Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Change Management, Managerial Support and defending Knowledge Bases for Knowledge Management

Having recently written up my dissertation, which has emerged from an exercise within a service-providing SME in London, one of the biggest emergence to Knowledge Management was its tight integration with Change Management. Since knowledge resides in people, and through KM new process are devised and implemented to achieve a better situation for the company, and its stakeholders, people need to be managed too.

Almost all people, no matter how optimistic and willing for a change, need to be convinced on a deep personal level on WHY they should adopt to the new processes and ways. The first thing they will ask of the new system is 'what is in it for me', followed possibly by a 'why should I go out of my way to adopt to these changes'. During initial interviews almost all interviewees requested change, wanted change and were willing to accept the change in order to achieve a better unison between their colleagues. Staggeringly, although user-involvement in the design of the new system was always catered for, in order to minimise resistance, users were still skeptical about the new procedures and KM-support (IT) systems introduced - even though these changes where not drastic.

Initial resistance was truncated and possibly 'eradicated' through managerial support. The higher the push, from higher in the hierarchy the higher the usage and contribution to the KMS adoption was observed, especially in the knowledge base aspect of the system. Upon further investigation for reasons on the initial resistance it emerged that users did not:
(a) See a (main) reason why they should refer to an internal knowledge base when they could 'Google' for answers.
(b) See a reason why they should "give-up their knowledge" and thus lose the bargaining power they have over the organisation; both for employment and also for salary purposes.

In today's culture, where almost any information is at anyone's fingertips within a few clicks away, it almost stands to reason that search engines would contain most of the answers needed. This however does not seem to be the case especially in highly bespoke and technical environments. Coming from a technical background myself I often, very often as a matter of fact, refer to Google when I encounter a new issue (given that there is/was no knowledge base available). This sometimes leads to an answer right away, or most of the times lead to a long time in siphoning out possibilities of 'maybe right' answers. The latter is majorly due to the highly customised environments and bespoke applications I, and the company the research project was done at, tend to find ourselves working in; on a daily basis.

From an efficiency point of view - using a search engine every time leads to more time spent on research and verification of what is found. In the long run this inevitably leads to duplicate work by the same or even multiple employees. Thus the need of a knowledge repository in order to be able to capture and share the best practices for certain cases.

More over, in cases where knowledge is specific to the product of the company this implies that no answers will be available through search engines. If the answer would be out in the public: How is the company protecting it's intellectual capital against competitors then !? Thus the argument and case for a knowledge base as a means of transferring knowledge thus:

  • capturing the companies knowledge,
  • increasing the companies knowledge, 
  • reducing duplicate work,
  • increasing knowledge availability,
  • increasing workers capability for working,
  • reducing time to competency.

However behind all this are always the PEOPLE and their willingness to share their knowledge and reuse others' knowledge. This goes to support how KMS are not about the IT behind it, but are about the company culture and thus the people are the major part of a KMS. Change management should be an integral part of KM especially when introducing changes and new systems (and procedure) to support the KM initiative.

Feedback is much appreciated. Go on, write it below:

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