15 KM Challenges, Part 2

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

January 28, 2021
The previous post provided the first eight challenges. In this second post of a two-part series, I describe the remaining seven, with possible solutions for each.

  1. Connecting people to each other so they can help each other at the time of need.
  • Challenges: KM programs focus on getting people to submit forms, contribute documents, or update skills profiles. This proves difficult to accomplish.
  • Solutions: Dave Snowden wrote, “If you ask someone, or a body for specific knowledge in the context of a real need it will never be refused. If you ask them to give you your knowledge on the basis that you may need it in the future, then you will never receive it.” Letting documents and expertise emerge at the time of need is a better approach. This is best done in a community of practice. If you need to find a document, or an expert, post to the most relevant communities with your request. If your communities are working as expected, you will receive one or more replies and can proceed. Documents and expertise will emerge in the replies to the query. By reading the full thread, you will get a sense of the context for the offered documents, assess different points of view, see points and counterpoints, and be able to synthesize multiple documents and what multiple people think.
  1. Improving decisions, actions, and learning.
  • Challenges: KM programs are described using vague concepts like “increase engagement,” “add value,” or “drive transformational change.” These are difficult to measure and achieve.
  • Solution: Tie KM efforts directly to key business processes. Develop goals and metrics to demonstrate progress in helping people make better decisions, act more effectively, and learn from others.
  1. Focusing on a few initiatives, setting a few simple goals, and not trying to tackle everything possible.
  • Challenges: There are at least 50 different KM people, process, and technology components available for implementation. It can be tempting to try all of them. It’s hard to resist the allure of the latest technology, the current fad, or the tool that sounds too good to be true. Organizations tend to establish long lists of arcane metrics.
  • Solution: Set three basic goals for employees and stick to them for at least a year. 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. Choose a few KM components that will yield the greatest benefits in the short term to your organization. Stick with proven approaches, even if they seem boring and predictable.
  1. Delivering what people want and the organization needs, not what is trendy.
  • Challenges: Organizations can be mesmerized by maturity models, benchmarking, and me-too best practices. Seth Godin wrote, “Benchmarking against the universe actually encourages us to be mediocre, to be average, to just do what everyone else is doing.” Any new initiative will fail if it does not meet the needs of its intended audience or is perceived as being created in isolation.
  • Solution: Use frameworks, models, and benchmarking as sources of ideas,  not as precise prescriptions to be slavishly followed. Treat your users as customers whom you are trying to acquire, satisfy, and keep. Continuously solicit, capture, and respond to the needs of the people in your organization. Establish ongoing methods for two-way communications. Interact in communities, conduct surveys, publish newsletters, and maintain web sites. And above all, listen to what your constituents tell you, and take timely action in response.
  1. Communicating by pull and opt-in, not by push
  • Challenges: Organizations want to push information out to audiences. Leaders regularly send lengthy email messages and newsletters to people who don’t read them.
  • Solution: Make it attractive for people to pull content for themselves. Provide opt-in for subscribing and unsubscribing from content. Enable direct interaction with leaders to replace communiques filled with corporate speak and jargon.
  1. Augmenting and automating processes using analytics, cognitive computing, and related techniques.
  • Challenges: New KM technologies are introduced, hyped, and implemented. But they often fail to deliver on their promise.
  • Solution: Before pursuing new technologies, define use cases that clearly specify how they will deliver significant improvements to the status quo. Analytics and business intelligence can enable making good decisions, acting efficiently, optimizing processes, inventing and innovating, communicating effectively, influencing customer buying, and improving business performance. Cognitive computing and artificial intelligence can simulate human thought processes and mimic the way the human brain works, addressing complex situations that are characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty. This can enhance the capabilities of humans by augmenting their powers of observation, analysis, decision making, processing, and responding to other people and to routine or challenging situations.
  1. Integrating knowledge management into existing processes, workflows, and systems.
  • Challenges: KM is perceived as extra work. It requires additional tools that people have to learn and use.
  • Solution: Embed knowledge capture in the flow of work, not as a separate process. Make tools and systems work together to minimize the need for separate tools. Look for ways to automate existing processes to reduce required effort and improve the quality of results.
Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please read Stan’s additional blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may also want to download a copy of his book, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program, from Lucidea Press.  And learn about Lucidea’s Inmagic Presto, with KM capabilities to support successful knowledge management programs.

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