KM Governance: It’s a Lifestyle, not a Project
I’ve had several requests lately to address the issues and approach to knowledge management “governance” — the practices, commitments and plans that define how organizations work together. Aside from the many tactical issues and details an organization needs to address, there are a few things about knowledge management governance that are worth considering at the outset whenever you think about how to initiate or improve it:
1. Knowledge Management doesn’t exist or belong to any one group — it’s the COMPANY’S job to do it.
Because content usually surfaces through search tools and websites, it’s often lumped in with other IT or web initiatives in terms of who owns it, how it’s governed, etc. The limitation with this approach is it doesn’t address the fundamental organizational alignment necessary to achieve effective knowledge management. The content stakeholders, support organization (these two usually overlap), and support mechanisms (e.g. technology) all play a part in getting ‘knowledge to market’. It’s not any one group’s assignment.
That being said, clear leadership and drive has to be centered somewhere in the organization to create and sustain this alignment. This usually happens at the executive level within or among some part of the services and support organization, in conjunction with the products group. But the scope and responsibility of creating and delivering knowledge MUST involve ALL the stakeholders involved — marketing, products, support, content groups, IT, etc. — from the outset in some capacity, otherwise KM forever swims upstream against the other priorities of all the other core initiatives of the company.
2. Knowledge Management is a LIFESTYLE, not a PROJECT: Take a program approach.
While individual content or technology initiatives may well be performed in project mode, the actual long-term capability of developing and delivering knowledge is a core organizational competency that requires ongoing investment, commitment and monitoring. The most effective way to approach it is as a program – draw a circle around what is to be accomplished, engage all the stakeholders in the life cycle of knowledge (see item #1 above), and create an internal branding, awareness and energy around it.
This is not foreign to organizations: cross-group marketing, product development and sales programs happen all the time. Seek out allies and long-term partners across the business, and just keep at it — it takes years to establish an ongoing cultural commitment to something in any organization. As long as the goals and outcomes are clear and compelling people WILL come on board as more and more stakeholders get involved. Which leads to another principle of KM success: show success!
3. Focus the program on the higher organizational goals served, and build commitments continuously towards achieving them.
Often there’s a disconnect between the day-to-day, mundane tasks associated with creating content, managing KB’s, etc., and the critical organizational capabilities that are served by the KM program. The fruits of Knowledge Management are the successful outcomes: customer sat, efficiency, better resourcing, agent productivity. THAT is what the organization truly cares about. The more clearly, compellingly and continuously KM owners and stakeholders can keep the organization focused on resourcing the program towards these objectives, the more KM seeps into the organizational culture as a fundamental enabler.
This is more than just proving a business case – it’s getting the organization to see and believe that knowledge delivery drives value to the business. Here’s where good metrics, clear reporting and analysis, and outright evangelism and communications come in. People in the organization are busy, they have a lot on their plate already, and many other objectives happening at one time. We have to GET and KEEP their attention on why they should care about KM, what it’s done for them lately, and how they can help get it to the next level with their resources, content or support.
At the end of the day (or month, or year) KM is a core organizational competency. Self-service has finished a process that began decades ago when online information began to become available on networks, then intranets, now the web and customer communities at large. Very few organizations do not need to create and share knowledge to enable their services and support process in some regard or not. Whether that activity is ad hoc, weakly managed, and drives inconsistent results, or is well managed and drives value and differentiation is up to the organization. Hopefully thinking about these principles will help you think about approaching KM as a way towards building a more knowledge-centered organization. Good luck — remember, it’s happening whether the organization wants to acknowledge it or not!
“The Knowledge Advocate”