Friday, 20 September 2019

The 5 tools to change the KM culture; one heart and one mind at a time

It's an old saying; How do you change hearts and minds? One at a time! This updated reprise from the archives explains how this works for Knowledge Management. 


Implementing Knowledge Management is a change process - we all recognise this. Implementation involves changing behaviours and attitudes as well as changing workflows and toolkits.

You are tying to change attitudes towards knowledge; from people seeing it as a personal attribute to seeing it as a collective resource, from seeing it as a source of personal power to seeing it as a source of company power, and from seeing it as something acquired in the classroom to seeing it as something acquired every day through work (see more details on the KM culture shift).

If people can understand this with their heads and grasp in in their hearts, then we have made the culture shift.

KM professionals, helping the organisation make the culture shift, need to recognise that these hearts-and-minds shifts cannot be made wholesale. You need to plan a campaign of culture change.

There are five tools in your toolbox here - stakeholder mapping, communications planning, influencing skills, a compelling case and an inspiring vision.


1. The inspiring vision


You will "sell" KM on a vision more easily than you will on a business case. Unfortunately many KM visions are uninspiring, but you want to sell the power that KM delivers, so you need to inspire. "The knowledge of the whole firm, at everyone's fingertips" - "Together we have 100,000 years of experience - let's use that shared power to beat the competition" - or (the TRADOC vision) "If one of us learns, then all of us knows". The vision makes the emotional case for KM, and sometimes this is a negative case - "All our key experts will have left in the next 5 years. If we don't act now, this knowledge will be gone, as will our clients and customers".

Very often this vision can be transferred through stories. Initially these may be stories of what KM has done for other organisations, but as soon as you start your KM piloting program, you can generate internal stories of KM users getting value through KM. Use these stories as "social proof" to spread the vision. 

2. The compelling case


If the vision engages the hearts, the business case will engage the heads. This needs to be a case for the individual as well as a case for the company, and ideally should be presented in such a way that the individual can "feel" the benefit, or "experience" the value of shared knowledge. We like to do this through exercises, such as our millionaire game, or (the King of all KM experiences) Bird island.

The intellectual organisational case ("we will increase profit by x% through re-use of knowledge") needs to be there in order to change the minds.


3. Influencing skills.


It has been a running theme on this blog that implementing KM is a marketing and sales exercise, and the knowledge manager, KM team and KM champions need to understand the arts of marketing and selling. Understand your market, develop your elevator pitch, understand the range of influencing tactics, and learn how selling works.

If you want to change hearts and minds, then there are certain skills you need to acquire.


4. The Communications plan and strategy


Communication is key to a change campaign, and we believe that communications planning needs to be one core component of a Knowledge Management strategy. To help you with this, we have produced a Communications Plan Template, which is available free of charge from our Downloads page. This template is one we use ourselves, and will allow you to
  • define which message needs to be given to which audience
  • define the medium for delivery of the message, the frequency of delivery, the owner and the sign-off for each message 
  • change the communication style and message as Knowledge Management implementation proceeds through it's four stages.


5.Stakeholder mapping


The final tool in the KM managers (or CKOs) toolbox is Stakeholder Mapping.

There are many methods of Stakeholder mapping, most of which rely on defining relationships of power and influence (or power and impact). That's not what you need.

You need to map stakeholders in terms of buy-in and influence, and then you need to map, for the most influential stakeholders, how you need their level of buy-in to change over time. No one person buys into KM in a single step - there are several levels of buy-in maturity. We use an old Amoco model which recognises a ladder of 8 levels of buy-in to an idea, where people seldom move more than 1 or 2 steps at a time.

So once you have listed your stakeholders, you need to look at your Knowledge Management implementation plan, identify the critical decision points, define the level of engagement needed from the key stakeholders, and map out carefully how you will help them climb the ladder, step by step, reach that level.

That way, when the critical implementation decisions are reached, the hearts and the minds will be in the right place to make the right decision.

Use these five tools, address the hearts and minds one at a time, and soon the culture will begin to shift. 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

What is the core objective of Knowledge Management?

