Making KM projects work

March 30, 2010 at 8:38 am 1 comment

Before Patrick Lambe (the silver fox) and I launch ourselves into facilitating a panel discussion on 50 years of KM, we hear from David Gurteen. David is being introduced as a “KM legend”. I haven’t seen David for about 4 years, so looking forward to his session.

Wants to pull together his thoughts on what to do in your organisation to make sure your KM projects are a success – not so much focus on KM tools. Says he is not here to give answers but to trigger thoughts.

The potential of KM is enormous but many KM projects have failed to live up to expectations. Why?

  • KM projects are NOT focused on the business
  • KM projects are tough
  • KM project leaders are often inexperienced
  • KM projects poorly conceived
  • Lack of senior management support

Four key things we need to think about:

  • what are the business problems we are trying to solve?
  • how do we ensure support from senior management and how do we sustain that support?
  • how do we engage the people in our organisations?
  • how do we think and learn for ourselves?

In good times, KM means knowledge management; in bad times it means ‘kill me’ (his point being that in downturns, KM staff are often retrenched).

Some thoughts from David:

  • think for yourself
  • no substitute for thinking
  • no recipes
  • no simple set of steps
  • KM is very contextual
  • everyone of us is different; organisations have different cultures;
  • anything could influence a KM project in a negative way

You don’t “do KM” – meaning, you solve business problems and develop business opportunities using KM tools and techniques.  There are no KM initiatives or strategies – there are only business projects. KM people conceptualise the problem and don’t always talk about the business issues. We jump far too quickly to a “solution” without understanding the problem. People will not share their knowledge – this is not a business issue.

These are not business outcomes:

  • doing KM
  • improving K sharing
  • creating a learning organisation
  • creating a K driven organisation
  • setting up communities of practice

David advises – talk to CEO and senior business managers. What keeps them awake at night? Talk to the stakeholders – the sponsor, senior managers, employees affected, KM team. Who are the sceptics and opponents?

Key message – for KM to be successful, you have to work with people and not be “doing things” to people. David says you cannot motivate people to share knowledge; people have to find the motivation for themselves; attempts to motivate or manipulation and people see through it and this results in adverse affect.

What should you be doing instead?

  • listen to people and show respect
  • help them find their voice and have conversations with them
  • engage and trust them
  • given them responsibility and recognition

David says: do not reward people for sharing their knowledge. Research shows that giving rewards actually results in worse performance and undermines motivation. Points us to 2 books: Alfie Kohn Punished by Rewards and Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Always pilot a KM project and adopt iterative prototyping. Learn from small steps. Allow for change and emergence. He leaves us by asking us some questions:

  • is my KM activity focused on the business?
  • have I really understood the problems?
  • are senior managers bought in?
  • are employees and other stakeholders bought in?
  • how do I demonstrate value?
  • am I measuring business outcomes and not just activity?
  • what do I do in place of rewards?
  • am I really thinking for myself?
  • am I committed to my own personal learning and development?
  • am I walking the talk?
  • how can I take an active part in the global KM community?

Entry filed under: Conferences, Knowledge Management. Tags: , , .

Leveraging Web 2.0 tools Wing Lee Street

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. pyne2011  |  August 9, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Excellent! You pulled the right chord of unsucessful/ ineffective KM in organizations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Search ThinkingShift

   Made in New Zealand
     Thinkingshift is?

Flickr Photos

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.

ThinkingShift Book Club

Kimmar - Find me on

%d bloggers like this: