Leading Knowledge Management


The Basics

From a leadership perspective,  a KM lead needs to have the ability to execute.   Knowledge Management efforts are fundamentally about change.    Practically speaking, it is impossible to change anything without a clear vision and mission.  Knowledge Management should be part of the organizational DNA, not something we deliver but something we are.

In order to lead KM,  we need to understand the needs of the people and the needs of the business.   Today, we talk about Knowledge Management in terms of mobility or concepts related to “Digital.”    Fundamentally,  KM in motion is about the ability of an organization including its workforce to execute.   In order to accomplish large organizational goals and smaller individual goals,  people need data, information, knowledge and the ability to share it and collaborate in a way that is comfortable to them individually.

Every organization is different and in my experience the very basic building blocks are

  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Respect

People leading KM or seeking to empower employees must have a seat at the table with senior leadership.   There have been many times that I had to “Seniorsplain” information to teams.   The differences between word of mouth and formal communications can have a dramatic impact on the workforce.

A few years ago, my team and I were just getting started in implementing a KM practice.  My team was learning a lot about KM itself and I was learning about the business.  I went out and interviewed leadership and my team started to meet with groups and talk about what KM more broadly.   We were met with resistance on almost all of the first meetings.   It took multiple meetings and clear messages from leadership for people to start to believe.   The Global CIO had discussions with his directs and they had discussions with their teams.    I met with all of them and we discussed ways to enhance, improve and optimize their individual areas without disruption.   The key factor was to add value without disruption.  Still, many people didn’t believe me on the first handshake and I needed to continue to work with them to show proof.   It was a combination of proving value, building trusted relationships, showing up and being consistent that started to turn things in our favor.   Our CIO was willing to learn and he took some risks himself by advancing KM concepts and sharing these with his teams.

We spent a lot of time communicating, testing, learning, assessing and re-applying concepts.   Where we met resistance we either worked it out or moved on to leaders and teams that were more open-minded.   Our practices were consistent,  we spent a lot of time learning and sharing and we added value by raising awareness across the organization and bringing teams together.

Organizational intelligence and ability is the essential lifeblood of any company.  It is often overlooked in practice but given a lot of lip service.  When an organization is charged and committed to KM, employees across the organization are aware of it.  It is much more difficult in large organizations and there is a misinterpretation or natural substitution of digital technologies as opposed to engagement.   This is further complicated by advances and changes in technologies and business itself.

Leading Knowledge Management takes patience, a strong desire to learn, a love of people, understanding, the courage to speak to leadership, and courage to take the risk.   If leaders don’t trust you, the teams won’t trust you.   If the teams don’t trust,  leaders will lose trust in you.

Organizational and leadership commitment, clear communications followed by associated consistent actions, and the ability to do what you need to do (including taking some risk), is how you lead Knowledge Management.

Note: Vinegar Tasters 

The image represents three different perspectives through the activity of tasting vinegar.  See more http://www.taoism.net/sanctuary/books/vintaste.htm.   Knowledge Management does not prescribe to a specific perspective but it seeks to illuminate and raise awareness holistically.


Posted in KM.