Sunday, April 07, 2013

This is not a recipe! What is the process to develop a knowledge management strategy?

I was recently asked to share my personal views on the process to develop a knowledge management strategy with some university students in 5 minutes. I have written up these thoughts so I thought I should post to my blog in case my blog readers are also interested in this topic.

Based on my experience formulating and executing KM strategy in the past 15+ years, here are my thoughts. Please do not take this as a recipe, use it to inform your thinking if it helps. 

Typical process to develop a KM strategy is as follow:

(a) seek senior executive's buy in, especially the CEO, the senior executive in charge of transforming the business model. Confirm the commitment to support the delivery of a KM vision, and recognise there are tons of resistance along the way.

(b) articulate in very simple terms (visually if possible) what KM means to the business. Companies define KM in different ways, from data/information management, collaboration, social business, communities of practice, business intelligence, market research to people development/human capital management. Most companies include a number of these components in the KM strategy. There is no one size fit all KM definition, so it needs to make clear what this KM vision is.

(c) align 100 percent with the business strategy and direction. KM is a means to an end, the end game is where the company wants to head towards. Any KM projects which derive from the KM strategy have to clearly enable the delivery of the business strategy whether it is to increase revenue, improve staff engagement, improve customer service, sales enablement or process improvement.  Work extremely closely with the senior executives who are in charge of these business goals. Show them the possibilities using internal and external use cases to get buy in.

(d) measure the success and report the success along the way. Set KM goals and targets which align with business goals, show the direct connections. this is easier said than done, capture and share stories to highlight early benefits along the way. Make these stories part of the reporting. Celebrate success to create buzz. In all my KM roles, I have collected numerous testimonials from employees to show how KM has benefited them and increase their work productivity.

(e) stay flexible with the KM strategy, business and external market conditions changes very quickly nowadays, stay align with any changing business directives. Be ready to drop certain initiatives and bring in new initiatives as the business needs arise.

(f) don't forget to build the bottom up groundswell. Buld personal engagement with staff of all levels, get to know them in person, understand their pain points and their information needs. Encourage them to participate, seek their feedback along the way, ask them to show others the way. Recognise their contribution. They are critical advocates to make any KM program works, ultimately they allow the top down strategy and the bottom up needs to be met. Most importantly, any KM program's ultimately empower every individual staff to work better (not just the senior executives).

What do you think? Do you share similar views? Are there things that I miss out? Let me know.

The end of business as usual: is it possible in the workplace? (Part 2)

Continuing from my last blog, I wonder if the 10 steps to use social media in the consumer world could work within the firewall. (Sorry for the long delay to publish this blog, I drafted it long way back, but have been finessing my thoughts for a long while).

1. Working as a team at work, it is about getting things done. If you are the team lead and you want the members to get their work done (enabled by social platform), do you consider why your team members want to engage with you (other than the fact you are the defacto leader). What would make your team willingly engage with you even if you are not in your position? Could it be working with a leader who cares, who is inspiring, who help their team members to develop and grow in their job.... Have you considered why your staff want to engage with you? Do you bother? Why should your staff bother? Do you invest in content and in engagement? (This also speaks to point number 9)

2. What brings people together at work is based on projects, functions, tasks to deliver specific business goals. Good conversation within a team help every team member to see their purpose, how they can play a part, and answer what's in it for me. How many managers and/or team members do this effectively offline in face-to-face events/meetings? Can we assume we can/will have great conversation online because your company is rolling out a new social platform....?  (This also speaks to point number 8)

3. Identify who are the influencial people in your organization who can make or break the initiative you are trying to roll out. Find out who they are, and then create a dialogue online (on the social platform) that is mutually beneficial. We know how to do this offline, go and talk to the key stakeholders, influence them, convince them, get them on your side, get them share their support in important meetings. Can we replicate this model online? Start a conversation, get the key stakeholders to comment postively to show "public" support. This is all about reinforcing existing power structure. What is interesting is to discover "influential people" who may not be in power, but attracts a lot of followers/interaction in a specific topical area but whom you do not know personally, they are the additional people to watch and engage.... They create the new rule of the game in a networked organization. How do you think the people in power would think/feel? Smart leaders will leverage the power of these hidden network.

4. Study what best practices other organisations are embracing internal social platform to transform their business model. McKinsey has published a great report on "unlocking the value of social networks", it is definitely worth reading. Also share early success examples to make it real for the late adopters (or people who do get it initially) to come on board.

5. Translate early learning into opportunities to share with business executive. Yes, this is so needed in any internal social platform roll out to continue to get senior support and buy in. Unfortunately, the measurement and reporting system in a traditional company does not help to present the value created by social business, I don't think we have a measurement and reporting model which can showcase the benefits of emergence yet! (David snowden certainly is doing great work in this area, I do not see any other examples. If you know of any, leave a comment here)

6. Listen to what the employees are saying to identify insights and opportunities. The social platform allow these voices to bubble up. Who's responsibility is it to listen to the voice of employees ( and I do not mean an annual HR survey)? Employees are chattering about business intelligence, competitors movement, latest wins and losses, customers' feedback, have your company invested in an approach to analyse and bring these intelligence shared into insights? Are these insights funnel to the right function for action? Who is in charge?

7. Observe what social tools are used by the employees. Give employees the tools they need to get their work done. This does not mean you force one single platform to do everything. Instead, make the social platform part of their day-to-day experience, make it part of their email, mobile experience.

8. See above

9. See above

10. Give employees value in using the social platform which they cannot get anywhere. It has to add value to each individual. And each individual will get something different out of it!

The conclusion is that these 10 steps are as relevant to introduce social platform internally within an enterprise. However, I would argue that the maturity level is so much lower than in the consumer world, and it is going to take a long time to change, especially in these area:
- invest in content and engagement with employees (We have managing employees in a "mechanistic" way since the industrial revolution. Here is an opportunity to go back to basic and treat each employee as valuable living breathing human beings with passion, dreams and emotions and listen to what they can offer)
- good dialogue (Good leaders do it all the time. Look around the workplace, and you notice that most dialogue is one-way, directional, with no give-and-take. Here is the opportunity to bring back two way dialogue and listening in the workplace)

This is tough. Not only seniors have to change, employees have to "unlearn" and take responsibility 

Companies are way ahead in the consumer world to embrace social technologies, including defining the processes and new roles to listen, engage and serve the customers. Within the firewall, whilst new social platform is being put in place, the required change in management practices has yet to catch up to fully realise the potential.