Nobody is safe – the knowledge manager as an endagered species

There is one really big risk  to the knowledge manager which can strike you at any time, but it is a risk you can protect against.

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A couple of weeks ago at the KMUK conference we heard some scary stories from knowledge managers who had lost their positions in management shake-ups, which led to one delegate describing the knowledge manager as an “endangered species”, and another to conclude that “nobody is safe”.

What’s the problem?

The problem is organisational change. Our surveys show that this is the number one reason for KM failure.  You have built your KM program, you have a high level sponsor who believes in what you are doing, and you have a good long-term strategy in place. But all of a sudden, out of the blue, your sponsor has moved into a different role and your “top cover” is removed. You need to find a new sponsor in a hurry, and all the people you talk to are either not interested or have their own agenda. You end up under HR supporting their eLearning agenda, or you end up under IT as a Yammer support desk, or you find no sponsor and the KM program is dead.
The problem is that unless there is a wide understanding that KM is a benefit and not a cost, no senior manager will want you in a restructuring. They are all looking to stock their portfolio with winners, and KM is not always seen as a winner.

So how do you guard against this?

The analogue here is the rock climber. A climber will, on a regular basis, “fix protection”. This involved passing the rope through a ring which is fastened to the rock somehow, so that if a handhold comes away in their hand, they fall only as far as their last protection. This is the climber’s insurance policy.
In this analogy, the rope is the Knowledge Manager’s reputation, and the fixed protection is your successes and proofs of concept.
We have already suggested that your KM strategy should be a two-pronged strategy – a parallel long-term strategy plus a series of shorter term quick wins. This is similar to the Mars strategy of delivering KM as a series of business projects, with two business issues solved every year. Then every time you solve a business issue and deliver a quick won, you should publicise this around the organisation for all you are worth, making sure everyone is aware of the business value you have delivered. Ideally look to deliver one such success story once a quarter.
These success stories are your protection. When your high level support disappears, just like a critical handhold coming away in a climbers hand, your reputation will save you and you fall only as far as your last well-publicised business success.

Make sure, as a knowledge manager, you fix your protection. Business reorganisation can come at any time, and without protection, nobody is safe.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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