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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Don't turn off the engine!


In his recent blog entry David Griffith asks the question "Is there a problem with traditional approaches to KM projects?" . While I agree with a lot of what David says, I want to stretch this even a little further:

Should KM be run as a project at all? 

Projects usually (unless they really go wrong) do have a defined start and end. The problem with that view is that the key people (David calls them the human agency) are often taken off the "project" and put onto the next project. In my experience this is where KM (I prefer to call it Knowledge Flow Management - KFM) fails. The human agency is necessary over time, not just for the launch phase. David acknowledges that and talks about feedback loops. I would argue it does need the passion of a real driver to create the pulse that will keep the KFM initiative alive longer term. 

Just yesterday I talked to somebody charged with creating a knowledge sharing approach for a given group within a larger organization. In the discussion it turned out that this organization has had several attempts to get knowledge sharing going but so far they all failed in the end. The last one, specifically because the person bringing it off the ground, was too busy and moved on, moved away. 

I think it would be very interesting to know what costs were produced by each of those projects:

- buying and implementing a technical solution
- training and informing people, including the work hours spent to learn individually how to use the technology
- marketing it to the audiences
- spending time to contribute until it finally goes down into the land of "Ah yes, I remember we had something like that, but we don't use it anymore"
... etc. 

I am sure you would come up with quite a bit of money that went in. Why? Because somebody saw potential in re-use and sharing. But then they threw the money out of the window by not adding that extra bit of money for a driver that keeps it alive to the point of payback for the investment. Because it was not planned for and because this type of ongoing support and drivership is not deemed important enough. "Well the system is here, now they just need to use it, right?" 

To stay with the flying analogy for a minute, what you do if you move off the driver once your project is off the ground is turning off the engine the minute the plane hit cruising altitude. 

What is astonishing is the degree to which organizations repeat this process again and again. They do know something went wrong or else the thing they built would actually be still used, but yet they go about it in the exact same manner the next time. Spend money up front, but save money on the piece that will make a difference regarding actual payback over time. 

1 comment:

  1. True
    I have seen this at an organization (Organization A) had a former employee move to a competitor (Organization B) to implement a knowledge management (KM) program. I never the employee but knew that Organization A was still trying to implement a knowledge management program. I am guessing that the employee left to join the competitor since the leadership at the first organization did not capitalize on the passion this employee had for knowledge management. Now Organization A is again reinventing the wheel, while Organization B has their KM program up and running. So can one guess who is winning the knowledge race now? The race that is to bring new products and services to the market first. In other words, don’t glide to obscurity have the engine to power to greatness.

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