Wednesday 26 September 2012

Two "traps" when implementing Knowledge Management

Human Trap Here's a very interesting article on the lessons learned from implementing Knowledge Management at Siemens.

They talk about two "implementation traps".

  • The first, which they call the customer trap, is the need to balance the expectation of the business, in terms of delivery of the KM program, with the expectations of the user. These two customers may have different expectations and requirements that need to be taken into consideration.
  • The second, which they call the standardisation/customisation trap, points to the need to balance standardisation in KM (which is often needed due to the global scale of knowledge management initiatives) with customisation to the user, to make it locally useful.
The article contains many stories and examples from Siemens KM implementation, and finishes with the following conclusions;

For the Customer trap, the most successful strategies in Siemens were

  • To clearly differentiate the customers of the initiative 
  • To provide quick wins to create visibility among top management early on, while anchoring the initiative in constraints and user preferences. 
  • To be nimble: to reposition the initiative continually with the company’s evolving strategic direction.

For the  Standardisation/ customisation trap  trap, the most successful strategies in Siemens were

  • To focus primarily on the user as the direct customer.
  • To keep the change goals and milestones relevant to top management perceptions and constraints
  • To standardise in the early stages to push the initiative top-down and to create critical mass.
  • To personalise later to remain relevant to users’ needs and constraints 
  • To avoid fragmentation and losing ground to larger initiatives later on by teaming up and forming alliances with other initiatives to create joint value propositions. 
They summarise as follows
A senior manager planning to implement, or having already initiated, a knowledge management system that has to transform the way organisational members interact, should consider the following questions:
  • What are your most recent change experiences? 
  • Which groups of stakeholders are most likely to have a major impact on the design and execution of the change effort? 
  • Is your initiative firmly anchored in these constraints? For example, have you identified who your direct customer is in the organisation? 
  • Have you segmented your ‘target market’ thoroughly enough? That is, are you clear about how the change effort adds value to your customer’s daily routine? To what extent are you actively using this knowledge? 
  • How do the needs and requirements of your direct customers impact not only on the initiative itself, but also on how it is to be presented to your superiors to get through the next round of funding? 
  • What ‘drives’ your boss these days?

1 comment:

Lisandro Gaertner said...

On the first trap there is a third (and maybe fourth) element: the institutional "discourse" and the real practices that sometimes contradict it. Even though the leaders are the guardians of the business, they are human and their own objectives sometimes get in the way of the business ones. This paradox is more visible to hierarchically lower employees who are shooshed by power. This creates two levels for KM implementation. One semi fake for the leaders and a real one for these lower level employees who need and exchange knowledge as a "rebelious" act. As a person in a training said to me last week: "KM, when well done, can be a very positive and subversive activity".

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