Winning the Knowledge End Game

By Cory Banks

Far too often I have seen knowledge and information management projects fall short of achieving their full potential.

Now it's not because of the capability of the people delivering the project, the budget that has been allocated or the timeframes that have been set.  It’s because the outcome they set out to achieve is usually framed around deploying a platform,  delivering training or offering a service. This usually ends up being delivered, but they have not followed through to ensure that what they deliver gets used and actually ends up creating value.

An example was the action of an Australia Pacific business of a global organisation. Senior executives had set a strategic goal to “Improve Collaboration”. A “Collaboration Charter” was developed and emailed out to all staff. Job done. Do you think this actually made a difference? 

Collaboration is a means to an end, not the end in itself. There must be a purpose or goal you are hoping to achieve through collaboration. The end game needs to be to achieve an outcome through improved collaboration.

What most people seem to forget is that we don't actually realise the real value of our knowledge and information until it actually gets used. Not created, stored or even shared. When it gets used.

This is where so many knowledge and information management projects, services and platforms continue to come up short. Far too often the project is broken down into manageable chunks and delivered to a scope, budget, schedule and quality aimed at facilitating creation, storing or sharing. 

Another example is during the introduction of a new collaboration and content sharing platform to an organisation, the change manager is given the objective to ensure people know how to use the functionality of the platform to create, modify, store and share information and knowledge.  The training material is top notch and clearly teaches people how to load documents, how to create and manage tasks in a shared task list and how to share a calendar. They provide a test environment and dummy content to practice on. 

The training is rolled out successfully, but only a small amount of people use the platform and even then only for their own personal purposes, not to collaborate with others. Why?

What was missing was the context. They were shown how to use functionality but not what to use it for. Providing context for what to use things for is very important if you want to achieve the end game – getting people to use knowledge and information to make better decisions

So here are three pieces of advice for your next knowledge or information management project.

1. Discover the End Game – Use root cause analysis techniques to actually identify the end game (Example: 5 Whys). Know what you want the people to do with the knowledge and information that they will have access to.

2. Provide Context – There is a great term in sports coaching called ‘specificity’. This relates to athletes undertaking training that closely matches the action or skill required when competing. Training in new practices and tools needs to be as close as possible to how people need to perform in real life. This could be done through training in their production environment, using their own content in terms of their day-to-day business activities.

3. Going the distance – Get beyond thinking about creation, capture and storage of knowledge and information. Go further to focus on transfer and use. This is where value will be created and the potential will be realised.

Cory Banks is Practice Lead, Collaboration and Productivity for Glentworth. He will be chairing the KM Australia 2014 Congress, being held from July 22-24 in Sydney.