Justifying Your Knowledge Management Programme

After the actKM conference session, I decided to write the presentation up as a short white paper: Justifying Your Knowledge Management Programme. Many thanks to Andrew Mitchell and Keith De La Rue for their comments and suggestions.

I’d welcome your feedback as well – which you can send as an email or write as a comment to this post. There’s even a wiki version of the paper on wikispaces – which people can do with what they like but I take no responsibility for.

[Update: As David Gurteen has requested, a creative commons license has been appended to the document]

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15 Responses to Justifying Your Knowledge Management Programme

  1. James Dellow says:

    Matt. Hey! Great article! Hits all the right points and is probably applicable more generally, not just around KM. The only aspect I think requires more discussion is about dealing with the politics before the pitch and what are the attributes of someone who can make that justification pitch – i.e. there are some interpersonal skills here that some people are good at and others not so good.

  2. Geoff Brown says:

    Hi Matt
    I am facilitating a KM workshop with a government agency next week. They are looking at identifying and mapping the KM ‘needs’ around a significant White Paper (policy level strategy).

    This post has helped to better understand KM.

    cheers

    Geoff

  3. Stephen Bounds says:

    Matt,

    One thing which I think is missing from your document is any mention of your organisation’s corporate strategy.

    To me, this is vital. No matter how good your arguments are, if they aren’t tied back to the vision and strategic objectives of the company, you leave yourself at risk of being seen as “non-core” function.

    On the other hand, if your strategy shows a clear link between organisational strategy -> KM strategy -> KM programs, then you will always be in a much stronger position.

  4. innotecture says:

    James – Glad you liked it and thanks for the suggestions. Can you flesh out what you mean about “dealing with the politics before the presentation”? There’s a whole book that could be written on this alone.

  5. innotecture says:

    Stephen – I’m going to disagree with you here.

    Either the organisation’s strategy is being executed by its senior executives – in which case it will be reflected in their concerns (& KPIs). Or the strategy is considered irrelevant by those you are trying to influence – in which case it is a red herring.

    Organisations often have multiple, conflicting strategies and stakeholders may interpret them differently. E.g. The example given in the paper of the metrics that matter to a finance stakeholder vs the CEO.

    I would agree that simply ignoring the organisational strategy is bad. However that Org Strategy -> KM Strategy -> KM Programes progression is overly simplistic in my experience.

  6. Mark May says:

    Matt – KM program managers should not underestimate the power of heavy anecdotes in selling the value of the program to sponsors and executives. The KM sponsors for our program and the financial guys who approved our budget hammered us to explain how the program led to revenue and cost savings. They really were not interested in other metrics. We implemented a major effort to collect success stories which then fed the reports to the execs. We repeated this every quarter for several years. Reports always highlighted the biggest or best stories. We had available the customers and customer projects where we saved money or won business along with the name of the person who used the KM resources. This proved to be a successful approach to convince our execs to continue the KM program.

    I also had the opportunity to participate in an APQC study of best practices in measuring the business value of KM. All best practices companies used heavy anecdotes similar to what we had done.

  7. Rob Freeth says:

    Matt,
    Good paper! Another thing executives want to know is the level of risk: where has this been tried before? What were the results? What drove the successes? What is required for success, and what might make it fail? Does our organization have the same characteristics?

    This can also be used in the selling part – as Denning (The Springboard) suggests, it’s the part where you get to stimulate the “imagine if we could be like that” voice in the minds of the audience.

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  9. Stephen Bounds says:

    Matt: I see your point. It’s true that the approach needed to validate KM will depend on where the KM program is placed within the organisation.

    For example, a KM program as part of a specific branch will probably not need to demonstrate the same strategic focus as a whole-of-organisation KM business unit that sits either near the CIO or CEO.

    But I still think it’s dangerous. If your branch-level KM program aligns itself with a “conflicting strategy” (i.e. one not approved by the CEO through the org. strategy) then don’t you risk being portrayed as a troublemaker and maverick?

    And aside from anything else, wouldn’t this approach make it harder to replicate a successful KM program elsewhere in the organisation?

  10. Matt,
    very good paper, thank you! The power of persuasion lies in the combination of personal credibility, logical arguments, and story telling. Yes, indeed!
    One point that has surprised me is “[…] at some point, you will have to justify […]”. Well, I can’t imagine that senior management would have started a knowledge management initiative without a solid business case since the days of the Internet bubble.

  11. innotecture says:

    Mark May – excellent example. I may quote you in my next go at the presso.

  12. innotecture says:

    Rob – some executives want to know that upfront (altho not enough in my opinion) – and yes case studies can be useful . This paper deals with the issues that take place after implementation rather than the upfront pitch. But yes I agree with your comments.

  13. innotecture says:

    Stephen – I think you’re overcomplicating things. I would focus on the people directly in front of me and what their needs are – possibly deferring to the most powerful.

  14. innotecture says:

    Felix – You are surprised? Well, there are lots of surprising things in the world. Glad you liked the paper…

  15. Marnie says:

    I’m ipmreessd! You’ve managed the almost impossible.

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