• 04:50:27 pm on September 10, 2009 | 0
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    In Search of LEADERSHIP!

    OK, so your organization has committed to expanding self-service, building a new knowledge base, initiating a new comprehensive approach to knowledge management, or all of the above.  Who will lead the charge?  Where does the momentum, focus and just plain tenacity of purpose come from to see it all through?  Who owns the result and is accountable to produce success?  Arguably the most important factor in successful knowledge management initiatives is LEADERSHIP.

    “Leadership” is one of those terms that’s often used but hard to pinpoint in relation to knowledge management.  Everyone understands formal leadership – the executive chain of command, heads of departments and groups, and their ownership of some area of the business.  But the challenge in KM is precisely the inter-disciplinary nature of it:  KM crosses and blurs neat lines of responsibility and coordination between IT, Call Center operations, content groups, product groups, website owners, support partners, and many other stakeholder groups. Who is ultimately responsible, then?  Rarely do these groups fall under just one executive or group.

    Furthermore, these groups have varying and sometimes competing purposes:  IT is often focused on enterprise tool standardization & efficiency, product groups are driven by releases and marketing targets, support is continually trying to do more with less and has enough of a challenge just synchronizing content and tools to meet user and business demand. It can almost appear as if “KM leadership” is an oxymoron!

    Often times the answer is not defining “who” but “what” it is that is the lead focus. The most successful organizations I’ve worked with have the ability to define strategic goals and assign elements of them across key groups, such that each group remains accountable to the larger goals of the initiative, and its own role in driving the outcome.

    There’s still no substitute for evangelism:  SOMEWHERE in your organization people with passion and clear purpose are needed to strategize and plan for new knowledge-enabled capabilities.  But the #1 aspect of an effective KM plan is that it can define what success means, and who is accountable to it, in each critical facet of a KM program:

    • Who owns the content, how it will be updated and managed, who owns content communications and coordination
    • Who owns the KM toolset, what commitments need to be made to achieve new levels of functionality and performance
    • Who will drive knowledge to a new channel, such as web, email and/or chat, and what their targets are
    • What success looks like, who will measure it, and what the consequences of meeting, succeeding or failing to meet the measures are

    Then somewhere in the business there needs to be a sign-off that rolls up to someone capable of monitoring progress and keeping any lagging parts moving forward.

    Looking for leaders?  Start with the people who have the biggest pain, and/or who would benefit the most, from new tools, content or services driven by support & services information.  People who will get their own group goals best met through new KM capabilities should be the most obvious co-owners, if not outright sponsors of a renewed KM program. Figure out who else must be involved, what their scope of activity and accountability would be in the overall program, and where and how they can COMMIT to specific actions within their job function to make these things happen.  You might be surprised who your allies are, especially if you can articulate the KM program in relation to what THEIR group is trying to accomplish.

    At the end of the day leadership is a state of mind. I’ve seen middle managers and even PM’s drive a whole enterprise-wide initiative successfully over periods of years when they have clarity of purpose, communications and motivation skills to bring all the necessary groups on board with specific goals, and alignment with larger executive sponsorship to assure that each group plays its part.  But more often leadership comes as a ‘joint venture’ through mutually agreed-upon goals that groups commit to together.

    In a way KM is a great opportunity for the organization to learn new capabilities by collaborating and coordinating.  Just start with the pain and possibility and work inward from there.  Someone is waiting to listen and help in each group in your organization!

    John Chmaj
    “The Knowledge Advocate”

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