Looking for feedback here.
As most of our colleagues and clients know, my role at SMR International is pretty broad-based. I mostly work as a consultant and teacher in KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy development.
And, yes, for many of the folks who know me, I am thought of as something of an evangelist for knowledge services (which we describe as “the convergence of information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning, all in support of organizational effectiveness”).
It all relates to the many professionals engaged in knowledge-based activities and to how they’re struggling to find a way to describe themselves and their work. And what we’re coming up with seems to focus on their work as “knowledge strategists.”
Nice idea, Guy, but where do we find the job listings for “knowledge strategists”?
We don’t. This is an emerging field, and we’re still learning. Learning about KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy and how we put it all together to provide us and the people who work with knowledge with the expertise they need for succeeding with knowledge development and knowledge sharing, what we like to call “KD/KS.”
And that comes down to a lot of jobs, in a lot of different industries, in different organizational functions, and even to jobs described from many different perspectives or points of view.
It gets kind of confusing, doesn’t it? What’s the budding knowledge strategist to do?
I’ve been thinking about this topic (and speaking about it with many of my friends, clients, and colleagues) quite a bit recently. So I’ll share here a few thoughts, some ideas from two other people and – bear with me (I can’t resist!) – my own thoughts about the work of the knowledge strategist.
First off, I’ll call on Kate Pugh, the Academic Director at Columbia University’s M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy/IKNS program (full disclosure: I’m on the IKNS faculty and I work closely with Kate).
Last week, the current IKNS cohort met on the Columbia campus for its second residency, and one of the topics discussed (no surprise here) had to do with the workplace where IKNS graduates find themselves employed.
Kate provided a useful exercise which she has graciously allowed me to publish at SMRShare: What IKNS Job Suits You?. Readers of this post can access Kate’s notes there.
Kate reports that the students enjoyed the exercise. She structured the content as a table, with the job-types as columns and the relational and disciplinary content as rows. Students were asked to underline, circle, annotate, expand, and discuss the content among their peers. Many of the students reported that this was a helpful exercise, as it made them think purposefully about what type of setting suits them, and what type of leadership activity suits them.
And how did Kate begin the discussion?
By listing the “types” of jobs:
- KM Job Type #1: “Embedded KM Leader,” which Kate defines as knowledge specialist, strategist, manager, catalyst, evangelist, analyst, and/or technologist for an organization’s knowledge processes, with employees likely involved in social, intranet or web properties.
- KM Job Type #2: “Consultant,” the knowledge domain employee who is an adviser, producer, coach, analyst working for a variety of organizations on a project basis, with a consulting firm or as an independent.
- KM Job Type #3: “Product Entrepreneur,” the knowledge employee who is part of a team developing a knowledge-based product, such as a new social media application, a metadata-based feature set for an application, or a repeatable knowledge-based process, such as in insurance, CRM, eBusiness, personal finance – this employee may also be doing this as an entrepreneur, or on the inside of the organization as a “product” owner.
Guy St. Clair says
Geert Willems at the LinkedIn KM/Knowledge Services Group site writes:
The knowledge strategist should, in my opinion, help define the knowledge strategy. Personally I’m always doing this from the point of view, that when I leave the company, the involved team, has sufficiënt knowledge to implement and follow-up the project.
Nice question when thoughts go further. The ‘what’ is answered simple, but answering the how is more intriguing:
– you need to analyse the culture, detect the needs and creating awareness
– you need to define the proper organisation in defining the strategy
– you need a ‘picture’ and idea of evolvement of how change, processes, people and technology are handled today
– you need to be aware of the do’s don’ts – a lot of tacit knowledge in a knowledge strategy there
– you need to make the business cases
These handlings are in most of my cases about 80% of setting-up a strategy.
Well said, Geert. You’ve given us even more to think about.
Guy St. Clair says
Abdul Jaleel Tharayil offers the following, from the SLA Knowledge Management Division Group site:
Just to say a few words:
To me, It’s what we do as KM Strategy, except that it must have to be in synch with the organisational strategy. There is no KM strategy, outside of this organisational strategy- framework. If we do, we fail by default. So, one of the significant points, a KM strategists must remember is to have a strategy to synch with the organizational strategy.
For simplicity, If we look at organisations strategy from BOX 3 thinking perspective of VG (Though many organisation doesn’t follow this model). It talks about 3 Components (Box).
1. Managing the Present (generally operational /incremental improvement – very much about process),
2. Selectively forget/abandoning the past (Unlearning)
3. Create the future (Innovation, Creating New knowledge, Ideas)
SL 1. Is about known target, i.e we will double our production capacity in the next five years, i.e an improvement of about 20% on an average per year. Many organisations are focusing on this BOX-1 and come up with a statement on strategy. This is quite visible in process centric organisations, where they think they know what the future look like. Now, While many organisation when they double their production capacity, they don’t really double their resourcebase (including HR). That’s where we leverage on the existing improvement methods by building efficiency through BPR, Six sigma, etc. Here KM has role to help improve efficiency and that will be part of our strategy.
