A long time ago (1966 was a long time ago, wasn’t it?), George A. Steiner was well recognized as one of strategy planning’s most famous authorities. While KM/knowledge services directors in the 21st century might use slightly more up-dated language than Steiner used 44 years ago, developing knowledge strategy still works from Steiner’s “common characteristics” of strategic planning.
One of these especially still hits the mark: the whole idea behind the development of a knowledge strategy is “the futurity of current decisions,” thinking about how current (or recent past) decision making affects what will happen as the KM/knowledge services function proceeds into the future.
Our good friend Peter F. Drucker also brings knowledge workers closer to understanding the true impetus behind planning knowledge strategy: planning for the future. In his classic Managing in a Time of Great Change, Drucker could be writing for knowledge strategists in 2010 (for could there be a time of greater change than the times we’re living in today?): “Traditional planning asks,” Drucker wrote, “‘what is most likely to happen? Planning for uncertainty asks, instead, ‘what has already happened that will create the future?'”
For Drucker, “strategic planning is not a box of tricks, a bundle of techniques” (Drucker’s emphasis). For our great management hero, strategy development was summed up in four important activities which can be applied directly to the development of knowledge strategy:
- Analytical thinking and the commitment to resources in action
- A continual process of making present entrepreneurial decisions systematically and with the greatest knowledge of their futurity
- Organizing systematically the efforts needed to carry out these decision
- Measuring the results of these decision against expectations through organized, systematic feedback
So there’s the answer to our challenge. Developing knowledge strategy is both prescriptive and descriptive, and the knowledge strategist simply has to position himself/herself to drill down as deep as it’s necessary to go. The task is to find the nuances, the private (or public) agendas, and the organizational goals that will bring forward the information the organization requires for managing its knowledge. Only when the knowledge strategy is developed in an atmosphere that includes both “how-things-are” and “how-things-ought-to-be” can the strategy lead to the results the organization is seeking.