During my career as a KM practitioner, I have both observed and developed proven practices for leading successful knowledge management programs. They’re included in my latest book on promoting knowledge management initiatives within the corporate world. Please read on for my thoughts on the essentials of KM leadership.
In order to sell KM, you must lead by example, practice what you preach, and model desired behaviors to show others how it’s done. Try out tools and processes yourself. Learn first-hand what works well and what does not. You will be able to empathize with other users, learn useful techniques, and become recognized as an expert. Be hands-on and use the tools of the trade every day.
A day in the life of a KM leader
As a KM leader, both inside and outside my organizations, I have led KM communities; run regular conference calls; published newsletters and blogs; maintained social networking profiles; used Twitter and Yammer; edited wiki pages; used collaborative team spaces; posted to threaded discussion boards; presented on calls and at conferences; hosted speakers from other companies and presented to their companies; created and managed websites; and published articles and books.
As a result, I know firsthand the ins and outs and pros and cons of using KM tools and methods. I can offer credible advice to others, I have a strong network of colleagues to call on for help, and I have helped build a good reputation for the organizations I represent. If I suggest that someone should join a community, write a blog post, or use a wiki, I can say that I myself have done so and offer to help them get started.
A three-pronged approach
Many knowledge management programs begin as grassroots efforts or skunkworks projects, gaining users from the ground up. Others are launched by top executives through formal communications instructing members of the organization to participate. The most successful implementations combine both these methods, while adding one more: the executives and their teams not only communicate about the initiative, they actually participate in a visible manner.
‘Practice what you preach’ is a good motto. If you tell employees to join communities, you should visibly be an active community leader or member. If you want people to start blogging, you should blog regularly and let everyone know about it. To get users to edit wiki pages, you should create and edit some pages yourself.
Model the behaviors you want others to demonstrate. Share, innovate, reuse, collaborate, and learn in an open and visible way. If you span boundaries, build networks, and communicate openly, others will follow your example, and you will get the results you want.
Practice what you preach by doing the following:
- Share what you have learned with others in your organization
- Innovate based on your own circumstances, ideas, and experience
- Reuse good ideas and examples in your own program
- Collaborate with colleagues from other programs and organizations
- Learn continuously about knowledge management, how to do it better, and what is new and improved in the field
Planning a KM initiative includes determining who will participate, which processes and tools are required, and how tools should be integrated.
Starting a KM program includes defining participants and roles, which basic processes are required, and how tools should support people and processes.
Knowledge managers should enlist support from top leaders in order to ensure the success of a KM implementation; 10 commitments to ask for
KM guru Stan Garfield provides specific examples of challenges and opportunities and how to turn them into knowledge management program objectives.