A knowledge management (KM) initiative, by definition, is a fundamental change, usually an improvement to one or more knowledge-intensive business processes. People often think that because KM can produce transformative results, it should be introduced into the business environment in a big, splashy way. It’s the small victories, however, that will build confidence, create momentum and set the transformation in motion. Implementing these “quick wins,” which often requires little or no spending, is often referred to as doing no-budget or low-budget KM.
The temptation to begin a transformation with a larger initiative runs contrary to the fundamental principles of change management. Change requires rethinking an organization’s structure and culture, so it is naturally disruptive whether it yields progress or not. Change needs to be managed. Enterprises that have attempted KM or process improvement while ignoring the need for managed change have often experienced failure or marginal results. This means that organizational change management is possibly the most critical responsibility in an overall program of KM-inspired improvement.
To build for success, the change agent should plan to start small and work to align people around simple, but visible changes in order to produce immediate results. These quick wins build support for KM in a business environment where a complete paradigm change might take up to 5-7 years, or more. The change agent should choose small initiatives that have a high probability to show measurable results within 90 days.
Employee perceptions of a major new KM program, like any transformational change, will inevitably see highs and lows during the change process; however, consistent no-budget or low-budget KM successes helps smooth out those peaks and valleys by managing employee expectations and sustaining enthusiasm. No-budget or low-budget KM helps mitigate inflated expectations, while remedying the disillusionment that can follow if those expectations are not immediately satisfied.
Knowledge management absolutely demands a champion in the business environment. Someone needs to be creating excitement about its incredible potential. The change agent should not focus on selling a big initiative such as a portal, however, but rather should be focused on selling the mindset behind the post-industrial, knowledge age. From the beginning, every small no-budget or low-budget KM initiative should be branded as doing knowledge management. It’s a different philosophy and approach, a whole new way of doing business.
In our next post, we will introduce some practical tips to introduce small initiatives that can lead to big change.
We thank 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.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org