KM Component 22 – Change Management Process

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

August 19, 2021

Management of change means developing a planned approach to change in an organization to address anticipated obstacles and to ensure successful adoption. There are varying schools of thought about the value of change management. Some believe that it is an essential part of any KM initiative. 

Others dismiss it as an obsolete concept. Most KM initiatives will involve significant changes to the existing behaviors, processes, and systems, so it is useful to create a change management plan.

The value of change management is that it forces you to consciously deal with the changes that will be required to enable knowledge management to succeed. If you fail to do so, and proceed to implement new people, process, and technology components with inadequate preparation, conditioning of the organization, and communication, then the new components may not be adopted as expected.

Changing existing processes and tools, and introducing new ones, are the key change elements to plan for. Analyze the potential impact of these changes, and plan to explain to the users how they will benefit, what their roles will be in implementing the changes, and how you will help them through the changes.

Steps to Follow

  1. Develop a KM Management of Change plan and help implement it. It should be part of the KM implementation plan and the overall plan of record.
  2. Ask communities of practice for advice and to help with change management. Listen to what the members have to say, and then follow through with their suggestions. Enlist their leaders and members to help communicate about upcoming changes.
  3. There may be resources within your organization to assist you in developing and implementing a change management plan. If so, take advantage of these. If not, there are books and consultants who can help see the lists below). Engage these resources to ensure that you have a viable plan and have considered the implications of your KM initiative and how the organization will have to adapt in order to embrace it.
  4. If the culture of the organization does not include sharing and collaboration, a significant management of change initiative will be needed to start changing the culture. Start by reviewing the published values, and then compare these to the observed culture. If they are not consistent, your initiative will need to address aligning corporate culture to the stated core values. If the culture is a mixture of positive and negative elements, you will want to use the positive ones to support your efforts and use a change management process to address the impact of the negative ones. Help the culture and values of the organization evolve to support knowledge management.
  5. To enable knowledge-related actions, it is helpful to provide incentives and rewards to your targeted users to encourage the desired behaviors. When introducing a change initiative, some believe that rewards can yield short-term results, but that the effects wear off over time. I have seen them work very effectively.
  6. For any change initiative, all stakeholders will want to know what’s in it for them. To help them understand the benefits for them personally, and for the organization overall, answer the following questions:
    • Why should we implement a KM program? Articulate your vision.
    • What are the benefits? Select from the list of benefits and tie these to your organization.
    • How will it help our organization accomplish its key objectives? Tie the top 3 objectives to the organization’s overall priorities.
    • How will our people’s needs, opportunities, and challenges be met? Explain the compelling use cases.
    • How will our organization improve as a result? Make the business case using one of the approaches outlined below.

Making the Business Case

Make a logical case for how the initiative will help achieve the key business objectives of the organization. For example:

  • The top three objectives are increasing profits, accelerating sales, and improving customer satisfaction.
  • Explain how the elements of the program will have a positive impact on these objectives.
  • Commit to capturing and reporting on the contributions that knowledge management made to profits, sales, and customer satisfaction.

Establish a plausible scenario and then extrapolate the benefits. For example:

  • If we save one project from repeating the same mistakes as previous projects, that could save $2 million, which will more than pay for the program. If we repeat this, the impact on profits is large.
  • If by responding quickly to an opportunity with a proven solution using acknowledged experts, we win one $10 million project that we otherwise would have lost, that’s incremental revenue of $10 million. If we repeat this, the impact on revenue is significant.
  • If by ensuring that the best engineering product knowledge is reused, we avoid one product recall, we save the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ask compelling questions. For example:

  • Do we want our people to be able to readily find deliverables from previous projects so that they can reuse them, and people who can provide useful advice on how to deliver the next one?
  • Do we want anyone who has a question, seeks a resource, or requires help to be able to easily, quickly, and reliably get what they need?
  • Do we want to avoid redundant effort, repeating the same mistakes over and over, and keeping important information from reaching the very people who need it?


Although there are many specialized change management methods and techniques, multiple components and approaches should be used in the management of change.

People Components

Most of the people components can be applied to the management of change. Instilling a knowledge-sharing culture with positive values is enabled through the work of knowledge managersemployee surveyssocial networkscommunitiestrainingdocumentationcommunicationsuser assistancegoals, and rewards.

Process Components

Several of the process components are also useful, including methodologies, social network analysis, appreciative inquiry, and storytelling.

  1. Most Significant Change is the collection of significant change stories emanating from the field level, and the systematic selection of the most significant of these stories by panels of designated stakeholders or staff. Once changes have been captured, various people sit down together, read the stories aloud and have regular and often in-depth discussions about the value of these reported changes.
  2. World Café is an intentional way to create a living network of conversation around questions that matter. It is a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge, and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes.
  3. Social Network Analysis (SNA) was used by the leaders of one company when they wanted to break down geographic barriers and become a more global organization. They hoped to informally enlist influential employees to assist with change management, but first they had to identify which employees were most connected with others and who did the most to forge relationships across locations. SNA allowed them to do this.
  4. Appreciative Inquiry can be applied in management of change. Lynne Levesque states, “Appreciative Inquiry is not only an incredibly useful tool for change management; it is also applicable as a good coaching practice. Leaders who use probing questions in an appreciative mode that generates collaborative learning will see long-lasting behavior changes.”
  5. Storytelling can be used to manage change. Almost all forms of narrative are useful in the management of change, including motivating others to action, building trust, transmitting values, getting others working together, taming the grapevine, and creating and sharing a vision.

Knowledge Nuggets

The following are taken from my book Proven Practices for Promoting a Knowledge Management Program:

Dean Testa of Goodyear states that KM itself is a change initiative, so don’t be afraid to change your KM program.

John Hovell, who worked for a large defense contractor, says that change management is a large portion of the work. It’s important to notice how different people are intrinsically motivated in different ways. Often, it’s about creating an environment where people feel included in the design and progress of the work. It’s also important to spend more time getting clear collective understanding of the problem, as opposed to spending more time in solution design and implementation mode.

Jean-Claude Monney, formerly of Microsoft Services suggests that to educate people, make them part of the change. Eliminate the us versus them approach, where what is projected is that we know and you don’t. You need to create systems to reward people for the desired behavior, using a formal adoption and change process. Change management it is not a line item in the KM effort – it is the effort. Microsoft uses the ADKAR© approach: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability to change, and reinforcement of the change. In Jean-Claude’s team, he has a person certified in this methodology who defines strategy and implementation plans for all new process changes. Senior management constantly talks about it, repeating it several times. When people hear it from management, it transforms the culture, making it real.

Ed Hoffman, formerly of NASA, made extensive use of change management techniques. He made sure to talk about two or three new things and point to them as accomplishments. He created a chart showing progress made since 2010, because NASA liked to see milestones achieved.

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please enjoy 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 and SydneyEnterprise with KM capabilities to support successful knowledge curation and sharing.

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