What is the purpose of KM? Why do we do it? What is it's core objective?

This is a subject worth exploring. If we are 100% sure about why we need, or why we do, KM, then we can be clearer about what sort of KM we need, and what knowledge most needs our attention.

I would like to explore the subject using the 5 Why's to dig down to underlying objectives |(although I think I got to the real reason after the fourth Why, so I stopped there).

Why do we need knowledge management?

We need KM because knowledge needs to be "managed" better. I put "managed" in quotes because knowledge is not an item to be managed directly; it is instead "managed" through creating the conditions by which knowledge will be generated, flow, and be applied. Follow the links for discussions about whether KM is an oxymoron, and the meaning of the "Management" word in "Knowledge Management"

Why does knowledge need to be managed better?

Because knowledge workers need knowledge to do their work, and because in many organisations the knowledge does not reach the knowledge workers easily, efficiently, effectively, or securely.  Maybe the knowledge remains in the heads of individuals, maybe it does not cross organisational silos, maybe it is at risk of loss, or maybe it is shared, but is very poor quality. This blog often uses the metaphor of KM as a Supply Chain, supplying knowledge to those who need it in their work. KM is a way to build the supply chain, and make it effective, efficient and lean.

Why do knowledge workers need knowledge?

They need knowledge to make better decisions and take better actions. One useful definition of a knowledge worker is someone who makes judgments and decisions for a living, and better access to knowledge allows better decision making and better actions. Peter Senge tells us that Knowledge is the ability to make effective decisions, and the new ISO standard 30401:2018 tells us that knowledge is "human or organizational asset enabling effective decisions and action in context".

Therefore the more knowledge, and the better knowledge, you can supply through the supply chain, the better the decisions your knowledge workers make. They make fewer mistakes, they follow better practices, they innovate where innovation is needed and follow standards when standards are appropriate.

Why do we need knowledge workers to make better decisions?

Here, on the 4th Why, we can no longer give a generic answer, because this answer will be different for each organisation. Maybe we want people to be more efficient in order to eliminate wasted cost. Maybe we want them to be more effective in selling services and closing deals. Perhaps we want happier or more prosperous customers, or we need to save lives and protect property. The answer to this question will depend if you work in a legal firm, an engineering company, a public utility or a fire service. Or even if you are doing personal knowledge for your own benefit. However you answer it, this final step links knowledge Management to the strategic goals of the organisation or individual that is applying it. 

So we can summarise the core objective of KM as follows:

By providing a more efficient and effective supply of knowledge to the knowledge workers, KM supports better decisions and more effective actions in service of the goals and objectives of the organisation.


Wednesday, 18 September 2019

What KM training strategy does an organisation need?

What KM training will your organisation need as you go through the KM journey?


KM training in China
Knowledge management Training is part of any KM implementation, but there is no one-size-fits-all KM Training strategy. Instead there are a number of potential training events which will change as your KM implementation progresses. Let's divide these into early investigation stages, piloting stage, and roll-out training.

Early investigation stages

In the early stages, when your organisation is investigating Knowledge Management - what it means, what it delivers, what it might cost - there are two types of training needed.

Piloting stage

Once the organisation enters the stage of piloting and proofs-of-concept, there is an additional training need.
  • Skills training for the KM team and the early KM champions, to develop specific tactical skills, such as process facilitation, community launch, knowledge capture etc. 
  • In addition you need to set up knowledge exchange processes and structures such as a KM community of practice, so your champions can learn from each other. 

Roll-out stage

Once the piloting stage is over and the roll-out of the Knowledge Management Framework begins, then a whole suite of training will be needed, including

  • Specific training for the Community of Practice leaders and facilitators
  • Facilitation training and skills training for others with specific Knowledge Management roles (local knowledge managers, 
  • Awareness training for managers, so they understand their role in influencing knowledge management behaviours
  • Specific training for Knowledge workers, introducing them to the new expectations, new processes and new technologies. This will also include the development of online KM reference material and e-Learning.
In short, as your Knowledge Management program develops, so will your need for KM training. 

