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I’ve just recently started working with Knowledge Management – been an year and a half – but I’d say the concept of knowledge management is by far something new,
however companies are still losing knowledge amongst with people. It’s easy to find that key employee that sometimes is the only person in the whole company who knows how to operate a system or proceed on a specific situation.

Yet, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, managing knowledge goes way beyond keeping it stored and safe, it’s about how we can improve corporate performance, KM’s challenge is to do that providing the right informartion to the right person on the right time with easy and fast access, in a single word – Efficacy – simple as that and so hard to pull off.

What makes it so difficult?

Everyday new Content Managent, Collaborative and BI tools are released into market, we have the technology, the skill and executives willing to sponsor KM projects, uhm wait.. how many executives got that idea on mind?

I do believe everyone wishes to implement such a project, but when the bill is presented the first question you gonna be asked is “what’s the ROI?”. How can we measure exactly how much the company will gain? It’s possible to speculate values based on surveys – from IDC, 2001 it’s said an enterprise employing 1000 knowledge workers wastes around $48,000 per week (or $2.5 million per year) due to the inability of employees to quickly locate and retrieve information – or do some math and calculate how faster process will run and achieve a number. Although it’s a cons, it’s only a point to be analyzed, there’s also lots of pros, in the end KM projects goes through, with or without outsourcing. So that’s the first barrier, which will in a large scale put many KM initiatives on background and focus on other priorities, such as BI for example.

Secondly, since it’s old news, companies already have a landscape prepared to attend this matter, legacy systems, procedures and politics. People are already trained and accostumated to their way of working. I’d call that Zone of Comfort, where everything works smoothly, nothing goes wrong and when it does there’s already a countermeasure, basically improovements aren’t on the radar of that group of workers. Implementing a new tool might require changes, adaptations, and more training, that shakes their environment and rise the dust, and as in every change the first reaction is: Resistence.

The result is, the KM demand is delivered with all features detailed on the blueprint and few months later you may find it abandoned or sub-utilized because users could not feel good and adapt to the new idea.

Enough with problems, to the culprits!

Knowing that, the first thought that popped on my mind was “Whose fault is that!?“, dunno if it’s me or human nature, but looking for someone to put the blame was needed. Is it the executives for not buying the idea? Are our users too old fashioned for these new tools? Hey, no! it’s IT Governance who should align IT with functional areas… That’s when I found the real culprit, turning off my desktop, preparing to go home after a day’s work, the dark screen of my monitor reflected myself removing a few scraps with to-do lists, phone numbers and notifications that were hanging there since past week, yes, myself, struggling to sell this idea, eager to see my users squeezing off all the features of a tremendously powerfull tool and I don’t even manage my own knowledge with it, how to do this corporate wide?

It’s culture, we need to change the culture, break this paradigm and step forward. We can implement as many KM projects as we wish, and people will still not use or sub-utilize as long as their own culture has not changed. For example, I do not write feedbacks, rate, start discussions or classify my documents, and why is that? Because I never did, it’s time consuming and doing that alone isn’t possible (I’m not supposed to collaborate with myself alone). We know its benefits, yet we don’t do, the same way I know the benefits of practicing physical exercices and still continue my sedentary lifestyle.

Below some questions worthy some reflection:
How deep has KM dove into my company? How diffused is it throughout the company?
How much people is willing to use it?
Do I manage my own knowledge with the tool I’m trying to “sell”?
What am I doing and how much effort am I putting to convince those of its benefits and why they should use KM?

The key to have KM well accepted

I’ve been talking about the cases that did not achieve complete success and
users kinda rejected the delivery for whatever reasons. This was my point, of course
there’s many other cases succeeded, which shall serve as a place to seek the answers
for successful implementations.

My few suggestions are:

Practice it yourself, be your own end-user: Only with practice, testing and using it on a daily basis you’ll be able to see what bothers users, what is nice, what can be improoved and what to be fixed.

Show your cases to your colleagues and end-users: Many times people just don’t know how KM can help them, presenting your work on a forum or just through email is a way to show your work, while being an opportunity to be professionaly recognized it will also make people think about new ideas and give a feedback – this exchange of knowledge is exactly the idea of KM.

– Be eager for work: Don’t hesitate about showing off KM to the entire company afraid of a tsunami of requirements, if that happens it’s the chance to justify that budget aprooval or staff augument.

– Defend this idea: While KM can sometimes be considered less important than other tasks, if it’s what you do, what you like and where you’re skilled, it’s nothing more than your job to defend it, form opinions and change people.

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