The 4 main (internal) stakeholder groups for KM

 There are 4 main stakeholder groupings for internal-facing Knowledge Management, and you need to create value propositions for each of the 4. 

FIGURE 09.1 Goals per stakeholder and a shared goal from the manager

Implementing Knowledge Management is a change process; changing hearts and minds, attitudes and beliefs, and work patterns across the organisation. In many ways, the role of the KM team is to act as change agents, influencing the stakeholders to understand, try, and adopt KM. But who are the stakeholders?

Here are the 4 main internal stakeholder groups you need to work with, that will apply in any organisation wishing to improve the internal flow of knowledge. 

Please note that not all organisations focus internally. Some focus on providing knowledge for external parties (the WHO for example, or the major development banks, or the customer service departments of some retailers), and for them there is a 5th stakeholder group – the external knowledge customers.
For now, lets look at the internal stakeholder groups.

1. The senior managers
The number one barrier to KM, and at the same time the greatest enabling factor is the level of support from senior management. Without this support, you will struggle. With support from the top, you will succeed.

The senior managers need to understand the benefits that Knowledge management will bring to the organisation (the cultural and reputational benefits as well as the financial benefits), and need to be reassured that KM will work, is doable, and will not cost more than the value it delivers. You need to make the business case for KM, and show that KM will deliver greater efficiency, greater effectiveness, faster growth, bigger market share, faster time to market, and happier customers.

This blog contains much advice about gaining senior management support (see here for example, and also here), or contact us for further advice.

2. The middle managers
Middle management can form an almost impenetrable layer to knowledge management in many organisations. These are the people who have tough choices to make. They have demanding customers, tight budgets, and tighter deadlines, and you are asking to divert the attention of their people away from what they see as the Day Job, and onto KM. Every penny they spend on KM is a penny less to spend on operational issues.

KM, for them, is two steps away from operations (the first step is that operations requires knowledge, the second is that knowledge requires management). The result is that these are the people for whom KM is the toughest sell – the people who won’t be swayed by high level arguments or appeals to emotion. Make sure your stakeholder management plan clearly addresses the middle managers as a core group, and that you have a well worked business case that addresses their concerns. Without this, they can derail the whole program, so convince them that KM exists to increase the productivity of the knowledge workers in their teams and projects.

3. The knowledge workers
These are people who need to use knowledge and judgement in order to do their work. The better the knowledge we can supply them with, the better the judgements they will make. Some of the managers mentioned above are knowledge workers as well. They too make judgements and decisions, and need knowledge to do this well. The value proposition for the knowledge workers is simple –

“When we have a functioning Knowledge Management framework in place, it will make your life easier. It will provide you with easy access to reliable knowledge that will save you time, will reduce your risk of failure, and will make your results better”.

4. The Experts
The experts form one of your core stakeholder groups in KM, and your change management approach needs to explicitly address these people. For many years they may have acted as sole sources of much of the knowledge, and their personal status may be tied up with their own knowledge. They may be the people with the most to lose through KM. KM needs to offer them a new role, which can be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. They will take leading roles in the management of knowledge in their areas of expertise, becoming the stewards and custodians of knowledge rather than the sole holders. Make sure these new roles are clear, made explicit and built into their job descriptions.

There are other stakeholder groups in some organisations – Research and Development, for example, may need consideration, also HR, also the customer service agents, sales staff and so on. There may be external stakeholders – it may be important to your main customers that you have a reputation and capability for KM, for example.

However the 4 groupings above will be present in almost every organisation, and you need a strategy and plan to address each one. 

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Shared by: Nick Milton