I’ve been supporting a number of client projects that have an underpinning Knowledge Management theme and it’s been interesting to see which ones have delivered real benefits in the shortest time.
Some of the projects have focussed on “sharing and learning”, while others have had a “technology as an enabler” basis. It’s a pretty clear conclusion that those focusing on people have been able to deliver much more rapid improvements. That should come as no surprise as I’ve been saying for years that KM is 80% about people and their behaviours and only 20% about technology.
The problem that technology-enabled KM project have is the technology itself! These projects run into issues of:
- Who owns and manages the systems?
- Who can access the systems? (not everyone has internet access from secure public sector desktops)
- Who will pay for new systems? (at a time when budgets are tight and ICT projects really do need to demonstrate a Return on Investment)
All of this results in lengthy debates with ICT specialists and seemingly endless approvals. And, providing the system is only the enabler; somebody still ahs to create some content that will be of value to end users.
By contrast, the people-oriented projects can achieve some remarkably quick wins. Some of the best examples in the projects I’ve been supporting include ones that seek to improve staff communication and engagement. For instance, one project looked at the simple idea of having a “standard” team meeting agenda which was structured in a way that “forced” line managers to get their staff involved by sharing information that was important locally. Agendas included items such as staff sharing learning from training courses they had attended as well as dissemination of core briefings from senior management.
Another project moved managers away from their traditional monthly staff meetings to weekly ones, gathered around a flipchart and focusing on this week’s performance and improvement priorities. This approach actively engages staff in addressing today’s needs and discussing what’s going well. The next logical step is to move to daily meetings such as would be found in many organisations adopting Lean Principles and implementing simple systems of Visual Management.
Both of these examples re-emphasised to me that Knowledge Management really is part of the “day job” of line managers. It shouldn’t be a bolt-on and it shouldn’t be over-complicated. There are lots of opportunities in all sorts of organisations to help managers and staff build continuous improvement into their daily ways of working, underpinned by management of knowledge.
Oh, and a final suggestion; for many people using the term “Knowledge Management” is a turn-off. “Sharing and learning” usually is more meaningful and goes down far better with staff at all levels (including the most senior managers).
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