If you have decided (or been asked) to start a knowledge management initiative, the first thing to do is to determine what results you would like to achieve. Is there a challenge you would like to overcome or an improvement you hope to make?
If not, ask people in your organization what is currently causing them the most pain in doing their jobs. Look for opportunities to help alleviate these pain points through knowledge management people, process, and technology components.
If you can’t find any challenges to overcome or improvements to make, and no one is experiencing any knowledge-related pain, then don’t start a KM program. You will be trying to push a solution in search of a problem, and there will be no reason for anyone to adopt it.
At the other extreme, if you find lots of challenges and opportunities for improvement, you will need to narrow down the list. Pick three challenges or opportunities for which KM will likely provide the greatest benefit to the organization. These Top 3 Objectives represent the starting point for your program and the core of your communications. Use them to choose, start, review, adjust, and stop individual projects to ensure that they help achieve the desired benefits.
All organizations can benefit from people sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning. Based on an organization’s mission and objectives, specific goals for a knowledge management program should be defined. Start with your senior executive’s top priorities, define what you think needs to happen, and solicit the ideas of the people who are doing the work. The intersection of these three viewpoints should yield objectives that align the hopes of senior leadership, KM program leadership, and KM users.
Getting user input
To determine which needs to address, it is important to get user input. Conduct surveys to identify current challenges and needs, identify opportunities, and request suggestions.
Use an Opportunities Survey to identify current challenges and needs, and request suggestions for addressing them. Use this survey to determine business needs which knowledge management can support.
Finding out what your users are struggling with, what they would like to see provided, and what they think should be done will help ensure that the Top 3 Objectives are based on real needs.
The survey below can be used to help define the Top 3 Objectives for a knowledge management program. It helps ensure that the KM program is designed to meet the needs of the organization and should be conducted once before beginning any new KM initiative.
1. Check all of the following challenges you are currently experiencing:
- It’s difficult for my team to make decisions, and when we make them, they are bad.
- It’s hard to find relevant information and resources at the time of need.
- We have to start from scratch each time we start a new project, and my team keeps reinventing the wheel.
- We repeat the same mistakes over and over.
- It’s difficult to find out if anyone else has solved a similar problem before or already done similar work.
- Information is poorly communicated to me, and I am unaware of what has been done, what is happening, and where the organization is heading.
- I can’t find standard processes, procedures, methods, tools, templates, techniques, and examples.
- I can’t get experts to help me, because they are scarce, in great demand, and unavailable when needed.
- We are unable to respond to customers who ask for proof that we know how to help them and that we have done similar work before.
- It takes too long to invent, design, manufacture, sell, and deliver products and services to our customers.
2. List any other challenges you regularly experience with sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, learning, and searching for knowledge.
3. From the challenges which you checked and the ones you listed, please rank the three most important in decreasing order of importance:
- <fill in the most important challenge>
- <fill in the second most important challenge>
- <fill in the third most important challenge>
4. What examples can you provide where sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, learning, and searching for knowledge are working well today?
5. What examples can you provide where sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, learning, and searching for knowledge worked well in the past?
6. What examples can you provide where sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, learning, and searching for knowledge worked well in the past or are working well today in other organizations?
7. What suggestions do you have for dealing with any of the challenges you identified?
8. What other needs do you have for sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, learning, and searching for knowledge?
9. What suggestions do you have for meeting the needs you identified?
10. Describe how knowledge management should work ideally.
In my next post I will provide examples of challenges, opportunities, and objectives.
Virtual teams, including those focused on knowledge exchange, are widespread. There are many effective virtual channels for knowledge sharing.
Team spaces are collaborative workspaces designed for teams to share documents, libraries, schedules, files and other building blocks of knowledge.
An organizational intranet is a key part of a knowledge management program; knowledge managers should be sure to leverage the intranet for KM purposes.
Knowledge managers should incorporate the principles of good usability into the KM system user interface.