Make small mistakes

You will inevitably make mistakes in your Knowledge Management program. Make sure they are small ones, not fatal ones.

Knowledge Managers need to learn, learning requires experimentation, experiments often lead to mistakes, but mistakes can be costly and derail your program.  That’s a big dilemma for every Knowledge Manager.

You cannot afford to make a big mistake. Too often we see failed KM programs which have started with grand plans and expensive software purchase, failed to deliver, and set back the cause of KM in the organisation for many years.  After a big expensive flop, KM will have a tarnished reputation and management will be resultant to spend any more money.  This can be a fatal KM mistake, and impossible to recover from.
Therefore implementing Knowledge Management should be a series of smaller steps and smaller experiments, where failure will not be fatal. Follow the approach below.
  1. Do your research. Find out what is involved in Knowledge Management. Understand what your organisation needs, and the type of KM framework which will support this. Conduct an assessment, review the culture, develop a strategy – all of this before you start to make any changes at all.
  2. See what others are doing. Research the world leaders in KM. Find a consultant who has worked with them, and who can share the details.
  3. Start with small experiments; proof-of-concept trials and pilots where you introduce a minimum viable KM framework. The proof of concept trials should be small enough that failure doesn’t matter; these are your chance to learn as you go, and to experiment. The Knowledge Management pilots can be a little larger, and should be set up to solve specific business problems, but can be a simplified version of the final Knowledge Management framework. Learn from the trials and pilots, until your final KM framework is bullet-proof.
  4. Roll out the framework.
Make all your mistakes in Stage 3 (and if you have been diligent in Stages 1 and 2, these mistakes should be few and minor). This is a far better approach than starting with step 4 and making your mistakes there. 

Make small mistakes early, and avoid the large mistakes later.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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