In the KM, knowledge services, knowledge strategy environment, we hear constantly that these approaches to managing intellectual capital are not restricted by any organizational framework or, within the organizational framework, by any subject specialty. In the group of knowledge strategists I run with, there seems to be an on-going conversation about how leadership, management, and strategy development principles apply to knowledge work everywhere.
An excellent case in point is the work of Megan Smith, Research Specialist at the American Physical Therapy Association. At APTA, Megan is responsible for providing customized knowledge services to the association’s Public Policy, Practice and Professionals Affairs Unit. Our paths have crossed several times, and I continue to be impressed with Megan’s enthusiasm for her work and – although she is modest about these things – as I read between the lines I see a strong contribution to the overall knowledge development/knowledge sharing/knowledge utilization picture at APTA.
Take a quick look at Megan Smith’s LinkedIn Profile and you’ll see what I mean. And just to add a little more depth to that description, let me share some of what I’ve been learning about Megan and her work.
For one thing, she is committed to a role of the knowledge-sharing specialist that goes beyond one’s initial or primary job description. I learned more about her ideas in this direction last year I was asked to write about knowledge development, knowledge strategy, and knowledge utilization (that KD/KS/KU acronym we use so much). The article was for the Michigan Society of Association Executives, with the focus on the role of librarians in the association environment as knowledge thought leaders.
Megan was good enough to supply me with valuable background for the article (Using Librarians as Knowledge Managers), as did Carolyn Sosnowski, Director of Education and Information Services at the Special Libraries Association). In preparing the article, I found yet another example – in Megan’s case – of an organization in which KD/KS/KU goes beyond a library’s established management services and functions, as Megan’s work is not in the organization’s library but embedded in APTA’s Clinical Practice and Research function, part of the larger unit mentioned above.
As I got to know Megan, I recognized another attribute that made me admire her: she understands change management, and how important it is to be comfortable with change management as we attempt to deal with organizational knowledge/intellectual capital in associations. This, too, is a subject I’ve watched for a number of years – through my own interest in associations and how they work – and Megan knows how to bring change management principles to life for the benefit of the larger organization.
Here’s an example. Last spring, she was invited to provide the Public Affairs Council with a webinar describing APTA’s new issues management system. The development of the system had been a management goal for a while, and Megan – working closely with IT – was made team leader for her unit for the project. In the webinar, she offered a well thought-out and useful description of what the challenges were; she and her colleagues on the APTA Issues Management Team had done a knowledge audit/assessment and had come up with a strong list of, as she described them, “known inefficiencies.” In the presentation, Megan chose to offer a slow and carefully calibrated point of view, in order to describe how other organizations might take the same approach for developing a similar issues management system.
When I heard Megan speak about this assignment, what really impressed me was how she provided KD/KS/KU solutions that, in my opinion, can be applied whenever we want to share the critical elements that lead to unencumbered knowledge work. In this case, as Megan looked at the solutions she and her colleagues had come up with – in order to reduce those “known inefficiencies” – three components fell into place for success with knowledge work in associations:
- solving compliance-content issues through the establishment of a single location for all content relating to the subject under discussion, as well as (a critical piece, this) a central record-keeping system
- streamlined reporting, through the development of an online system for multiple reporting requirements and an efficient method for capturing a record of external activities relating to the issue
- knowledge sharing, including the capture of organizational knowledge and intelligence and its reuse for staff development, and the creation of a historical record of activities.
So we have a very well developed “first phase” (as we say in the consulting profession) but how do you make it work? There’s real change built into these solutions, and there must be – also to be equally considered – a level of change management and change implementation presented to all stakeholders who will be affected in moving these solutions forward.
Not a challenge for Megan Smith. For one thing, she’s a student in the KM/Knowledge Services Certificate Program offered by the Special Libraries Association (offered in cooperation with SMR International). And while she was an exceptional participant in the program’s change management course, created by Dale Stanley (and which Dale and I teach), I would like to hint that Megan’s change management skills were strengthened by taking part in our course.
Well, not really. Although she tells me she learned a lot in the course, she also shared with me a presentation she presented to a professional group about eighteen months before she took our course (so Dale and I can’t take credit for Megan’s change management ideas).
I will, however, share a few thoughts from that presentation, to give readers an even more complete picture of Megan and her “voice” as a knowledge strategist. Early in her career at APTA, she had found herself in the fortunate position of being part of an enterprise-wide restructuring. Being so positioned, Megan was able immediately to begin thinking of the restructuring as an “opportunity to rethink the delivery of information services” and, making the natural connection, to defining her new role (as she had been moved from APTA’s library and into her new position, noted earlier).
Absolutely. And her first steps were pretty obvious (although – sad to say – steps often neglected in some organizations): she started with drafting a value statement for what the results of the new embedded information services structure would be, and she stated those expected results succinctly and clearly: “more informed decisions for the organization.
Then she moved on to the information/knowledge needs assessment (or, as referred to in some organizations, a “knowledge audit”): proposing the assessment, conducting it, and analyzing the data gathered, followed by – naturally – a report of key findings and a design for new products that meet the association’s requirements.
As it turned out, this last was the creation of a new entity for dealing with this important content. They called it APTA’s Research & Policy Hub (“The Hub”), building it on SharePoint, which was already in use at the association. Products from The Hub include a wiki for organizing and storing content and, importantly, reducing redundant searching, news and research alerts, and links to connect to the association’s library catalog, a specialized reference tool, and the issues management system referred to above.
It’s a good story, this transformation Megan Smith made in defining the information, knowledge, and strategic learning services required by APTA. What’s even better, though, is how Megan got to the stage where she is now. Her contribution is well received, and her role in moving APTA into a new direction as a “knowledge culture” is clearly understood. It’s a good place to be, for a 21st-century knowledge worker.
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