Making Knowledge Work

August 16, 2011

Strategy for Success

Filed under: Change Management, Knowledge and Information Management, Strategy — virginiahenry @ 12:54 pm

If you specialise in knowledge and information management, you get used to being asked by clients and colleagues “how do you make people share their knowledge?”   And you get used to finding ways of gently saying “you can’t”!

The question often arises in a situation where:

  • The organisation wants to introduce, or improve,  knowledge-sharing and collaboration across its business
  • They’ve invested in a technical KIM “solution” such as an organisation-wide intranet or SharePoint or  WebCenter or whatever
  • They’ve “rolled it out” and sent everyone an email about it
  • After, perhaps, an initial flurry of interest – nothing much has happened….

In short, the organisation has spent a lot of money and done everything it was told would work, but what’s been done hasn’t worked.  Important, useful documents are still being stored on personal computers and local drives; communication is still being conducted via email; departments and teams are continuing to work ‘independently’ rather than collaboratively.

There can be a number of reasons for this, but it often comes down to the absence of strategy.
I don’t mean the kind of strategy that sees a lack of organisation-wide knowledge-sharing and collaboration as a problem and the IT implementation as the solution.  This approach often employs a strategy, and the strategy often focuses on process.  For example, introduction of the technology is accompanied by a set of new processes and procedures with which people are expected to comply.  In my experience these strategies rarely make people share their knowledge.  In fact, they’ve probably helped ’Knowledge Management’ become a term of derision in many organisations!

The strategy I’m talking about is more closely allied to organisational cultural change than IT initiatives or business process re-engineering.  It is a product of the leadership’s vision, and everyone’s ambition, for the business.  It is a stratagem for focusing the creative, competitive drive within the organisation more productively – replacing internecine rivalry with effectiveness in the global marketplace.  The strategy engages everyone in all areas of the business at all times: it’s woven into the fabric of the organisation.

Developing and sustaining such a strategy demands long-term commitment.  There are lots of challenges, and “quick wins” can be rare.    The benefits, however, will be noticeable.  They may start small, but they’ll grow.  And they’ll include practical gains such as:

  •  New employees  feeling valued,  and being brought ‘on-board’ quickly and effectively (instead of being left to sink or swim)
  • Ideas and innovations being shared rather than stifled
  • Adaption and improvement of existing ‘wheels’ rather than constant, costly re-invention
  • Hours of trawling through overloaded email inboxes being saved (as easily-accessed document stores and collaboration spaces are made available)
  • Cost-savings from drawing on internal expertise(rather than seeking solutions from external consultants)

These are just a few of the benefits to expect.  The list could also, realistically, include improved client and business partner relations, greater success in bids and business wins, more efficient business processes, more focused business development….  All of these things are achievable with a well-devised, coherent and sustained knowledge and information strategy.

So, the answer to the question “how do you make people share their knowledge?” is “You can’t.  But you can create a culture in which people want to share their knowledge.  Your organisation can become one where ‘that’s the way we do things here’”.

 

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