Originally published September 2, 2014

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When starting an initiative, knowledge management (KM) practitioners often fall into traps which may limit the effectiveness of the program. Here are five to avoid.

1. Trying to take on too much

There are at least 50 different people, process, and technology components available for implementation. Avoid the temptation to try all of them, and instead, keep focused on choosing the few which will yield the greatest benefits in the short term to your organization.

And watch out for the allure of the latest technology, the current fad, or the tool which sounds too good to be true. Stick with proven approaches, even if they seem boring and predictable.

2. Focusing on technology

It is common for KM initiatives to immediately be drawn to technical solutions, including tools, systems, and databases. These can help make a program succeed, but they should always be in support of a people or process component.

Implementing enterprise social networks (ESNs), portals, repositories, search engines, and other tools will not automatically address how content is provided, whether or not people use the tools, or how using the tools yields beneficial results. Communities are groups of people, not ESNs, web sites, or wikis. Knowledge is shared and reused by people using processes, not by systems.

Some members of a KM team will fixate on rolling out tools, designing taxonomies and repositories, collecting documents, and reporting on minutiae such as uploads and downloads. Keep reminding them that connection is just as important as collection.

3. Not engaging the constituents

Any new initiative will fail if it does not meet the needs of its intended audience or is perceived as being created in isolation. To prevent this from happening, treat your users as customers whom you are trying to acquire, satisfy, and keep.

Use virtual teams and communities to continuously solicit, capture, and respond to the needs of the people in your organization. Establish ongoing methods for two-way communications. Interact in ESNs, conduct surveys, publish newsletters, and maintain web sites. And above all, listen to what your constituents tell you, and take timely action in response.

4. Doing too much studying and planning and not enough prototyping and piloting

It’s necessary to study and plan before starting a new initiative. However, there is a time to declare success for your planning efforts and move on. For example, after conducting a survey of existing tools, you may not need to conduct another one. And if you conduct monthly employee satisfaction surveys for a year and find that the results are not varying, you can probably stop doing them.

Prototyping and piloting allow you to test out new ideas, gain experience, and make iterative refinements. You can quickly learn that an assumption was wrong and modify your direction. Instead of planning for a new version of a tool or a web site for six months, try making small incremental improvements each week. Users will benefit immediately from the changes, and they will perceive your team as being dynamic and responsive instead of slow and plodding.

5. Not reusing what others have already learned and implemented

The field of knowledge management has been around for over 25 years. A lot has been learned during this time, and you can benefit from this by taking advantage of a wide variety of KM resources.

Reusing the ideas and experiences of others is what you are asking others to do in a KM initiative. You should model this behavior by applying it yourself. By sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning with other KM professionals, you will show your organization how it is supposed to be done, and in the process, accelerate implementation and ensure success.


Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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