Contact us if you want advice developing your own KM Training strategy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Where are the non-US/UK/Aus thought leaders in KM?

Lists of KM thought leaders historically tend to be USA-dominated. Who have we missed from the rest of the world?

I published a blog post 5 years ago entitled "KM thought leaders - are they REALLY all from the USA"? In this post I looked at Stan Garfield's list of KM thought leaders, and assessed their provenance and location, which at the time was predominantly USA and Canada (72% in total).

In the past 5 years, Stan's list has evolved and grown, and the proportion of thought leaders from Asia, MENA, Australasia and Continental Europe has significantly increased.



However the USA/Canada proportion is still very high (62% compared to the 72% of 5 years ago).

What do you think? Is this representative? Does nearly two thirds of KM leadership come from North America?

Which non-US KM thought leaders do you think are missing from Stan's List?




Monday, 16 September 2019

The 3 different types of knowledge, and how they are managed

There is more than one type of Knowledge, and KM needs to decide which type requires the main focus and effort.


Both linguistically and philosophically there is more than one type of knowledge. This is important, and is an area where the English Language is less than helpful to the KM practitioner.

The linguistic differences in types of knowledge

It has been a long running thread within this blog, that the English language is inadequate when it comes to talking about Knowledge.  Where other languages describe two or more forms of knowing, we have only one word for both. It is this inadequacy that is at the heart of many disagreements about Knowledge Management. 

We use the same word when asking "Do you know her name" as when asking "Do you know her". However we are describing two types of knowing here - the first is a Fact, the second is a Familiarity.  If you know someone's name, then you can recall a fact about them. If you know someone, then you are familiar with them.

Similarly we can ask "Do you know what a bicycle is?" and  "Do you know how to ride a bicycle?" The first is recollection of a Fact, the second is an Ability. In English we use the same word for both, but in other languages we use different words.

The philosophical differences in types of knowledge

I am not a philosopher, I have not studied the philosophy of knowledge and knowing, but I am aware of some of the ideas, and I know that for philosophers there are two or three types of knowledge:

  • Propositional knowledge or Declarative Knowledge, which is knowledge of facts (like who won the FA cup, or what last month's sales figures are);
  • Procedural knowledge, which is knowledge of how to do something (like ride a bicycle);
  • A third type - sometimes called Knowledge by Acquaintance, sometimes called Strategic Knowledge,  or Conditional Knowledge. This is knowledge of when and why to apply different procedures, use specific approaches or makce certain choices, which comes from deep familiarity. 
I really recommend this article about procedural and declarative knowledge, and the links between the two, and the two camps when it comes to the links between the two:
  • Intellectualism, which believes that all procedural knowledge either can be made declarative, or already is declarative;
  • Anti-intellectualism, which believes that the two are different.

The three types.

The table below discusses these types of knowledge


Declarative knowledge

Procedural knowledge

Familiarity/Strategic knowledge

"I know that ....""I know how to ...""I know ... (a person, a place, a topic)"
Savoir in FrenchConnaitre in FrenchSavoir Faire in French?
Wissen in GermanKennen in German
Gained through instruction and memorisationGained through coaching, experience, or shared experience from othersGained through long experience, apprentice-ship, and working closely with experts
Transmitted easily through written meansOften difficult to transmit through written meansImpossible to transmit through written means, although recorded stories can help share experience
Machines and IT systems can store facts faithfullyMachines and IT systems can store some aspects of procedural knowledge but not allMachines and IT systems cannot (or at least cannot easily) store familiarity
Does not give abilityGives ability to act and decideGives ability to act and decide in unique conditions, to think strategically, and to predict
Entirely explicit, mostly codifiedA mixture of explicit, implicit and tacit. Variously codified.Usually tacit and uncodified.
Declarative knowledge has value to an organisationProcedural knowledge has LARGE value to an organisationFamiliarity has MASSIVE value to an organisation

In Knoco, we tend to focus our Knowledge Management support on ways to develop Procedural Knowledge and Familiarity (without losing sight of the need to provide access to facts). This is because we feel that:
  1. Much declarative knowledge is already managed through Information Management tools and approaches, and requires little new from KM;
  2. You can argue that the purpose of KM is to enable actions and decisions, thus requiring a focus on Know-how and Can-do.
I know this is arguable, and Luc Glasbeek suggested in a comment to an earlier post that the field of knowledge should not be divided, and expanded his discussion here.

