Filed under: Knowledge management
When in London recently I spent a productive and interesting day with a knowledge manager in a small-ish organisation. In the job for six months, he had finally been able to start into some knowledge management work. With a background in librarianship, computer science and project management, he is well-placed to do some valuable projects.
While waiting for the project to start, he spent time researching KM practices and methodologies, reading KM books and following the mailing lists. And this is where the problems started.
According to the KM literature, knowledge managers have the task of transforming their organisations, establishing new cultures and working practices. In this organisation, this potentially included:
- conducting a comprehensive knowledge audit
- redesigning the intranet
- implementing a document management system
- establishing a process for records management
- creating an enterprise-wide taxonomy and metadata standard
- deploying a CRM for service staff
- redeveloping the website
- creating a formal KM strategy and governance model
- supporting knowledge sharing initiatives
This is a huge list, and it leaves knowledge managers stuck in the shadow of immortal figures. In the world of KM literature, knowledge managers stride god-like through their organisations, radically transforming how staff and business units operate. They reshape firms into “knowledge-centric businesses”, overcome organisational silos, and prevent reinvention of the wheel.
This is, of course, crazy. Not even the CEO can single-handedly transform an organisation. As mere mortals, knowledge managers are set up for failure with they measure their projects against these grand objectives.
At the end of the day, if a knowledge manager delivers more value in a year than their salary and (meagre) budget, they’re ahead. If they solve one small but important issue, they’re doing their job. To achieve this, they need to escape these immortal visions, and focus on the work that can be done by mortals.
In this specific situation, we had a useful day. We explored hands-on ways of understanding staff and business needs, determined a practical approach to choosing activities, and highlighted a few areas to focus on. Now the real work of KM can start in earnest…
What are your thoughts on this? Do we need to escape the impossible expectations created for KM roles?