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. 

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