SL 2. This is about unlearning, i.e. how do we make sure people are not sticking to the past “we are hardware company – IBM” type of thinking. We know how to motivate people – which is about “carrot and stick”. That is, how do we as KM Professionals develop a strategy to address this issue, so that we successfully contribute to the over all organisational unlearning strategy.
Sl.3 About Innovation. How do we as an organisation seek out and get new business ideas within and outside of our organisation and create Safe Spaces for intelligent failures. This is largely about absorbing industry trends (not just in the same industry, but outside of the industry in which a company is operating) and coming with testable business ideas. And how can KM help create that atmosphere has to be part of the strategy.
Thank you for that thoughtful and useful comment. You have given us much to think about, and you begin with a little struggle I’ve been dealing with for some time (and many others in our work, from what I hear and observe): do we create a separate knowledge strategy? Or do we incorporate knowledge strategy into the organization/company’s overall management strategy, following Michael Zack: “the organization’s business strategy that takes into account its intellectual resources and capabilities”?
Probably some of both, since many of us who–by nature or profession–must focus on the knowledge “piece” and are required to give much attention to the “separate” role of knowledge in the organization.
On the other hand, from the enterprise perspective, we absolutely cannot separate KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy from the organization’s larger business/management strategy.
Thanks again for such a good response. Well said.
Guy St. Clair says
Abdul Jaleel Tharayil offers a follow-up:
Thanks for comments!
I think ( broadly), a strategy to manage an organisation’s knowledge is ‘knowledge strategy’, which is largely the function of a Knowledge Management Dept. And therefore a good KM Strategy (KMS) does take care of ‘knowledge strategy’ – infact, it’s only thing it does take care of. And this KM strategy has to be in alignment with the business /organisational strategy. So, those of us heading the KM function must own up the Knowledge Management Strategy for the company (where knowledge strategy is the corner stone). A KM strategy devoid of ‘knowledge Services’ can’t be termed as strategy in any sense of the term and therefore must be part of KMS as well.
Now, from an organisational perspective, if the question is, do we need a KM dept to manage our knowledge or do we leave it to individual dept to take care of themselves, just like their core dept goal/objectives, and perhaps by inserting another knowledge management objective?. It’s debatable. But, I strongly believe that it shouldn’t be, just like finance and HR dept. The job of managing knowledge has to be left to those who have expertise in, which is the KM dept.
However, the way you manage that function could be distributed and embedded, but with a central owner with accountability, which is the CKO (heading the KM function).
Guy St. Clair says
Anand Rao at the SLA Knowledge Management Division Group site writes:
Abdul and Guy have added some great insights. I perceive knowledge strategy as a comprehensive set of directions and frameworks to create, enhance, manage, sustain and measure the tacit and explicit forms of knowledge within an organization. It has to be driven by a thorough assessment and analysis of the normative and alternative. A knowledge strategy created with a complete and accurate understanding of the current realities and future potential can expose chinks in the organizational strategy and help clarify those.
Guy St. Clair says
Ben Keefe at the SLA KM Division Group site writes:
To respond to Abdul’s original point, I think that it’s not necessarily the case that an organization has an organizational strategy or strategic plan in place. A knowledge strategy may be the first effort to form a coherent strategy of any kind at the organization. Organizations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so it is difficult to say that a knowledge strategy must integrate fully with a broader organizational strategy if there is not such a framework in place.
Guy St. Clair says
Abdul Jaleel Tharayil responds at the SLA KM Division Group site:
Ben, I was referring to KMS and not KS. KMS is the function of a KM department. And it’s very unlikely that an ‘organization’ has got a KM department, but don’t have anything to be called as an ‘organizational strategy’. Point is, if the leadership brain has got the mental acumen to create a KM function, it’s quite certain that they will have an ‘organization strategy’ as well – if they don’t have, they cease to exist to be called as an ‘organization’ 🙂
Having said that, I do agree with you on the point that a KM strategy building exercise has certainly opened up the leadership to many other possibilities, including the way they look at the ‘organizational strategy development process’ and sometimes helped ‘fine tune’ the organizational strategy or address an area, which the organization has never thought about, etc. I’ve personally experienced such cases!
Guy St. Clair says
Claro Yu in the SLA KM Division Group writes:
Very interesting discussion! I was wondering if KM strategists exists in government. After performing job searches in USAjobs.gov, it seems that the job descriptions discussed on this thread are embedded in general position titles (e.g., Management Analyst, IT Specialist, etc.). Is this also a project in the private sector?