[The following is the text of the April 20, 2018, Knowledge Services Podcast.]
We are again looking at knowledge strategy, but this time we are diving into knowledge strategy from another point of view, an even different perspective than the previous thinking we’ve been doing about knowledge strategy.
As the knowledge strategist – as we’ve agreed – your job is to develop the organization’s and then work with organization colleagues in implementing that knowledge strategy. So in this post we give attention to how you prepare the written document that describes your knowledge strategy, how you put into writing what you’re building for the organization.
Taking this action is part of what we’ve been talking about – this knowledge strategist’s role we take on – and it is made up of three important steps, what I generally consider the “basics” of knowledge strategy development:
- We describe, understand, and analyze the company or organization’s knowledge environment (most often through the performance of the knowledge services audit or a similarly structured tool),
- We develop a knowledge strategy based on the findings of the knowledge services audit (many knowledge leaders consider this the key task for the knowledge strategist), and
- We lead the implementation of the strategic recommendations we’ve developed and recommended for implementation.
Having thought about those three steps, and reviewed the kind of documentation undertaken by different consulting practices – including our own – our job at this point is pretty simple. We just need to give some thought to what we want to capture in writing, in order to convey what we’re trying to do, as we build the strategic framework for knowledge sharing for the larger enterprise.
Of course our strategy document will go through a few drafts as we take it forward, but if we’re careful, and listen to what the organization’s management and executive leadership are expecting from us — as we knowledge strategists and our team of knowledge professionals have been working on the assignment to develop a knowledge strategy – our documentation for the knowledge strategy is likely going to incorporate the following elements. There might be other sections or topics included, of course, depending on the requirements of the organization in question. And all of these – whether it’s what we’re listing here or other elements that come forward in our study – they all will be drafted and finally end up with unique component parts – we might call them – that reflect the specific context of the enterprise at large.
Generally speaking, though, we will probably incorporate these items:
Executive Summary. Of course we begin with an Executive Summary, now established as a ubiquitous “piece” of any document we providing to others in the workplace (especially others with – like us knowledge strategists with respect to knowledge sharing – responsibility, authority, and accountability for the parts of the organization over which they provide oversight). And in my own experience, it’s in the Executive Summary that we start with and we incorporate Simon Sinek’s famous “golden circle,” his reference to any work or action in which we establish why we are doing what we’re doing and why we are making the recommendations we are making (even before, as Sinek put it back in 2009, we put forward what we are recommending or how we are suggesting those recommendations should be carried out).
So the main thrust of what we offer in the Executive Summary has to do with identifying the purpose of the knowledge strategy. That’s where we ask the “why.” For example, is there a specific (or even a general) knowledge-sharing need or issue that must be looked at, or a move toward an innovation or new process or way of “doing things” that requires better attention to knowledge sharing?
At the same time, as we “fill in” the contents of the Executive Summary, we make reference to the background for the strategy, a brief summary of the findings, preliminary conclusions, and preliminary recommendations that were established as we conducted the knowledge services audit. The Executive Summary continues with a brief statement of the goals and objectives that are being put forward in the strategy, and concludes with a summary of the plan that will be more fully spelled out at the end of the strategy document. At this point in the Executive Summary, this section of the plan is presented as an immediate overview, with the knowledge strategy and the strategy development team careful to include here an overview specific to (but not in great detail) stated objectives and recommended actions, implementation responsibility (who owns the process?), a timeline, and some reference – probably simple estimates at this point — to resource requirements.
Introduction. This opening to the formal body of the knowledge strategy document has two parts, to describe the project objective – we might call it – for seeking to establish an enterprise-wide (or departmental, if the project is limited to one department or business unit of the organization) and our description of knowledge services and its connection with knowledge strategy. It’s in this section that the expertise of the knowledge strategist and the other members of the knowledge strategy development team come into play. Knowledge services is defined here, and the connection that management principles, leadership principles, and knowledge services principles share is explained and illustrated for those reading the document. And in preparing the document, we remember – without being condescending or patronizing – that the people who will be reading the strategy are not knowledge services specialists, knowledge sharing experts, or knowledge strategists. That’s us. And although we have the expertise we must convey it in language that works for (and fits) the language that those who will be reading the strategy document use in the workplace.
