Tuesday, 22 January 2019

How to keep your job as a knowledge manager

If you want to keep your job as a knowledge manager, then ensure you are directly supporting the front line staff. 


Being a Knowledge Manager is a precarious place to be, until KM is fully embedded. Any major organisation change such as a merger or a change in CEO may mean that your budget is suddenly removed and that you are out of a job.

The thought process behind post-merger cuts in KM, or "new broom" cuts from a new CEO, goes like this;
  • We promised cost savings  - what can we cut?
  • We cannot cut the front line operations 
  • We cannot eliminate anything that directly supports the front line, such as procurement, or finance, but we could probably slim them down; combine our procurement and finance departments and make them smaller.
  • We can safely get rid of anything that is 2 steps away from the front line; the teams that work on things that may eventually help the front line, but not directly. That's KM,  Risk, R&D (in many companies) etc etc.
So KM is cut, because it is seen as only indirectly supporting the front line. It is seen as 2 steps away from where the money is made.

So how do you ensure your survival as a Knowledge Manager?

The answer is simple;

DIRECTLY SUPPORT THE FRONT LINE OF THE BUSINESS - THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THE MONEY.

Work directly on business problems and on business issues, introducing the KM tools and techniques in order to solve those issues. Don't be generic, be specific. Introduce KM one business issue at a time, rather than focusing on generic roll-out of technologies or processes (until the commitment is made, in which case you can be generic).

Find out what knowledge the front line needs, and get it to them.

If for example the front line sales staff need knowledge on how to sell the new product better, then get it to them. Interview the experts, interview the best sales people and find out how they do it, hold a knowledge exchange, build a set of guidelines on product selling, provide it to all sales staff, and when sales number rise, claim some of the credit.

Don't sit around worrying about building a better taxonomy for example, because "if we have a better taxonomy, then people will file documents better, and if others come looking, they might find them and if they find the documents, they might be useful, and if the documents are useful, sales figures might rise". That's too many Ifs; too many steps away from what the business needs.

Provide valuable knowledge to front line staff to help them do their job better. Then when the merger happens, and the axeman comes to call, the business will say "don't cut KM; we need them to win this contract, deliver this project, or develop this product".

Stay only one step from the business. Stay relevant. Add Value. Keep your job.


(see my post on "putting a man on the moon" for more explanation)

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