Friday 24 August 2012

Don't rely on Personality when implementing Knowledge Management

personality... A strong passionate leader is essential for an effective Knowledge Management implementation team, connecting with strong "first followers" in the business. As discussed in previous posts, the leader needs to be a change agent, with a strong profile and good influencing skills, who has some hard-won experience in KM, who can translate KM into business terms.

But there is a risk in relying on the Personality of the leader to drive transformation, because when the leader moves on, transformation can falter or "tip back".

Here is just such a story.

A project manager was working in a major project in the Far East. He was a KM Believer, one of the "first followers", eager to lead change in his part of the business. He set up a community of practice, or knowledge network, of project managers who would meet, exchange documents, and swap lessons learned for further re-use. And it worked - in his area he cut costs, shortened timelines and improved safety statistics. He acted as champion, thought leader, and role model for Knowledge Management within the wider business. 
Then he left - moving on to another part of the business.
The community stopped functioning. Knowledge capture ceased. Many people in the business claimed that they were unaware of what he had been doing. Knowledge management in the Far East Division dwindled away and died. The culture "tipped back" to where it had been before.

No matter how strong your personality, no matter how much you can get done by personally driving it, there comes a time when you have to pass over the reins. Not to another strong personality, but to an embedded system that is going to function no matter who is driving it - a system of KM expectations, embedded processes, roles within the business, and governance.


Lisandro Gaertner said...

Even when embedded, the KM practices may stop if the KM champions don't invest on finding new apostles and teach them how to do the same. No system runs without people. Besides that a common error from these well meant KM champions is to be a martyr not a evangelist. "Early adopter, thy name is Vanity".

Nick Milton said...

For me, Lisandro, part of "embedding" is to ensure that the roles and accountabilities for KM are in place, and part of the organigram. That includes the Champions, be they champions within individual projects, CoP leaders and facilitators, Knowledge Owners within a functional area, or the KM support roles that will be needed.

Your "martyr" comment is a great observation, thank you.

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