The third type of knowledge professional I’ve identified is the organizational or corporate knowledge strategist, the employee whose work is that generally thought of as the management of knowledge services. With knowledge services usually defined – as noted in earlier posts on this subject – as the convergence of information management, KM, and strategic learning, or, perhaps better put, as developing and implementing strategies for managing information, knowledge, and corporate or organizational learning, these activities provide focus for the knowledge strategist for matching the corporate knowledge strategy with the organization’s business strategy or mission. The knowledge strategists are the people who design and plan knowledge-related activities and policy, and they are particularly expected to give attention to future knowledge-related roles and activities that will affect corporate or organizational success. Their purpose is to innovate and invent and – with no apology – to create their own jobs.
The work of the knowledge strategist differs from that of the general knowledge worker and the strategic knowledge professional (see earlier posts) in that the knowledge strategist would not necessarily be a “behind-the-desk” employee. While the knowledge strategist has management responsibility for the work of records managers, archivists, information technologists, web specialists, media and/or editorial specialists, specialist librarians, researchers, and the like, the discipline of knowledge strategy is much more management focused and less service oriented (that is, in the sense of providing direct knowledge services to meet other employees’ knowledge needs). A quick-and-easy (and vastly simplified) explanation of the work of the knowledge strategist might go back to the basic definition of strategy: a plan of action to achieve a particular goal. The knowledge strategist creates the plan; the strategic knowledge professional makes it happen and (not to confuse the issue) the general knowledge worker is often both the recipient of the results of the action and, in many cases, with prior expertise and prior experience and knowledge, often participates in the development of the knowledge required to implement the plan of action).
Can I come up with an example? Let’s try.
In the publishing business – a magazine publisher, say (and it doesn’t matter whether the end product is a published “newsstand” magazine or a digital product) – senior editorial staff determine what stories will be published. Every company is different, but generally speaking there is a “story team” (called by different names in different organizations). Usually it’s in the form of what senior editorial management thinks of as a CoP, with responsibility for coming up with story ideas.
Somewhere out in the company there are what we’ve called “knowledge workers” doing all sorts of tasks relating to running the magazine, including knowledge work relating to editorial and or other “office” functions. They spend a lot of time looking for stuff, asking people where this-or-that document or tape or photo file might be, and they do a lot of team work themselves, trying to come up – with their supervisors and managers – with ways to work smarter.
At the same time, a group of strategic knowledge professionals carry out knowledge-related tasks, conducting research, managing filing systems, making sure the online tools are working, and performing similar tasks, usually with the goal of providing some level of knowledge services delivery (information management, KM, strategic learning) that benefits other workers. These are the “behind-the-desk” people I referred to above, the strategic knowledge professionals who actually provide the delivery of services that gets strategic knowledge to the people in the company who need it.
At the senior level, the knowledge strategist is responsible for ensuring that it all works. This manager’s job is to work with any level of knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) that’s required within the organization. If there is a particular knowledge-related need – getting back to the story team and its objectives – it’s the knowledge strategist who puts it together. In this case, the story team collects (and probably has been collecting since the magazine was started) all sorts of content about story ideas: when an idea was proposed, how the idea was dealt with, whether there was a story as a result, research and illustrative materials considered for the story, and any number of other knowledge “products” that affect the implementation (or rejection) of a story idea. It’s a “knowledge bank” (as it’s called in many fields) and it is at the disposal of the entire organization.
In this example, the problem is that it’s not working very well. In fact, it’s not working at all, and at this magazine there’s lots of complaining about how it doesn’t work, how much time and money is lost, all the usual issues having to do with an internal tool that causes more problems than it solves.
The solution is the responsibility of the knowledge strategist. That manager must identify and, if needed, establish policies relating to the usability of the knowledge bank. They most probably must conduct a knowledge audit, identify how and by whom (and how successfully) the contents of the knowledge bank are used (or not), work with other senior management and, particularly, with the story team on developing knowledge strategy for the knowledge bank. Finally, they must come up with an actionable plan that will ensure that all knowledge workers at all levels in the company have access to the knowledge resources they require to do their work.