10 Priorities for a Knowledge Management Program

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

June 25, 2020

Are you starting a KM initiative? Here are ten priorities to help ensure success.

1. Put an effective KM leader in place and ensure that the KM team has only strong members.

Your KM program will only be as strong as the people leading it. Make sure that you appoint leaders who are respected in the organization, are flexible and adaptable, are dynamic and assertive, are eager to be of help to users, and who have strong communication and project management skills.

Avoid people who are available because they have no current role, who project negative attitudes, or who don’t work collaboratively. KM teams are generally small; having one weak link in a small team can cause the KM program to fail. Choose team members carefully and recruit only the best people.

2. Balance people, process, and technology components, with a project leader for each category.

Don’t let any one category dominate the other two. A typical challenge is to avoid immediately diving into choosing and implementing technology. Technology is important, but it must support people and processes, not be an end in itself.

Assign project leaders for each category who are acknowledged experts in that area, who have successfully led other projects, and who work well together. They can serve as advocates for their categories, but should recognize and support the importance of the other categories.

3. Establish a governance and collaboration process to engage all groups within the organization (e.g., business units, regions, functions), and to formally manage and communicate on all projects; appoint KM leaders in each major group.

By engaging all constituent groups in your organization, you will ensure that the KM program is not isolated from its users. Employees should view knowledge management as something for which everyone is responsible, not just the domain of the KM team.

KM leaders from each group should continue to directly report to their current groups but become part of a virtual KM team. Ideally, they should feel equally devoted to their home groups and to the virtual KM team.

The KM leaders have an important two-way role. They represent the needs of their groups to the KM team, and they communicate the direction of the KM program to their groups. They are champions of their groups to the KM team, and they are champions of KM to their groups.

The central KM staff should view the virtual KM team as the decision-making body. It is important to keep all members informed on current developments and future plans. Avoid an “us versus them” mentality at all costs.

4. Hold annual worldwide face-to-face meetings to get all KM leaders informed, energized, and collaborating.

Although it is usually challenging to get approval for large meetings involving significant travel costs, it is nonetheless critical to do so. As soon as you have appointed a critical mass of KM leaders, start planning your first meeting.

Of course, you are not meeting for the sake of meeting. You need to meet in person in order to establish trust between team members; communicate the vision, mission, expectations, roles, and plans; solicit feedback and inputs; and provide the environment for team members to collaborate.

Plan the meeting carefully. Avoid an endless parade of talking heads and boring presentations. Instead, include workshops, birds-of-a-feather sessions, interactive discussions, and storytelling. Build in plenty of time for small group meetings, networking, and conversations.

Invite the senior executive sponsor to attend all or part of the meeting to present, answer questions, and mingle with the attendees. Invite an outside speaker on an important topic. Give all participants a book and ask them to read it and discuss it in a threaded discussion after they return from the meeting.

By the end of the meeting, everyone should know the direction they should take, believe that their voices were heard, and feel motivated to charge ahead. They will be more effective in collaborating electronically with one another over the course of the next year. And they will be able to visualize the faces of their peers when talking to them on the phone.

5. Communicate regularly through newsletters, training, websites, and local events.

Publishing the implementation plan is just the start of the requirement to communicate on an ongoing basis. Develop a schedule of regular newsletters, training courses, and events.

Create websites and be sure to keep them updated regularly. Regularly solicit success stories and publish them in multiple places. Send KM metrics reports to the senior leadership team and ask that all groups publish their own variations. Make it easy for users to ask questions, and publish the answers for all to see.

6. Get the senior executive to actively support the program.

You need to gain the approval and ongoing leadership of the senior executive for the KM program. After securing sponsorship, regularly follow up to ensure that the all commitments are kept.

7. Engage with other KM programs, both internal and external, to learn, share ideas, and practice what you preach.

Learning about the field of knowledge management is not a one-time only action. Rather, it is an ongoing requirement to ensure that you take advantage of what others in your field have already learned, succeeded with, and failed with.

If there are other KM programs within your organization, contact their leaders to find out the details of their efforts. If there is an internal KM community, join it and actively participate. If no such community exists, talk to your peers about creating one, and take the lead if necessary in getting one off the ground.

Subscribe to one or more KM periodicals. Use an email subscription service to follow leading KM blogs. Attend at least one conference or training class each year. Join an online KM community and participate in its discussions and calls. Join a local KM community to meet in person or create one if not already available in your location.

8. Focus on delivering tangible business benefits that match the overall objectives of the organization.

The KM program only exists to produce useful results for your business. Keep reminding all KM leaders and participants of this.

When publishing success stories, be sure to mention the business impact. When communicating, tie all proposed plans to the expected benefits.

9. Deliver regular improvements to make the KM environment effective and easy to use.

Once the selected people, process, and technology components are in use and achieving results, figure out how to improve them and add to them to yield even more value. User surveys, KM team meetings, external reading and conferences, and your own inspiration are all excellent sources of ideas for enhancements and new capabilities.

When you get a good idea, present it to your KM team, and if they like it, quickly prototype it. If the prototype is successful, proceed to a pilot so you can make improvements, learn from experience, and plan a full roll-out.

10. Set three basic goals for employees and stick to them for at least a year.

Avoid establishing a long list of arcane metrics. Instead, pick three simple goals that are easy to articulate, implement, and measure.

Make these three goals the pillars of your ongoing communications so that everyone will remember them. Set overall targets for the organization and key all metric reports to show progress against these goals.

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please enjoy Stan’s blog posts offering advice, analysis, and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may want to download a free copy of his book, Lucidea’s Lens: Special Librarians & Information Specialists; The Five Cs of KM from Lucidea Press, and its precursor, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program. Learn about Lucidea’s Presto, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus software with unrivaled KM capabilities that enable successful knowledge curation and sharing.

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