9 arguments for a Knowledge Management strategy
You need a strategy if your KM implementation is to be successful. Here are 8 reasons why.
Implementing Knowledge Management without a strategy is a risky endeavour. As Sun Tzu is reputed to have said said, in “the art of war”,
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat.”
Lots of books and articles on strategy come from a military point of view or from game theory, and are strategies for competing and winning. Should we think in terms of winning and competing, when implementing Knowledge Management? Surely Knowledge Management is a Good Thing to do – it’s a win-win for everyone?
But as leader of the KM program, you are in competition. Specifically knowledge management is in competition for
- internal resources (investment, dedicated staff)
- the attention of management (who have competing priorities), and
- the attention of staff (who have a million other things to do).
If you do not have a good strategy, then good tactics are not going to save you in the war for investment and attention.
We are constantly hearing of yet another KM program closed, and yet another KM leader looking for a job, as the company sought to cut back on expenditure, and found KM to be too far from the front-line delivery – too non-strategic – and thus an easy target. The investment and resources were therefore diverted to a competing internal endeavour.
So what can a good KM strategy do for you?
- Your strategy will help you define where you heading, and what the end point should be. It will define the vision and the desired outcomes for knowledge management within your organisation, and allow these to be discussed and agreed up front, before you start on tactical planning.
- Your strategy will provide a set of principles or ground-rules to guide your actions, and guide your decision making during knowledge management implementation, in order to deliver the greatest chance of success. Don’t forget that 80% of knowledge management programs fail (depending on what you mean by “knowledge management program” and what you mean by “fail”). The reasons for KM failure are well known, and a good strategy will be designed to avoid these reasons.
- Your KM strategy will be closely linked to business objectives, business strategy, and business results, if it follows the principles mentioned above. This protects you from being seen as peripheral to the business, and an easy target for downsizing.
- Your strategy will define the interested parties you need to work with. It will define those stakeholders who will use the KM framework (the knowledge workers), those who are interested in the business outcomes (the internal and external customers), and requirements of each of these parties. It may also rank these, to allow you to focus on the most important stakeholders first.
- Your strategy will form the framework of constraints for planning purposes. It will define the scope, the areas of focus, the risks to be addressed, the allies to work with, and the stakeholders.
- Your strategy will guide you in deciding what not to do. If a piece of work is outside the constraints, or in opposition with the principles, then it is not strategic, and is a waste of resource.
- The strategy also looks at implementation priorities and issues. It’s not just a vision; it’s a high level approach for how the vision will be realized.
- Your strategy is a public agreement with your leadership. It represents agreed ground rules for knowledge management implementation, and should have leadership blessing and support. If over time that support does not materialise, then you should be able to go back to the strategy, remind them that it was agreed, and claim their support (or else renegotiate the strategy). The strategy is therefore a key decision point for the organisation.
- Your strategy allows managed flexibility. As your business context changes, your organisational priorities, or the competitive or technological landscape, so your knowledge management strategy should also evolve over time, but will need to be renegotiated with your steering group. This is your “Management of Change” process for the KM implementation.
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