APQC Conference on KM-Key Learnings

The conference in St.Louis was enlightening. Most of the organizations seem to be realising the social nature of work and learning.

Some of the interesting conversations in the conference centered around the following thoughts:

1. While everyone acknowledges today that communities of practice are the cornerstone of any major KM initiative, it is becoming a big challenge to educate managers about the organic nature of communities. Care has to be taken that managers(read business sponsors of communities) do not trample the free form of communities while they look for results.Managers need to understand that learning and work are inherently social in nature. “Nurture dont manage” is the bottomline.

2. Story telling is not an option. Storytelling is a crucial and almost inevitable way to bring change in any huge organization. What we call “change management” today does not take this into consideration. Companies have to devise new ways to manage myths about previous attempts at KM. Workshops and seminars are not enough to promote awareness. There has to be a sustained campaign to convey the fact that this is not “just another initiative”. As of now this seems to be the biggest barrier for companies. The executive team understands the importance of KM and have draft a vision. However, to translate vision into reality we need buy in at various levels. We need KM evangelists who would be trained storytellers and they need to be a part of the change management team. This is crucial to bring everyone on the same page.
This is not theory. We need to understand that there is a huge behavioural component to KM and that we cannot ignore its existence.

3. Dont blame culture forever. The best way forward is to get started and alter the course as we go along. Our experience with communites validates this. There are communities that are pretty active. The challenge is to identify “cultural sweetspots” for a pilot and then expand.

4. Dont expect everyone to contribute equally. Even the most active communites has 20% of active users at anytime. The best thing to do would be to constantly look for means to find how 80% of those on the fringes use the community. Collect anecdotes to relate cause and effect.

5. We need to ensure that the KM strategy is aligned with the Organizational learning strategy . Sooner or later we would need to do this. Because at the end of the day its about becoming a true learning organization. Apart from the technology issues we need to integrate current learning processes into the KM framework.

7. Technology has to be extremely simple and search has to be a key component of the architecture. While this sounds straightforward many companies have experienced difficulties in getting this right.

8. The change management program has to tackle existing obstacles in the organizational structure and rewards/recognition mechanism that may hinder knowledge sharing. For instance in the US Navy there are designated subject matter experts whose only job is to serve as experts. And they think their jobs are at risk if they share what they know.

9. Driving Knowledge sharing bottom up is good. But top-down is crucial as well. In GE and Cap Gemini there are process checks to ensure that knowledge assests that get created as a part of the work process get submitted to the knowledge base.

10. Communities with partners, suppliers and educational institutions should be on the radar.

So at the end of the day I see many organizations are still grappling with integrating the informal nature of communities with more formal KM systems and processes.

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