KM From the trenches: practical tips for making knowledge management work in your organisation by Ulla de Stricker (de Stricker Associates), Deborah Keller (Keller & Associates) and Cynthia Shamel (Shamel Information Services)
I actually arrived only for the last half of this session, so I must add a discalimer that this is not a a comprehensive report of the full talk!
Knowledge management is something that is recognised more to some extent in law firms compared to other organisations. Law firms have the term ‘know-how’, which basically means the knowledge and expertise of their employees. They recognise the need to harvest and share this knowledge so that it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel when we have a number of clients requesting similar work. However, getting the lawyers to share their expertise, which they are highly protective about as that is what keeps them in a job, can be extremely difficult!
Anyway, this session did not mention law firms at all, but this was the background from which I was attending this session. Again, this was a panel session fuelled by questions from the audience; many of which were very similar. So I have listed what I think are the key points and advice the panel gave throughout the session:
- Getting senior management on board – give senior management reason to implement or maximise KM. Provide them with a business justification; hard evidence and statistics as well as your ideas and input. It is up to them to judge whether KM is one of their priorities depending on the information you provided them with. If you are aware of what keeps senior management awake at night, and show how KM will help with those worries they have, then your ideas will be given extra value and will be taken seriously.
- Facilitating – think of us as facilitators between staff and senior management. Consider creating an advisory board to build bridges between the grass roots and management, and to provide communication regarding KM between you and various departments. One of the panel likened us to an octopus, with tentacles reaching in to each team, aware of their work, and aware of the bigger picture. We can work as facilitators; putting teams in touch with each other when one is doing work that would help another.
- Learn about the work of others – it is important to build a rapport with all of the various business teams or departments and learn how they work, and to become a part of their communications. Ask people in these departments what do they actually do in their day to day work? What projects are they working on? What is the buzz in their field at the moment? One of the panel suggested that 30% of your time should be spent ‘schmoozing’ or managing relationships. Think of this time as an investment in becoming irreplaceable and a partner to other business teams or departments.
- Tactics for implementing KM – once you have the bigger picture, you can take 2 different tactics. 1) Pick the department which has the most impact on client revenue or reducing risk (or another of your organisation’s major goals) and maximise their KM. If it is successful, other departments or teams will be competing to be the ones to be worked on next. 2) Take the stealth tactic and pick a project or team which is under the radar and low risk, then make their KM so fantastic and so successful that other departments are willing to try it.
Overall, I thought this was a really interesting session with really good strategic advice on managing KM in your organisation. Although I am not personally in a senior position with the powers to do many of these, there are still tips I can take from the above and implement in my day to day role – such as facilitating , and learning about the work of others. This point was also echoed in other talks as a way of improving your service to help your different users, to possibly provide additional services in response to user needs that you discover on getting to know your users better, and as a way of maximising the library profile within your organisation. This is something I am keen to work on in my new role and I am going to set myself as a goal for this year..