Thursday, 3 November 2016

Have you hit the KM roadbump? 2 cracking analogies and one more killer quote to get you over it.

Knowledge management (KM) remains unknown to most organisations and the people that work within them.  Consequently, those of us working in the field sometimes use analogies, anecdotes and case-studies to explain KM to others. 

Early conversations often start well but we can all benefit from ways of countering the queries, doubts or even fears raised by those that don't yet "get it".

Two analogies that I like to use at the moment are those of safety and heating:

Whilst KM may sound like 'common sense' to some, all too often it is not that common.  Indeed, it is NOT the natural, human condition.  Managing anything at all requires deliberate effort, time, money and resources - managing knowledge is no different.  Safety is like this also.

As I blogged recently, we can't work safely without deliberately choosing to do so and we can't manage knowledge with equivalent efforts.

Think of everything that has gone into making factories, offices, shops and building sites safe places in which to work. In order to work safely, organisations have developed policies, committees, guidance, reporting procedures, training, metrics, teams, managers, champions, tools etc. Why?  Because we have learned (all too often the hard way) that the removal of danger requires action on our part.

As with safety, so with KM.  Knowledge won't move around an organisation without significant assistance from KM policies, committees, guidance, reporting procedures, training, metrics, teams, managers, champions, tools etc.

Furthermore, the 'safety team' are NOT the ones that work safely.  Rather, they require, encourage, enable and support the rest of us to do so.

As with safety, so with KM.  The KM team are NOT the ones that manage knowledge.  Rather, they require, encourage, enable and support the rest of us to do so.

A significant challenge facing KM practitioners as a discipline is the ever-present mistaken belief that technology is the answer, or even that technology somehow is knowledge management.  I think this may be largely down to what I call the 'magpie attraction' of technology.

Some organisations see something new and shiny and say, "We want that!" without properly thinking about the problem to which a so-called 'knowledge management platform' or 'knowledge management system' might be the solution.  Indeed, without the right people, processes and governance, the 'KM = technology = KM' approach achieves absolutely nothing.

To reinforce my point - last week I blogged '6 killer knowledge management quotes' (my most popular post this year, by the way).  Since then, I came across one more on LinkedIn - the ultimate killer KM quote to beat all killer KM quotes. 

From Larry Prusak (ex-IBM, McKinsey etc.) at last week's KM Legal Conference in New York:

"All the technology in the world will not make people collaborate.  Obama is not going to take my call just because I have a telephone and the number for the White House."


Now, about that heating analogy.  When we need to heat a house, we don't point to a brand new boiler and say, "We want that!", do we?  We recognise that we need radiators, a thermostat, piping, insulation in the loft, perhaps air conditioning as well. 

As with heating, so with KM.  We don't just need a portal, lessons management system, enterprise search, discussion forums and so on.  We need people to be accountable for their correct use, processes in order to create, update, organise and share the knowledge in them and a system of governance (indeed, a learning culture) that encourages and expects us to do this, and recognises and thanks us for so doing.

Don't waste money on buying only a boiler otherwise your house will stay very cold this winter.

For a conversation about magpies, boilers, safety or indeed, knowledge management, please get in touch direct or via the Knoco website.

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