January 27, 2009

KM Divas

OR, "For Knowledge Managers Who Have Considered Suicide When The Drama Is Too Much"

Shockingly, I'm taking time away from the insanity that is SPAWAR (and, of course, I LOVE it, lol) to post something before the month is up. Once again, it's not my promised KM3.0 post, but I hope you'll forgive my slackness, it's definitely not intentional. As it is, I'm only awake and writing tonight because I stayed up to watch Serena fight her way back from almost being bumped out by Svetlana "Bumpy" Kuznetsova in the second set. Way to go ReRe!!!

As I raced down I-26 on my way home around 8:30p tonight, venting to Lucy (my new car) about my day, I was reflecting on some particularly bad knowledge management behaviors exhibited by some KM folks I know and it struck me how very true the maxim "your attitude determines your altitude" is with regards to KM.

If there's one thing I learned from my graduate program at the University of Southern Maine (and I learned a lot!) it's the importance of leading by example; practicing what you preach, as it were.

I believe I re-counted, in an older post, my attempt in the 2nd year of my graduate studies to evaluate KM practices and behaviors at Boston-area consulting firms offering KM consulting services for my Program Evaluation class. All, except one, of my requests were completely ignored. The single exception being Booz Allen, who's then CKO, Dr. Chuck Lucier, kindly responded that BAH only worked with post-doc researchers and folks from B-School's. Although, I was peeved (and my response to Dr. Lucier slightly bitter) I just assumed these organizations didn't want a flashlight shined upon their internal KM efforts in case the deets cast them in an unfavorable light and generated questions about their ability to sell a service they hadn't fully realized themselves.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

Anyway, I say all of that because I do think that it's important, especially with KM, to model the practices and behaviors we are promoting. After all, if you won't swallow the little red pill, then why should your clients, customers, or organization?

The problem of KM Divas, however, goes deeper than being a bad role model. As a knowledge manager, your personal attitude about sharing knowledge and information influences the development and implementation of your KM strategy. Having met KM professionals who've demonstrated that Nazi's and Communists can get jobs as knowledge managers too, you can imagine what KM might look like under that sort of direction (and that's not to say Nazi's and Communists are "bad"...they just don't have reputations for being very "open-minded").

Fortunately, unlike Whitney Houston's reality show and Diana Ross bouncing Lil Kim's pastied fake boob on live TV, most KM Divas stop well short of crimes against humanity. Rather, they demonstrate their diva-ness in their fondness for knowledge hoarding (sad and tacky), grand, self-proclamations of expertness (can you be a KM guru if you've never done any practical KM? I'm just axin'!), and preference for competition over collaboration (if you have a subject matter expert on your team, doesn't it make sense to use them over an outside contractor who will give you the credit for a price?).

What's worse, is when KM professionals don't realize they are a KM Diva. Unfortunately, these behaviors also limit any chance of success for good KM practices and behaviors to take root and become an organizational norm. At the end of the day, joking and office politicking aside, this is the major issue this type of behavior presents. If KM is going to sell the value, values and ROI of open, collaborative environments, it must be championed by folks who embody and espouse these qualities. (Or, who are willing to try - that alone will bring awareness of where similar-minded folks in an organization are coming from and lead to building bridges with people who could easily be your greatest cynics.)

For folks out there who are stuck working under a KM Diva: I feel you! If you have any strategies for surviving in that environment share them with me and I'll post them here. Who knows, if my dream of being an Herb Farmer when I retire doesn't pan out, maybe I can start up a Knowledge Management Diva Rehabilitation Program. I can already envision Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" being a KM Diva anthem, "...they tried to make me go to rehab and I said, 'know', 'know', 'know'..."

Ahhhh,that was cathartic.