May 4, 2010

Lil Jackie's Elements of a KM Audit

Okay, April just totally flew by!  I'd feel bad about not blogging so much last month except that the weather picked up and, social butterfly that I am, I was more focused on playing tennis and getting my "swerve" on (that is, when I wasn't watching Glee, Project Runway, or catching up on General Hospital on YouTube).

Hey, I won't apologize for having a life (or succumbing to the boob tube).

Although, I do think that Dublin owes me a HUGE friggin' apology for coming in 7th at the Kentucky Derby. I could've used my winnings from the derby party I went to on Saturday to finance my drunken disorderly conduct during "Cinco de Drinko" tomorrow. Ah well, c'est la vie. At least I had KFC's Double Down to help fill the void loss brings - in my arteries! Actually, it tasted great, despite the fact that they really should consider swapping the Pepperjack (too spicy) for Monterey or Swiss and add lettuce and tomato to make it taste "fresher".

Anywho, I've been giving my KM Audit a bit of a spring cleaning to spruce it up for 2010. For those not in the know, a KM Audit is a type of action research aimed at understanding the ways in which an organization shares knowledge and information. Subsequently, the data collected from the KM Audit is used to develop and inform the KM strategy. While some folks use the auditing process solely to kick-off their KM efforts, I subscribe to the belief that a KM Audit should be an annual experience. Not only does it provide a regular status update/reality check of KM activity, it helps to illustrate the impact of a long-term, strategic KM initiative to organizational stakeholders. It also doubles as a great marketing tool for KM.

An effective KM Audit should be designed to identify and evaluate:
  • Formal (‘how things should be shared’) and informal (‘how things are actually being shared’) knowledge sharing practices and behaviors.
  • The variety of knowledge, information, and content management systems (and their usage) across the organization.
  • Perceptions and expectations of knowledge management
  • Organizational needs and challenges related to sharing knowledge and information
As illustrated in the graphic below, the KM Audit utilizes a mix of research methods to achieve these results.

The Policy Review can be conducted before, during, or after the survey, but I think that doing it before (particularly when it's the inaugural audit) might help to inform survey construction. Likewise with the 1-on-1 Interviews; Focus groups, however, should be put off until after the survey, since it's those results which will determine discussion topics. As far as the Survey, standard rules of survey design apply - keep it simple, keep it brief, make sure questions are clear and concise, and, resist the temptation to ask EVERYTHING. Your questions should help you to paint a picture, not the Sistine Chapel. Lastly,since you'll be wanting to make comparisons from year-to-year, be sure that your survey will stand the test of time.

Two important points to consider about the KM Auditing process:
  1. It's okay if you only pursue 1 or 2 elements instead of all 3.
  2. Having a documented, well thought out Implentation/Execution Plan of Action (PoA) is essential

Take your pick
I'm a talker so I'm fond of saying many things over and over again. One of my personal faves is the "Right Way vs the Best Way": We don't always have the opportunity to do things the "right" way; sometimes we simply do things the best way we can, but when we can do things the "right" way, we should make every effort to do so. As a KM practitioner, I know that this is a daily reality in our work. If you have the time and the buy-in to undertake a full KM Audit, then do it to it! But, if you're only able to pursue 1 or 2 elements, it's okay, just be mindful of the data that you're not capturing (and be sure that your data reporting reflects this).

Action planning
A successful KM Audit isn't one that just gives you the results you were hoping for. A successful KM Audit is one that is rolled out on time and yields a great participation/response rate. And, if experience has taught me anything, it's that the key to a successful KM Audit is planning the hell out of things. Don't make assumptions, make a plan of action! Some of the highlights of my audit action plans include:
  • Prior to its launch, conduct a review of the survey (for content and language) by KM team members and key organizational stakeholders, particularly those involved in Operations, Communications, Marketing, and IT (if that department manages any KM tools/applications)
  • Following it's review, the survey should be set-up using the pre-determined administration vehicle (e.g., SurveyMonkey) and user tested for clarity, language, level of difficulty, and length of time to completion and modified accordingly.
  • Organize a full-fledged marketing campaign for the KM Audit. Depending on your budget, the audit can be supported using the following marketing channels: common area posters, table toppers, and digital displays; email alerts; intranet announcements; department leads; senior management; and knowledge management system (KMS) “power users”. It's also a good idea to set an official launch date for your KM Audit with an email from senior leadership describing the purpose and importance of the auditing process. Subsequent email reminders can be distributed by the KM team.
  • Detail the process for how data will be compiled, analyzed and reported (including to and by whom)
And I think that does it for this least, I hope I've covered all of my bases here. Between the overwhelming smell of Caribou's coffee and my Dan Fogelberg playlist I'm now sleepy, nauseous, and hungry which means it's time to hop in the car, crank up Spose and take a little ride over to KFC before my tennis match this afternoon.