The Knowledge Services Audit. Whether referred to by this commonly accepted term, or with other descriptions (such as the information services audit, a needs assessment, a service-delivery evaluation, an opportunity assessment, an appreciative inquiry, or with some other descriptor appropriate to the particular organization and used by its stakeholders), the knowledge services audit is the critical element of the knowledge strategy that establishes the background for the strategy. Its findings represent a statement that most likely builds on the Sinek structure described above and it’s a statement that matches those findings to the organization’s vision, mission, and values descriptions, in order to connect the overall value of knowledge-sharing excellence with the “bigger” enterprise effort. For most of us, the expert we turn to for guidance with the knowledge services audit is Susan Henczel, in her valuable books and articles on the audit process and how it is applied to information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning. With Henczel’s work, it all comes together to make clear to anyone reading the knowledge strategy document the critical importance and value of high-end knowledge services and knowledge sharing to the overall success of the organization in achieving it stated goals.
The results of the knowledge services audit provide, in more than one way, the context that supports the move to the development of an enterprise-wide knowledge strategy. A first finding from the audit is a very specific description of the role of knowledge and the “place” that knowledge sharing holds in the organization: how knowledge is valued, where there are gaps and limitations in knowledge sharing, where there are costs and damage as the result of uncontrolled knowledge loss, or (putting a positive spin on the audit’s findings) the benefits realized in one or another business unit of the organization in which knowledge services and knowledge sharing contribute successful to that department’s success. And, being more specific, how the components of those knowledge-sharing successes can be replicated in other business units or, ideally, enterprise wide.
Action Plan. The purpose of the knowledge strategy document’s conclusion is to provide a specific, step-by-step roadmap for moving forward with knowledge strategy in the organization. In my experience, I’ve seen enterprise success with knowledge strategy development when four actions are identified and implemented:
- Build the leadership team. At the risk of being overly obvious, the successful transformation of the enterprise into the desired and proposed knowledge culture will depend entirely on the commitment and enthusiasm of the organization’s leadership team. The team will include both senior management and the knowledge professionals (under the authority of the knowledge strategist) who will share responsibility, ownership, and accountability for the success of knowledge sharing enterprise wide.
- Establish an organizational knowledge development, knowledge sharing, knowledge utilization (KD/KS/KU) culture. The successful modern organization is, by definition, knowledge-centric, and research management must be of the highest quality, to ensure that the outcome of any research is as good as it can be. The key to success in research management in any enterprise is a strong organizational foundation in knowledge services, providing the theoretical, intellectual, and philosophical foundation for the organization’s enterprise-wide research efforts. To serve the organization best requires a corporate culture that encourages and, indeed, requires what might be referred to as a “knowledge culture,” an ambiance or environment in which knowledge development and knowledge sharing provide the standard, operational framework. For ease in description, we can think of the knowledge culture as a culture in which the environment for the management of research in the organization – and, indeed, all knowledge sharing – embodies the highest objectives of knowledge management, organizational learning and organizational teaching. It is a sharing culture, one that builds on the assumption that all organizational stakeholders accept their responsibility to develop, to learn, and to share tacit, explicit, and cultural knowledge within the enterprise, for the benefit of the larger organizational enterprise.
- Emphasize change management and change leadership. To move forward with the recommendations of the knowledge services audit, sponsors, champions and change agents, departmental or business unit staff working as knowledge services focal points, and other interested and involved organizational stakeholders will all be participating in the effort. They will all be required to recognize and understand the critical importance of dealing with change as the enterprise moves forward toward its new purpose as a knowledge culture, and organizational change will be part of the move in that direction.
- Build a knowledge-centric strategic learning framework. Providing opportunities for employees to perform at their best is a fundamental rule of successful operational management. In addition to providing staff with the skills, competencies, knowledge, behaviors, and other outcomes for performance excellence, strategic, performance-centered learning recognizes the staff contribution to the successful achievement of the organizational mission. It is through learning (and, concurrently, through teaching in which knowledge workers share what they learn with other workers) that performance in the collaborative, team-based organizational structure is achieved at its highest levels. Performance-centered, strategic learning not only provides concrete information that enterprise employees require; strategic learning also offers a sense of sharing and community invaluable in any team-based or collaborative environment. And just as virtualization and consultation services act as a silent marketing tool for enhancing the role of knowledge services in the organization, so too does a well-organized and executed strategic, performance-centered training and learning program.