We’re barely two weeks into 2011 and after some interesting interviews, conversations, and networking encounters I've decided that the greatest KM need of 2011 is client-centered education on KM (and what it isn't, wasn't, and ain't never gonna be). To that end I've been hard at work revamping my client presentation and organizing (what I think are) some useful articles/white papers and I thought I'd kick-off my first post of the new year with an excerpt from a piece I'm working on entitled "Knowledge Mismanaged".
Best wishes for an adventurous and auspicious new year to all of you!
Knowledge Mismanaged: 7 Common Mistakes Organizations Make Implementing KM
- Having an unclear, poorly conceived, inadequate, or nonexistent vision or scope for KM
The literature on KM has come a long way over the last 10 years and even a cursory review reveals that KM isn’t IT, unfortunately explaining what KM isn’t doesn’t always help explain what KM is. That understanding is critical to properly scoping and setting expectations for KM initiatives.
What is knowledge management?
In a nutshell, knowledge management (KM) is the set of strategies organizations develop to improve how knowledge and information resources are shared (identified, captured, organized, and disseminated) and leveraged. As a field, KM is highly multi-disciplinary, encompassing and drawing upon several business functions, many of which are fully developed in their own right (e.g., IT, Strategy, Marketing, Sales, Customer Relationship Management, etc.).
Why invest in knowledge management?
There is no such thing as an organization that isn’t managing knowledge. When organizations express an interest in KM what they are really saying is: “What we’re currently doing isn’t working for us.” A strategic approach to KM is one that, ultimately, focuses on refining and strengthening operational efficiency to target bottom line goals of increased profitability, enhanced and elevated customer/client experience, and improved employee performance and morale.
- Failure to conduct a pre-strategy assessment
As with any strategic initiative, assessing the organization prior to initiative launch/implementation is an important first step in identifying the gap between current-state practices and behaviors and the desired future-state. A KM Audit provides insight into the ways in which knowledge and information are shared, and assists in identifying critical KM needs. In addition to serving as a benchmark for strategic planning the KM audit is a valuable tool for building a list of the skills necessary to drive the KM strategy.
- Building a KM strategy around a knowledge management system or application
Despite the commonly accepted belief (among KM professionals) that KM is not IT (read: having a KM or content management system does not constitute knowledge management) far too many organizations attempt to follow this route to KM success by purchasing a commercial off the shelf application and building a process or strategy around it. Rather than spending valuable time and money bending your organizational needs around a system or tool, take the time, up-front, to identify your needs and then search for the system and/or tools best suited to meet them.
- Developing knowledge management systems in a vacuum
Even when taking a “KM is IT” approach organizations routinely develop their systems, seemingly, in a vacuum failing to obtain sufficient input from assorted users, stakeholders, and usability experts to assess and consider access/usage habits and preferences in order to influence taxonomy schemas and navigational structures.
- Retaining the wrong human resources to execute the KM strategy
Otherwise known as, hiring to the level of your ignorance of KM! All KM needs are not the same and neither are the Knowledge Managers tasked with addressing them. Aside from the strategic plan, having the right people to lead and support the KM initiative is the most critical factor in its success. Cutting a swath through the mountain of potential applicants to identify the best candidates is not only dependent upon compiling a relevant, realistic skill-set but in clarifying the type of KM role – Is this an entry-level, junior, or senior position? Is this role technical or strategic? Is the need for a KM expert or a professional (in another field) with KM experience/exposure?
- Not collecting data to measure for success
Despite the pressure to demonstrate the ROI of knowledge management, organizations often fail to establish clear, relevant metrics and capture the data necessary to present historical trends about both the information systems in use and the behaviors of the KM strategy’s target audience. Such metrics provide invaluable insight into the extent to which the KM initiative is realizing its goals and achieving its mandate.
- Lack of organization-wide KM marketing and education
For some reason organizations seem to think that KM processes, protocols and systems will sell themselves and that the target audience will clamor to get on board the KM-ship. Not so! It’s important to clearly and plainly define what KM means to the organization; sell KM in practical, relevant, digestible chunks, and pursue buy-in at every level.