9 influencing tactics to use when promoting KM

The Farnham Street blog (reporting on the book Mind Gym) describes nine tactics you can use to influence others, while making the point that ““it is essential that you understand the other person’s reasons so you can use tactics that will work to persuade them, as opposed to tactics that would work on you.”

Let’s see how these nine tactics can be used when promoting Knowledge Management

1. Reasoning  –  the process of using facts, logic, and argument to make a case. You would use this to make a business case for Knowledge Management, but need good evidence to back it up. “Knowledge Management, if applied to the bidding process, should improve our bid conversion rate by 20%, which would be worth $5 million in new business. We calculated this by looking at the bid losses over the last 3 years that would have been avoided through re-use of knowledge and best practices”.  Reasoning will almost certainly be necessary to support your case, but it is likely that other influencing techniques will create the “sell”.

2. Inspiring  –  focusing on the heart rather than the head, appealing to emotions and creating the vision. You would use this when your Knowledge Management business case is weak or unclear and you want a high level of emotional commitment. The inspiring tactic demands conviction, energy, and passion. “Imagine what it would be like to have knowledge at our fingertips – to know, at every decision point, what we have tried in the past, what works and what doesn’t work. We hold 5,000 years of experience in the heads of our staff – imagine what would be possible if that resource was available to everyone in the building”. Inspiring works well as a sell in the early stages of KM implementation, especially when backed up by a business case. See a list of KM visions here – some more inspiring than others!

3. Asking Questions – leading the other person to make their own discovery of the value of Knowledge Management. See the example here –   “When do your people use knowledge? Tell me about some of the important decisions, where knowledge is critical? If we had a situation where every person facing such a decision had complete access to the knowledge they needed, how much more business do you think we could win?  And how certain are you that people in this situation are currently handling this vital knowledge in a rigorous, systematic managed way?”  This is one of the more difficult tactics to use because it is impossible to know how the other person will respond and you have to be able to think on your feet, but is one of the most powerful approaches to use when talking to senior staff.

4. Cosying Up You almost always feel positive toward someone who makes you feel good about yourself. This is the cosying up tactic. “Dan, you are the smartest and most progressive leader in the whole management layer, and I know you are always looking for the next way to really improve your department. Let me tell you about this new thing called Knowledge Management”. Don’t use this approach when talking to people who are much more senior than you, when cosying up can look like sucking up.

5. Deal Making  – when you give another person something in return for their agreement with you. “Susie, if you agree to host a Community of Practice pilot, then in return I will support your expansion proposal in the next seniors meeting”  or, in an even braver approach (where you need a good reasoning argument to back it up), “Susie, I would like to make a deal with you. Let me set up a Knowledge Management pilot in your part of the business, and I guarantee you a 10% improvement in your results within 3 months.”  See for example the “KM deal with senior management”. Your ability to use this approach depends very much on your ability to offer something in return.

6. Favour Asking – simply asking for something because you want or need it.  “Davide, I really need a favour. I need an area of the business to set up a trial Lesson Learning System, and your department would be perfect. Can you help me?” This tactic works well only when the other person cares about you or their relationship with you. If used sparingly, it is hard to resist, but be aware you may have to pay back the favour at some time.

7. Using Silent Allies (aka social proof – using the fact that others use KM as an argument in its favour. This involves showing or telling stories of other people, as similar as possible to the person you want to influence, gaining value from Knowledge Management. This may be people from other organisations – “Did you know all our competitors are doing KM already? Let me tell you what the head of Acme said about it last week“, or people from your own organisation – “Here is one of our engineers talking about how the CoP helped him deliver his project ahead of time“. Beware of the “Yes, but we are different” response, and also of the CEO that says “We don’t want to copy the competition”.  Also for this technique to work, you need a success case somewhere you can draw from. However social proof is the most powerful convincing mechanism for most people, especially the knowledge workers and users of the framework.

8. Invoking Authority –  appealing to a rule or principle. “You have to hold your lessons learned meeting – it says so in the project procedure“. It doesn’t matter whether the authority invoked is formal or implicit, so long as it is recognized by the person you are trying to influence. This technique is one you use once you have the support of senior management, when the Knowledge Management policy (or equivalent) is in place, and when KM has become a clear expectation.  The downside is that it is more likely to lead to compliance than commitment, but well facilitated compliance can still deliver excellent results.  This is a technique to use once KM has been implemented, and you need to drive it’s application.

 9. Forcing “Do it or else.” The best example of the use of this tactic in KM comes from Bob Buckman, CEO of Buckman Labs, and his memo that says “if you are unwilling to contribute (your knowledge), the many opportunities open to you in the past will no longer be available”.  Or as Melissie Rumizen said about the same organisation, “In Buckman labs we reward knowledge sharing. If you do it, we reward you by letting you keep your job”. This is a technique that senior management can use on your behalf, and which may need to be used to remove the past few vestiges of non-compliance with KM expectations. This can only be used after KM implementation is complete, and you are looking to

People change their minds for their own reasons, not for your reasons. If you are using only one tactic to promote KM (Reasoning is the most commonly used tactic, even though it is largely ineffective), and its not working, then try something else. Also be prepared to change your tactic as your Knowledge Management implementation program progresses.

Learn these 9 techniques – you will need them to market and sell KM within your organisation.

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