Monday, July 31, 2006

Some salient comments by Christian Young...

Traveling--especially without my laptop--makes this blogging business even more challenging than it already is for me. I must admit, extemporaneous writing doesn't come easy for me (although speaking does!), so my blog looks a little sparse compared to most. Nevertheless, I think the real value of any blog is the interaction it can provide, and Christian Young recently provided such input.

He listed 5 (six really) great points about some of the conditions and thinking necessary if KM is going to "stick" in an organization. Could these ideas form the beginning of that "top 10" that I'm looking for? For those of you steeped in KM, perhaps the Christian's thoughts seem like, "been there, done that." However, if they don't, then it must speak to the idea that not everyone is aware of the benefits of KM yet--much less understand and embrace them.

I suspect that it's more of the latter, as I still often come across organizations where KM is as foreign a concept as is string theory. Even for organizations that do understand KM as an improvement technique, application of it isn't a slam dunk. Just this morning for example, I had a call with someone who easily understands KM--yet his organization doesn't--and consequently, executive support for it is non-existent.

Thanks for your feedback Christian. Any other commenters out there?


Stan Garfield said...

Here is a top 10 list which I have previously published.

Priorities for setting up a KM program

1. Put a strong KM leader in place, and ensure that the KM team has only strong members.
2. Balance people, process, and technology, with a project leader for each category.
3. Establish a governance and collaboration process to engage all regions and functions, and to formally manage and communicate on all projects – appoint KM leaders in each major country, region, and function.
4. Hold annual worldwide face-to-face meetings to get all KM leaders informed, energized, and collaborating.
5. Communicate regularly through newsletters, training, web sites, and local events.
6. Get the senior executive to communicate regularly about the importance of the program and to inspect progress against goals.
7. Engage with other KM programs, both internal and external, to share ideas and practice what you preach.
8. Focus on delivering tangible business benefits.
9. Deliver regular improvements to make the KM environment effective and easy to use.
10. Focus on three basic goals, and stick to the basics, e.g., participate in a community, collaborate using team spaces, and search for and submit reusable content.

Jim Lee, PMP said...

Thanks for sharing your great list Stan. I must admit to only becoming acquainted with Stan Garfield recently, but in that short period of time, he’s proven to be quite a sharer, and someone that anyone interested in knowledge management should find beneficial to have in their own personal network.

I thought as a way of keeping the discussion going that I would try to comment on each of Stan’s points individually. I hope that others will to. So, #1 on Stan’s list is:

Put a strong KM leader in place, and ensure that the KM team has only strong members.

This seems like a “no-brainer” no? After all, why would an organization formally commit resources to a KM effort if it isn’t going to do it right? Christian also earlier remarked that all organizations have KM strategies in place—whether documented or not. So why not find someone personally committed to the concept to lead it? Any organization should find a strong “X” initiative leader for anything it does. KM shouldn’t be treated any differently.

So now that I’ve restated the obvious (it will certainly be obvious to you who “get it”), maybe the real question I’m asking is, “What does it take to be a strong KM leader?” Not just what does it take to be a strong “X” leader, but what about KM makes it different, or even difficult, to identify and find leaders to effectively guide the KM strategy—especially for startup or immature KM programs? Is it because there may not be a precedent in the organization?

For example, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of an organization might rightly be selected from the best of the operations managers, plant managers, division heads, and so on, with the expectation that they have had enough subject matter experience to be able to apply their knowledge to the role of COO. Where does a KM leader get KM training or experience? And, another question—is “KM” experience even necessary as a pre-requisite for a strong KM leader? Is there a portfolio—a list—of demeanors, skills, experiences that make up a potentially good, strong KM leader? If so, what is it? Does it ever get documented in a personnel requisition form when the job is posted?

And what of the KM team? Are strong KM team members different in any way than the KM leader, or can they just be “Mini-Me”s? This would certainly be a question of interest to those of us who want to work in this area, but aren’t quite ready for the CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) role yet. And another thing, can or should the CKO be a permanent position? When I worked as an industrial engineer for General Motors, I used to say that if I could teach everyone to be their own industrial engineer that I would work my way out of a job. I must not have been very good at it though, because I only left after 19 years in the business to go into professional services. Is that the future of KM professionals?

Okay, enough questions already. Thanks Stan, for providing me a bit of a diversion on a Friday afternoon, even though I have some deliverables to get back to. Any comments or experiences are highly encouraged. Next time, I’ll ruminate on #2 on Stan’s list.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,

I am in agreement with almost everything listed in this post, but I wonder why you never addressed the important of communication to achieve these priorities?

Leslie Linevsky

Jim Lee, PMP said...

Thanks for your observation Leslie. Within Stan's list of critical success factors, his #5 item is indeed communication, so you both recognize that important element in the diffusion of knowledge sharing within an organization. I also emphasize the importance of communication in my work with clients. This is especially true when I'm working with the core KM team or the initial group attempting to design and implement a KM program. In fact, what I've often found is that even core KM teams who understand the value of knowledge sharing often forget about the importance of effective change management, for which communication is clearly a key element.