, recognise them publicly, promote their achievements; they will be your "Social Proof" which will interest and engage others. 
  • Constrain your movement with Values. Satell gives examples of changes which faltered because they were unconstrained by Values, and KM may well be the same (imagine cases where people try to apply KM to everything, or try to document every little scrap of knowledge, or set up hundreds of communities discussing trivia). Develop some principles for KM implementation which help people avoid going off track.  I suggest 10 KM principles here, and here are others.

That's how you do change. Side to side, wall to wall. And don't change back again.

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