August 20, 2006

Applicable Knowledge: Culture audits and inter-departmental relations

Once again, BtoB magazine delivers some thought provoking (to me, at least) articles in its most recent issue.

The first article, CMOs, CFOs work on ROI, relationships, examines how these two departments are now coming together to improve their relationship and better demonstrate the value of Marketing. From a KM perspective, there's obviously tremendous value in building these types of bridges. Unfortunately (in my experience), since most KM strategies are managed, funded, and operate within the organization in which it was established (i.e., Operations, Strategy, Contact Center, Marketing, etc.) KM professionals tend to stay pretty close to home and leave the bridge-buidling to whomever is heading up their deparment. If you don't happen to be the primary contact with key executives like the CFO, CMO, COO, and CEO, then begin by creating a plan to acquire some political "juice" and position yourself - as the KM professional - as the go-to person on all things knowledge management. Most of these folks don't really want all of the day-to-day details, but they like having periodic updates and knowing that there is a person (or persons) they can go to with questions or for information when needed. Building this type of "equity" is also a powerful benefit when growing a KM strategy; what I like to call "guerilla knowledge management".

Trying to figure out where to start with your plan? Education, baby! Remember, "an educated consumer is your best customer." Start by - lightly - educating key execs on your company's/organizations KM efforts: KM goals and vision, key deliverables, challenges, opportunities, lessons learned. If you're publishing a KM e-newsletter, be sure to include them in your distribution list - don't assume that they are receiving this information.

Also, if your execs are local (or if you have the opportunity to travel to HQ), take some initiative and introduce yourself in-person. Try to schedule 15 or 20 minutes with each of them to say 'Hi', put a face to knowledge management, and pick their brain on KM and how they see its strategic direction within the company.

I thought the second article, Does your company need a culture audit?, was especially cool because in my last post I suggested formalizing the Knowledge Audit process within the KM field. In the knowledge auditing process that I use I do include a cultural component that attempts to gauge attitudes about knowledge sharing, but it could (and should) be ramped up a bit to cover general attitudes/perceptions of the overall company culture and mission. After all, corporate culture will either kill or save a knowledge management effort, in most instances, (the exception, I think, being Contact Centers) and attempting to generate buy-in without assessing the culture can result in a disastrous faux pas like trying to sell pork rinds to Muslims. Knowing your audience and understanding the boundaries you are working within is critcal.