It is very important for long term success of knowledge management initiative to align it with organizational strategy, especially in times of change. KM initiative can "drift" over time if measures are not taken to align it with organizational mission, new turns in direction, management changes, and different product/service offerings.
Here are useful, actionable tips to ensure that an organization's knowledge management initiative succeeds not just at launch stage but also over the years.
1. Bring knowledge management into mission critical activities. Knowledge management is a great enabler of many business processes, but it can be very relevant to ensure success and continuity of mission critical activities in areas ranging from banking to security. For example, you can leverage knowledge management to acquire, retain, and spread mission critical knowledge in IT global services.
2. Focus on knowledge retention during times of down-size or reorganization. Globalization, aging work forces and economic downturns are leading to loss of valuable knowledge. KM can help to eliminate that gap in the near term and especially in the long term.
3. Use KM to improve understanding and execution of business reorganization. KM sometimes gets put aside during complex organizational restructuring, but can actually be useful in determining how to reorganize effectively. Some companies seem to spend almost half of their time on restructuring, but are not using KM to be more effective or innovative in restructuring.
4. Go beyond connecting to networking. KM at the people level sometimes gets stuck at the stage of people profiles and a bewildering range of discussion forums. It is important to add collaborative tasks on top of such connections, so that actual networking takes place and collective intelligence emerges.
5. Conduct more research on knowledge work. With all the commotion about social media in the enterprise, people tend to forget that knowledge work is essentially built on effective communication. More research is needed about the changing workplace to understand how KM is becoming even more critical to 21st century organizations, and how knowledge seeking/collaboration behaviors of knowledge workers are changing.
6. Pay more attention to design and visualization. In a workplace of increasing information overload and multitasking, it is important to design knowledge interactions and interfaces in a compelling yet effective manner. Effective design can help in sense-making in fast changing and information-intensive environments.
7. Pay attention to the requirements of mobile knowledge workers. BYOD (bring your own mobile device to the office) is now accustomed feature. More and more employees and managers are using mobile devices not just for accessing information but also for full workflow. Knowledge processes should be optimized for mobile devices, and not just in terms of device interface but also in speed of delivery, e.g. fast loading dashboards for sales teams.
8. Blend informal and formal activities in knowledge sharing sessions. For example, a knowledge fair format with each project team presenting its achievements and learning enforces the KM message stronger for all participants. The very act of presenting a KM case study can help employees develop a deeper appreciation of the strengths and opportunities for KM at work in the long term, and instills a sense of pride.
9. Use KM initiative in many different audiences and don't restrict it to only select managers or project managers. The more people who engage with KM in full-time or part-time roles, the more buy-in KM will gain and the more value it will contribute.
10. Highlight KM practitioners across the organization. Don't just showcase the usual super-achievers; also feature the employees who are coming up with their first, unique work insights or first reuse of existing knowledge assets.
11. Don't pitch KM as an extra activity to be done after usual work hours; it should be embedded in regular workflow. Even additional activities such as conferencing and industry meetings should be seen as a way of learning, brainstorming and bench-marking.
12. Avoid too much theory. While the core team certainly needs to be abreast of developments in KM models and research, its recommendations and implementations must be demystified and simplified so that employees are not distracted or confused with more buzzwords.
13. Don't get hung up on the name KM. Some people seem to have a problem with the words knowledge management and even KM. Other terms such as collaborative work or knowledge sharing seem to be in use as well.
14. Use metrics and analytics effectively, and conduct KM course corrections as appropriate. Many KM initiatives stop their outcome studies at the level of activity metrics, but fail to connect them to deeper processes, knowledge insights, people attitudes and overall impacts on productivity and innovation. One company reported that only 40% of its knowledge assets were being used, and some were being viewed only by the creator. At the same time, metrics are not the only assessment.
15. Help ensure long term success of KM by evangelizing it to employees. This helps create awareness in employees about the importance of KM and strengthens the KM initiative.