For knowledge workers, being involved – either by choice or assignment – in the development of knowledge strategy is a rare opportunity. And a great way to strengthen (and then apply) knowledge management/knowledge services skills.
Whether working on corporate knowledge strategy or trying to develop knowledge strategy for one or more business units, dealing with strategic knowledge as it connects to the workplace is one of the most rewarding jobs you can undertake.
Why? Because in most companies people talk about “knowledge management,” “KM,” “knowledge services,” or “knowledge strategy” but the terms are used loosely, without much thought behind them.
So one of the reasons developing a corporate knowledge strategy is so rewarding is that it gives you the chance to drill down deeper than most people get to do in their work. Developing knowledge strategy not only forces you (and your colleagues) to talk about what strategic knowledge is, you get to identify how people work with knowledge, talk with them about what their knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) requirements are, and try to come up with solutions so they can do KD/KS better.
It’s also a little scary, since most organizational leaders are anxious to confirm that KM and knowledge services and a corporate knowledge strategy are in place, even when they are not clear about the language they are using. When your company’s leaders come into your knowledge strategy development picture (as they will, because as you take on knowledge strategy development, they’re the corporate folks you’re going to talk to first), your best approach is to capture their attention by linking knowledge strategy to the company’s business strategy.
I like Michael Zack’s way of looking at it, put forward in a paper now more than ten years old but still valuable for background when we’re working with corporate management. From Zack’s paper (Developing a Knowledge Strategy, published in California Management Review, 41 (3), Spring, 1999), we come to understand that the organization’s knowledge strategy is a business strategy that takes into account its intellectual resources and capabilities. If that’s the case – and I assert that it is – then it becomes easier to talk with management because we’re speaking their language. Executives understand the corporation’s competitive roles and goals, and as we put the development of a knowledge strategy into a framework that attaches to those roles and goals, the value of the corporate intellectual infrastructure – which our strategy will strengthen – becomes clear.
In dealing with knowledge strategy, our first step is to recognize the established connection between strategy planning and the management of strategic issues. And what are those “strategic issues,” in terms of knowledge strategy? Anything in the KD/KS context that causes concern or impacts organizational performance or effectiveness. From my perspective, I think of strategic issues as those things the company must get right (or, as one manager remarked, “what keeps managers up at night”).
Here’s my list:
- Organizational structure
- Financial planning/management
- Information management and information technology
- KM/knowledge services management and delivery
- Infrastructure planning/future services
These are all issues for which a solid, well-thought-out knowledge strategy can provide critical support.
But it’s my list. What’s yours?
Do you agree? Is this the list of issues that keep you up at night?
And how do you connect these issues to KM/knowledge services in your workplace? Want to share a few examples?
If you make the connection between business strategy and knowledge strategy – and how the connection affects the company’s success – you’re well on your way to understanding what you want as you put your knowledge strategy together.