June 21, 2007

Critical Issues of KM in 2007-08

I've been working on a paper exploring five critical issues of KM from a practitioners perspective and since I haven't had time to blog I figured I might as well pop these out here and see what kinda feedback/responses I get. The paper (and research) is in process so these are just the issues I've decided to focus on - thus far - with comments from my notes (so please don't anyone try to break me down).

My overall goal with this paper is to examine ways in which to shift the field away from being too heavily driven and influenced by the demands of a market that neither fully grasps the concept of knowledge management, nor is completely cognizant of its own KM needs in order to further establish and legitimize KM.

1. A governing body to market and endorse a universal definition of KM and guiding principles for the field.
Because all organizations and their knowledge management challenges are not the same, “rules” for developing and implementing KM strategies are superfluous. However, “guiding principles” establish a set of standards for the field; illustrate the values of KM to which practitioners should aspire; and, provide organizations with an introduction to the scope and scale of KM.

2. Eschew KM as “business as usual” in favor of “business by design”
Efforts to sell KM as a quantifiable, measurable and replicable practice, producing proven, predictable results are misspent and wasted often resulting in a failure to launch any (worthwhile) strategy at all. Rather, the focus should first be placed on “producing a spectacular solution” that addresses the organizations need and then determining ways of measuring impact and fiscal value.

3. Minimize the continued emphasis on IT
Though IT may offer to provide the quantifiable, measurable and replicable solutions that speak to business “traditionalists”, in the knowledge economy innovation, not technology, is the means by which market advantage and increased profits are achieved. While KM strategies can be made more efficient and effective with an investment in the right technological tools, they are made successful with an investment in the right people development tools.

4. Expand the concept of knowledge workers
Organizations that aspire to become true thought leaders need to redefine internal business roles and relationships to see all employees as knowledge workers and organizational talent, removing the talent “class” ceiling. All employees have knowledge that is valuable to the organization. Certainly, higher value is associated to employees who require less development and management, but the question to be asked by organizations needs to be, ‘How how are we developing all of our talent resources?’ Particularly, since employees with a greater awareness of their higher value and its marketability are typically the first to leave in search of greener pastures. Conversely, talent requiring more development and management are more likely to aspire to greater things when the ceiling is removed.

5. Branding KM
There are many reasons KM initiatives fail to have the desired impact or simply fail altogether – even those bolstered by considerable executive, financial, and technological support. One of the most common reasons is that most, if not all, KM strategies are developed purely from the perspective of the organization’s self-interest and rarely, if ever, take into consideration the employee’s perspective, despite the fact that the initiative’s success hinges upon their collective buy-in and participation. Such strategies fail because they attempt only to answer the question, “what’s in it for me” and not, “what’s in it for them”.

Branding knowledge management is an attempt to redress this disparity through the strategic application of marketing techniques and learning tools that enable organizations to promote the relevance of KM to an individual’s role while firmly establishing the value and criticality of KM to the organization.