Saturday, March 17, 2018

Knowledge Management in disguise: What do I do?

My best friend came to London for a study tour and she stayed with me in my London home. 

On the first night of the reunion, she asked me “Bonnie, what do you do at work? Are you still working in Knowledge Management? I am not sure what I tell my study tour mates when they ask me what you are doing?”

Such a great question. A lot of things come to my mind, as I reflect on my career. 

What do I do? 

1. I find ways to promote knowledge flow across boundaries for multinational companies. 

Typically this means creating information and comms systems, defining processes, nurturing communities/networks, putting in roles to allow employees (or customers) to easily access experts/knowledge to get their work done. 

As knowledge resides in people’s heads, in the relationship between people/team, and in documents usually sitting in some systems, I am seen as “a learning facilitator, communication facilitator, story-teller and story-collector” to “a digital person who knows about social media, build intranets, knowledge base, enterprise social collaboration platforms”.

Some colleagues think my work relates to IT. 

Other colleagues think my work relates to communication. 

Some colleagues think my work relates to new style informal and social learning. 

2. I find ways to take people on a journey to embrace a culture of knowledge sharing. 

Every time I kick off a Knowledge Management programme (or whatever name the company use), one of the key mandate is “our company need to build a knowledge sharing culture, and break down the silos”. 

Do I have magic to mandate people to change? Of course no! I do have experience designing user-centric participatory workshop to engage with people of all levels, listen to their stories, play back their stories for them to self-reflect and see the point for themselves to take small steps to change. 

Some colleagues think my work relates to culture change. 

Other colleagues think my work relates to employee engagement. 

3. I study people’s needs, pains and dreams in order to design systems that are relevant. 

Influenced by Dr Brenda Dervin who has been my mentor since my doctorate research days (1996-2000), I have been applying Sense-Making Methodology to research people’s info/knowledge needs in real-life context. 

After gathering the user stories, I create personas, user journey map, analyse the gaps and strengths, and use the insights to co-create the “to be” KM systems with the users. I work out loud, I seek frequent input on unpolished design/ideas, I invite criticism, I make quick changes, and I rapidly fine-tune the solution.  And I am impatient, I would like to turn ideas into a working product quickly, and failed fast if needed. 

Some colleagues think my work relates to agile and design thinking. 

I am wary they are buzz words. To me, these concepts are not new. 

4. I practise strategic knowledge management. I work with senior executives to create knowledge-driven business strategy. 

Simply speaking, the senior executives and the Board have to recognise that improve knowledge flow can increase performance and is a key enabler to deliver the business strategy. 

This is not always the case or possible. Reflecting on my career, it is usually a visionary CEO/CXO who believes in it, and open the door to make it happen at the right time. 

Practising strategic KM means staying business-focus and speaking the business language. It starts with asking: “Knowledge is everywhere, with limited time/resources, for this company to achieve its business vision, what are the truly “critical knowledge” that has to flow, to be managed and protected? What should we do now?”

The answer is guaranteed to be different for different companies and sectors operating in different contexts. That is why strategic KM can never be boring. 

Because of this aspect of my work, some colleagues think my work is in strategic consulting and business transformation. 

So... what do I do? 

My work is multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary and involve working with multiple business stakeholders. I don’t think KM sit in a box. 

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