A universal attribute of KM/Knowledge Services is culture change. As a society, we generally do not focus on knowledge and how information, knowledge, and learning are part of our lives. Knowledge is just there. It is simply part of the human condition and how we – as human beings – process and use knowledge is not something we think about very much.
Not so in the workplace. When we work with KM/knowledge services, we are confronted with a whole host of conditions and environmental issues to deal with, and one that is on the minds of strategic knowledge specialists on an-almost ongoing basis is culture change. How do we get people to think about knowledge, the value of knowledge, and the role of knowledge in their work? All of us who work with strategic knowledge agree on the foundational characteristic of KM/knowledge services: the better workers manage knowledge, the better the work.
So how do we get colleagues in the workplace to pay attention to knowledge?
The subject was much discussed in Kenya on Thursday, 8th April. Meeting at the Faculty of Architecture and Building Sciences of the University of Nairobi, the 7th UN/University Librarians Meeting and Workshop heard SMR International’s President and Consulting Specialist for Knowledge Services speak about KM/knowledge services.
In a day-long workshop focused on KM/Knowledge Services in institutions of higher learning, St. Clair frequently addressed the subject of culture change, which he asserts is fundamental to the successful management of KM/knowledge services in any environment, regardless of the organizational framework. The workshop presentation called attention to the critical role of university librarians in leading culture change, and an ongoing theme in the presentation and the group’s discussions had to do with identifying specific steps to take, to move the process forward. [See: Shaping the Knowledge Culture in the Academy: The Librarian as Knowledge Thought Leader – Knowledge Management, Knowledge Services, and Change Management]
As the workshop moved to its conclusion, the group continued its discussion of the importance perception and culture change, and St. Clair provided four “key steps” (he called them) for success:
- strategic learning: if KM/knowledge services and an organizational re-structuring to a knowledge culture is to be successful, the organization must have a formalized and operational functional unit for managing strategic learning and training. Knowledge workers cannot be expected to grow intellectually unless they have a structure to use
- awareness raising: whoever is in charge of KM/knowledge services – whether it is the university librarian or corporation’s Chief Knowledge Officer, opportunities for knowledge sharing, discussion, communities of practice, and knowledge networks must be provided – and on a continuing basis
- sponsorship: KM/knowledge services won’t succeed if it is just a “good idea” of someone somewhere in the organization; a key member of strategic management must agree to sponsor the KM/knowledge services function, to express his/her enthusiasm for KM/knowledge services-related activities, to utilize knowledge tools and techniques in his/her own office, and to reinforce the value of knowledge in the organization to that everyone throughout the organization “gets the message”: it’s done at the senior management level and the rest of the organization might be wise to do it, too
- succession planning: the formalized “passing on of information and knowledge” is essential if time and energy is not to be wasted in learning what the previous employee in the position knew, and took away when he or she took another job or retired – the essence of knowledge sharing is to ensure that the knowledge can still be used under different (and often later) circumstances.