Starting Your KM Program
Even though the KM effort may have proven advantages in starting small with “quick wins”, it’s important for the change agent to establish a sense of urgency and find supporters early on. One proven and typically very popular technique the change agent can use to build support is to invite groups of employees to “lunch-and-learn” sessions, where potential recruits can learn knowledge-intensive techniques, build relationships with other interested individuals, and start using KM to solve company problems. These various types of interactive “knowledge cafes” not only kick off a KM program, they also offer a real and very positive demonstration of knowledge management in action.
The KM Buzz Session
One such variation of a knowledge cafe, the KM Buzz Session, encourages relationship building by including group discussions and table rotations between speakers to meet new folks. Multiple speakers are often used, and speakers are given less time to make a presentation on a particular problem to be solved, usually not longer than 10 minutes. This leaves more time for people to work together. The building of relationships and associated trust are unique knowledge-age characteristics/traits.
When the facilitator senses the groups have begun to exhaust their ideas, he or she announces that it is time to switch tables. The facilitator can guarantee diversity of ideas by assuring that the same people do not sit together twice. Once everyone has participated at each table and the KM Buzz Session is complete, the results should be captured and recorded in a knowledge base.
When the change agent hosts a KM Buzz Session, inevitably there will be enthusiastic, like-minded individuals who will volunteer to become part of the new knowledge management program. The change agent should collect a list of at least 10-20 people who offer their support, and then should schedule a brainstorming session with that group to get ‘no-budget KM ideas’.
The brainstorming should not feature traditional brainstorming, but rather the interactive knowledge café or possibly the trigger method. Each participant is given the problem to consider overnight, and is asked to create a list of potential no-budget KM ideas to bring back the next day. When the group convenes, each group member has a turn to explain their ideas to the group until everyone has had a chance to talk. Another round ensues where the ideas that have already been mentioned “trigger” new ideas. This round robin style eliminates the uneven distribution of participation between extrovert and introverts, and gives people the opportunity to re-organize and refocus ideas.
The brainstorming session should result in at least 50-100 or so good, no-budget or low-budget KM ideas that won’t cost much money to implement, but will produce quantifiable results for the company. The change agent, or knowledge manager, serves the role of the manager of the no-budget or low-budget KM program. With the group, he or she should encourage the participants to volunteer to be champions for individual small initiatives. Finally, the change agent should implement a lessons learned management process, talk to the boss to ensure support of the program, and enlist the help of a co-champion in the event that backup is needed.
Build Momentum for Bigger Successes
When the initial cycle of small initiatives have proven successful, it is time to begin to spread the program. The change agent can do this by tapping additional champions from the prior list or by hosting another KM Buzz Session with a new group of people. The previous champions can serve as the speakers and the hosts.
As this grassroots KM effort begins to build momentum, organizational leadership will begin to take notice because it is creating savings and profit without ever having asked for funding. When leadership begins to notice the transformational potential of knowledge-intensive activities in this way, that is the time to ask for support for larger initiatives, not before.
Thanks again to Ryan Christman for contributing this article. Ryan is a University of Notre Dame graduate and United States Air Force veteran who enjoys learning about KM and works as a freelance writer from his home in Michigan. He is interested in applying no-budget or low-budget KM concepts to connect disabled veterans in Michigan and help them advocate for their needs.