Define Your KM Strategy, Part 1

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

September 24, 2020

The sixth step in the 12 Steps to KM Success is to define the KM strategy for your KM program. These are specific actions that will be taken to implement the program, thus achieving the Top 3 Objectives.

For each of the objectives, define how they will be accomplished and communicate the details to the organization. This will allow everyone to understand exactly what will be done, what they are expected to do, and what’s in it for them.

There are ten basic categories of KM strategy: motivate, network, supply, analyze, codify, disseminate, demand, act, invent, and augment. Use these as a guide for formulating your list of actions.

In this first in a series of three posts, the first five types of KM strategies will be discussed. Subsequent posts will cover the remaining five types and provide examples of how to apply all ten.

1. Motivate

To enable knowledge-related actions, it is usually necessary to provide incentives and rewards to your targeted users to encourage the desired behaviors. Often, the first step will be a change management program to align the culture and values of the organization with knowledge management. Setting goals and measurements which individuals and managers must achieve is also important. And establishing formal incentives and rewards will reinforce the goals and measurements.

The means of motivating employees include communicating to them, modeling expected behaviors, establishing standard goals to be included in all performance plans, monitoring and reporting on progress against organizational goals, recognizing those who demonstrate desired behaviors, providing incentives for meeting objectives, and rewarding outstanding performance.

Examples include town hall and coffee talk sessions conducted by senior leaders, notes from senior leaders to employees who contribute reusable content, standardized performance goals, monthly progress reports, and awards for those who set the best example of sharing their knowledge.

2. Network

A fundamental way for knowledge to be shared is through direct contact between people. Connecting to others who can provide assistance or who can benefit from knowledge sharing is a powerful way to leverage each person’s individual knowledge. Communicating across organizational silos allows good ideas to be exchanged between groups who might otherwise be unaware of each other. Collaborating within communities allows the members to learn together, which is enabled by community events, threaded discussions, and team spaces.

Building and expanding social networks creates valuable links between individuals and groups. Emerging social software supports these networks through adding friends, identifying shared interests, and tagging resources.

Conversations between people are the basis of building trust, gaining insights, and sparking new ideas. Storytelling ignites action, builds trust, instills values, fosters collaboration, and transmits understanding. The World Café method “helps us appreciate the importance and connectedness of the informal webs of conversation and social learning through which we discover shared meaning, access collective intelligence, and bring forth the future.”

3. Supply

There must be a supply of knowledge in order for it to be reused. Supply-side knowledge management includes collecting documents and files, capturing information and work products, and storing these forms of explicit knowledge in repositories. Tacit knowledge can also be captured, and converted to explicit knowledge by recording conversations and presentations, writing down what people do and say, and collecting stories.

Examples of supply strategies include project databases, skills inventories, and document repositories. The content which is captured represents the raw materials. These can then be analyzed, codified, disseminated, queried, searched for, retrieved, and reused.

A supply-only strategy will not be very useful to an organization. Even if every possible document and knowledge object is captured and stored, there is no resultant benefit unless there is significant reuse of all that content. Be sure to keep supply and demand strategies in balance.

4. Analyze

Once there is a supply of captured knowledge, it is possible to analyze it so that it can be applied in useful ways. Before drawing any conclusions from what has been collected, the content should be scoured to verify that it is valid. Confidential data may need to be scrubbed, or the content may need to be further secured. Lengthy documents may need to be summarized, encapsulated, or condensed.

Reviewing collected information may reveal patterns, trends, or tendencies which can be exploited, expanded, or corrected. Distilling data to extract the essence leads to discovering new ideas and learning how to improve. Knowledge can be harvested in the form of lessons learned, proven practices, and rules of thumb.

Sense-making is the way in which we make sense of the world so that we can act in it. Dave Snowden describes technologies that process large volumes of data with a view to weak signal detection and pattern recognition. Another kind is naturalistic sense-making, derived from an understanding of the cognitive processes that underpin human decision making.

People-related data can also be analyzed to reveal useful facts. Social Network Analysis (SNA) maps and measures relationships and flows between people, groups, or organizations to improve communities, identify missing links, and improve connections between groups. Using Positive Deviance can help find those whose special practices, strategies, and behaviors enable them to find better solutions to prevalent problems than their neighbors who have access to the same resources.

5. Codify

After collected knowledge has been analyzed, it can be codified to produce standard methodologies, reusable material, and repeatable processes. Data can be consolidated, content can be collated, and processes can be integrated to yield improved business results.

Codifying knowledge also involves establishing the value of intellectual property, adding metadata to documents stored in repositories so that they can be easily found, and tagging content so that users can discover useful views, connections, and collections.

Examples include designating documents as standard templates, identifying processes and proven practices, and producing a catalogue of official methods. Refining knowledge after it has been captured so that it can more readily be reused renders it in a more valuable state.

The next post will cover the remaining five types of strategies.

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please read Stan’s additional blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. And learn about Lucidea’s Inmagic Presto, with KM capabilities to support successful knowledge management programs.

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