July 20, 2006

The Executive Exception

Thus far in my career, I've worked on two full lifecycle KM engagements and one of the (many) things that irks me is how Senior Executives (including the President and CEO) have been non-users of the KM systems I've been involved with. During my time with Ariba, I'm not even sure if our Sr. Execs even knew the company had a knowledge base (if they did, maybe they wouldn't have laid off half of the team....I'm not bitter, lol), but in my last position with B+P both the President and the company founder were aware that a system had been deployed, yet neither of them ever logged into it.

At Ariba, I challenged the argument that execs at this level should be exempt from having to manage their own content (usually submitted and managed by direct reports or admin) - to no avail. I wonder, however, if exempting Sr. Execs from knowledge management activity (even the mundane stuff - it's mundane for everybody) diminishes their awareness of the critical value of knowledge management and factors into why so many KM efforts fail; after all, if its not supported, in practice, by your senior leadership, then why should the rank and file give a hoot?

One could argue that the higher the position in the organizational hierarchy, the greater the responsibility to share one's knowledge and, thusly, demonstrate and model good knowledge stewardship.