Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Welcoming the CKO...

I think any organization looking for a KM Head or a CKO (for the first time) needs to ask itself a few important questions before it spends time and energy on hunting for, interviewing and negotiating with potential candidates. Even if the answer to one of these questions is a 'No' or 'Not Sure', I'd simply suggest that they go back to the whiteboard and introspect/reconsider whether they really need a serious and passionate KMer to spend all her time in attempting to set up a KM ecosystem in an environment that may possibly turn completely hostile, ineffective, cynical, or uncooperative.

Being a person who claims KM to be her core competence, I'd hardly be expected to recommend such an option (that of not employing a full-time KMer). But, seriously speaking, this is reality - some organizations are simply not ready for KM and might as well postpone or redesign their KM plans based on their internal situation and capabilities. So, if they don't answer in the affirmative to some of these questions (hold on, they are coming) and conclude that they don't really need a full-time KMer immediately, what do they do? I'm not suggesting they ignore KM altogether but what I believe is that they could as well get one of their interested Management Representatives (from another function/domain) to take up the additional (and temporary) role of a KM Lead and spend perhaps 10 to 20 % of his time on KM related activities. Till they get some basic things right. The world becomes a happier place this way. I exaggerate. (There are considerable drawbacks to employing a part-time KM Lead whose core competence lies elsewhere - May lead to short-term thinking, biased planning and implementation, incomplete perspectives, to think of a few things)

Getting down to the heart of the post, what are the questions that organizations must answer to help them realize what they really want with re. to KM?
1. Are we sure of the structure for the KM team? More importantly, where does the upward arrow for the KM Head/CKO lead to? Do we know who this person should be reporting into and WHY? Both the individual that the KM Lead will report into and the function/areas the former is responsible for must be appropriate.

2. Are we sure of setting aside a reasonable and regular budget/investment for KM? For expenses related to expertise, technology, practices, incentives, internal conferences etc? (A no-brainer of sorts but show me organizations that actually do it religiously and I'll show you one that rocks!)

3. Do we know what we want from the KM initiative, to start with? Are we ready to build on our ideas and/or reconsider our expectations and ideas once we get the KM person on board and have detailed discussions with him?

4. Do we have a honest, somewhat reliable and collective understanding of the organizational culture, its unique qualities, its strengths and weaknesses and its potential responses to KM practices (sharing, reuse, innovation, learning, mentoring, collaboration etc) (The KM Lead would find it very useful to have a heads-up on this straight from the horse's mouth)

5. Given that the KM person is new to our organization, do we have a concrete plan to bring him on-board, ramp up and get to know the key people who will in turn help him understand the business, culture and past experiments with re. to KM? In short, do we have a good and exhaustive induction plan for the KM Lead?

6. (Optional) Do we have a list of employees who will be of significant support to the KM initiative in their capacity as knowledge champions, idea-givers, firm supporters, domain experts, technical writers etc? Having such a list right at the beginning would accelerate the implementation of the KM initiative but this is something that could also be left to the KM Lead herself. Another associated piece of information likely to be very useful is the identification of pilot teams/groups.


Christian Young said...

You totally rawked this post!!!

I'm working on a KM Lifecycle model and this is one of the ideas that inspired it; one of the biggest challenges (among the many) that KM faces are organizations and leadership that don't really understand KM and its impact; when times are good they invest in KM as a pet project ('cause someone somewhere said/read it was a must-have) and when times get critical they dump it right off the bat. On top of that, the incoming KM expert is supposed to have all the answers, but rarely are they asked the right questions before taking the job.

Love it!!

Nimmy said...

Thanks so much, CY! :-) I think there are is another exhaustive list that we KMers ought to put together...as an extension of this. :-)

Vinod Seshan said...

This is something which has always made me think....How does a new person frame the KM goals to start with? How much time an organization can leave KM to warm-up before it gives some returns? How do we measure those returns?

Anjali said...

Well thought out. Give the CKO 90 days. If she/ he hasn't figured out then never will after which change will be necessary.

Nimmy said...

Vinod, Important questions all! :-) And no easy answers...! :-( Especially the last one.

Anjali: Thank you. So, you say it ought to be 90 days, eh? Maybe less if the organization has everything in place! ;-) But as we know, very few organizations are that good!