However the fact that many languages already have more than one word for knowledge suggests that there is already a recognised division of knowledge into more than one type. In French, Knowledge Management is Gestion des Connaissance - "une démarche managériale pluridisciplinaire qui regroupe l'ensemble des initiatives, des méthodes et des techniques permettant de percevoir, identifier, analyser, organiser, mémoriser, partager les connaissances des membres d'une organisation" according to Wikipedia - a discipline focused on Connaissance, rather than Savoir; on Know-how rather than Know-what.

KM can support the management of Procedural and Familiarity knowledge in a number of ways;
  • Using knowledge management to allow new staff to become rapidly familiar with organisational processes and procedural know-how;
  • Developing a shared familiarity of an operation or activity through discussions within a community of practice;
  • Using team learning processes such as Peer Assist and After Action Review to help a team "climb the learning curve of know-how and familiarity" more quickly;
  • Applying a Knowledge Retention Strategy to ensure that an organisation does not lose know-how familiarity with crucial processes, practices and relationships when key people retire;
  • Setting up processes of on-the-job coaching, reflection and learning that help build deeper familiarity;
  • Sharing stories;
  • Using Lessons Learned to ensure that teams become familiar with pitfalls, workarounds and know-how from previous projects.

Keep this difference in mind as you plan your Knowledge Management strategies. Knowledge is not a simple thing; you will need to pay attention to these multiple ways of Knowing, and decide how best to focus your KM initiative.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Proud to be deemed the number 2 Knowledge Management authority



Second only to the legendary Stan Garfield (congratulations Stan)

How to recruit the experts in support of KM

The Experts can sometimes be resistant to KM, seeing it as a threat or a burden, with little personal reward. How can we address this?

Image from wikimedia commons
Many clients we speak to are having real problems recruiting the expert knowledge holders to the concept of Knowledge Management. Even in those companies where knowledge holders are few, and knowledge seekers are many, the experienced subject matter experts are often reluctant to become involved with KM.

The reason is, that because knowledge is scarce, they are busy "doing the job", and have no time to teach others or to share their knowledge. The fewer experienced practitioners the company has, the busier they are in actually performing the work.

Many experienced staff enjoy their expertise, and they see KM as a distraction or an added burden. They often feel that KM "is not my job".

"I am an experienced boiler-maker/salesman/brewer/application designer" they say; "my skills are in huge demand. Why should I take time out to share my knowledge? That's not my job"

Make KM "the job of the expert"


The answer to this, of course, is to make Knowledge Management (or at least a component of knowledge management) the expert's job, and to give them time and space to do this job..

You can't expect busy people, in demand from all over the organisation, to add to their burdens with work that isn't in their job description. But if their knowledge is vital to company performance, then acting as a steward of the knowledge of the organisation needs to be in their job description. It needs to be recognised as part of their job, and they need to be given the space, the resources, the assistance, and (if necessary) the training to allow them to share their knowledge with the next generation - the apprentice generation.

The old career progression from past centuries was Apprentice - Journeyman - Master.


Knowledge Companies need to rediscover this progression, so that the Masters (of both sexes) - the Subject Matter Experts - can see their role as Teaching as well as Doing, and as passing on their skills to those who need them, through the tools of KM (wikis, community forums, peer assists etc) as well as through the traditional tools of apprenticeship (coaching, mentoring, training).

The pinnacle of an expert's career is to be a Master (or as Rolls Royce calls them, a Fellow). Mastery, or Fellowship, is an honour, and with that honour comes responsibility; responsibility for knowledge. This includes being the Practice Owner for their domain of practice and responsible for the documented knowledge, playing a coaching role in the relevant Community of Practice, partly responsible for the community of apprentices.

We need to rediscover this Mastership role, so we can fully reinstate the experts in their rightful place.


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