May 26, 2010

Lil Jackie's KM Lifecycle: A Different Look

Thank God in Heaven above that this month is almost over.

Between the hard to schedule tennis matches, besties birthdays, and trying to avoid being in the middle of my parent's divorce (which my mother seems hell-bent to drag me into regardless of my protestations) May has been a tough month. Although there were some highlights, like quality time with Lil Magic who starts his dream job this week, spending much needed social time with my "South Cackalacky" girl, Nina, and playing a rawkin' game of Assassin for Brandy's birthday party. It was awesome! My crew took over a section of East Atlanta Village strapped with Nerf guns and lookin' good. Every "death" seemed like something out of a movie scene (even mine, sadly). We're definitely going to be doing that again.

So, I've been studying social movements over the last year and have drawn a lot of inspiration for my work and theories on KM. My Guerrilla KM post is just one example. During my research I came across this fantastic white paper on the Four Stages of Social Movements that got me thinking about the lifecycle of Knowledge Management. As you all know, KM Branding is one of my "things" and I'm always searching for novel approaches to educating folks about the field. The 'Four Stages' had me wondering about the lifecycle of a strategic approach to KM; exploring the way(s) in which KM impacts the organization and how it "lives" from inception of a strategy through to the ultimate goal of cultural adoption/integration (or rejection, if the strategy is unsuccessful).

Now, I'm familiar with traditional models of the  Knowledge Lifecycle that (like the example at left) illustrate some variation of the identify-capture-organize-disseminate framework, but these models seem geared more towards providing insight into knowledge rather than knowledge management (although McElroy's model, wordy though it is, offers up a bit more "meat"). And, at the risk of splitting hairs, these processes aren't, in my opinion, particularly cyclical. In fact, you can (and should) be engaged in a variety of these processes concurrently.

Anywho, using the "Four Stages" as a foundation, (Lil Jackie and) I came up with the following model outlining four proposed stages in the KM Lifecycle:

Note: There isn't any timeline applied to any of these stages, I perceive that organizations will move from one to the next as the time is right.

Stage I: Acknowledgement
  • Organizations either recognize the need for a strategic approach to their KM efforts or, following a previously unsuccessful strategy, initiate pursuit of a new approach.
  • Organizations may attempt to build a KM strategy themselves or, optimally, seek out the services of an “expert” to assist in some combination of organizational analysis (e.g., SWOT, GAP or KM Audit), strategic planning, and strategy execution.
Stage II: Mobilization
  • Organizations take an active (versus passive) approach to KM by executing a series of strategies to improve how knowledge is managed, including a Branding strategy focused on mobilizing awareness and support of the KM initiative.
  • During this stage, KM attempts to build social equity by demonstrating its value, benefit and utility to a broad range of stakeholders.
Stage III: Leverage
  • Following some success with mobilizing wider support of knowledge management (through aggressive Branding, documented "wins" and success stories, converting skeptics, etc.) the KM function has acquired some social equity and is perceived as less of a niche function or “pet project”.
  • The KM function (assertively) leverages the social equity it has acquired to influence a wider range of strategic planning efforts across the organization.
Stage IV: Normalization
  • At this stage, the practice, awareness, and understanding of KM is normalized across the organization. The degree and quality of this normalization (the extent to which KM and its activities are regarded as a "natural" part of the regular working environment) is indicative of the level of success or failure of the KM initiative.
  • A fully successful strategy is one in which KM has achieved cultural adoption and integration as identified by the following characteristics:
    • Organization-wide awareness and understanding of knowledge management - its purpose, benefit, and importance
    • An organizational culture possessed of a spirit of knowledge stewardship in which everyone is, at a minimum, aware of their individual responsibility to share and collaborate in community
    • Continuously evolving policies, practices, and technology tools that reflect, promote, and support a culture of knowledge sharing
    • Widespread, regular, active usage of KM tools and participation in community development efforts (such as CoPs).
  • A partially successful strategy might be one where KM fails to realize its potential (as previously described) owing to a number of factors (i.e., the culture is heavily change resistant; folks leading KM efforts were not aggressive, assertive or savvy enough to navigate the politics of the organization; or, the strategy simply wasn’t effective, etc.). Essentially, instead of KM positively influencing change in how the organization operates, the organization unduly influences how KM is implemented, limiting its role and impact. An example might be an organization that begins its KM initiative with a limited or narrow scope of the role that KM will play and resists widening this scope resulting in an implementation that provides exactly what was desired, but fails to deliver on the full potential of KM.
  • A completely failed strategy is one in which KM has been unsuccessful in achieving cultural adoption and integration resulting in the termination of the initiative. Termination is likely the result of a poor Branding strategy and failure to properly educate stakeholders - particularly leadership – on the importance and value of KM and consistently obtain buy-in at key strategy milestones.
  • A repressed or limited KM strategy doesn't have to remain so, indefinitely. Assuming that KM has experienced some success and "wins" and acquired some measure of equity, it is likely that KM will be perceived as having value - just not enough to immediately propel it to a higher/stronger role in the organization.
  • Likewise, strategy failure isn't necessarily a death sentence for KM. Assuming that the initial need for KM is still present (and acknowledged), it is probable that a new strategy will (inevitably) be pursued and/or new "experts" brought on board to implement it.
One final note: Unlike the "Four Stages" model, I don't see a point at which KM efforts will ever truly decline and by that, I mean, I don’t think that you should ever stop being actively involved in shaping your KM efforts. Instead I think that organizations will and should continue to pursue optimal normalization. Once that has been achieved, they will then employ a series of strategies to maintain that state. Interestingly, this whole process has had me questioning one of my core beliefs that Knowledge Managers should be working themselves out of a job. I do see this as a goal, perhaps, for smaller organizations (when an organization’s strategic planning includes KM as part of the overall process, not as a separate function). But, for larger organizations, I could see someone operating at a CKO role in the same manner an organization would employ a CFO or SVP of Marketing.

Truly, I guess you live, you learn (and then you buy Luvs!)

So there it is. As usual, all constructive feedback, criticisms and comments are welcome!

Peace out!


Mario said...

Bravo again, CY (and lil Jackie)!!!
Very succinct. I have always believed that the KM cycles presented were overly complex. It seems that most of the time KM is scrutinized instead of analyzed, but you have proven that practitioners have the real scoop and insight into what's what (can I get a what-what?!) and what's not.
Keep guiding KMer's. All you noob KMer's out there, you best have your notebooks open and pens scribbling.
Keep moving us past the describing KM and on to the doing KM.
I'm done.