Remember: we’re looking for feedback, for you to share your ideas about the work of the knowledge strategist with others who read these posts. Hopefully we’ll get a good, meaty discussion going.
In our first post in this series, you read about what Kate Pugh has to say.
Another point of view is that of Cynthia Montgomery, whose excellent work on strategy (The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs) has become something of a guidebook for me since it was published by HarperCollins last year. It’s a framework a group of colleagues and I came upon when were were serving on a panel discussion in October, 2012. The background paper for our discussion was Manager and Leader: Defining the Knowledge Strategist, and we took Montgomery’s three “roles” of the strategist very seriously and – with a little transition – we moved them into the knowledge domain, identifying them as characteristics that strongly support the knowledge strategist’s work as the knowledge authority – the “go-to” executive perhaps – in the enterprise. In Montgomery’s telling (with our own “flavoring”), the knowledge strategist is a meaning maker for companies, a voice of reason, and an operator:
- Strategist as meaning maker: Montgomery describes how “…it is the leader who must make vital choices that determine a company’s very identity.” Surely this is a management determination that, in the case of the knowledge strategist, can be argued to take on a critical place in the establishment of company or organization as a knowledge culture, an assignment that – it is becoming clear – senior management and enterprise leadership is expecting of the knowledge strategist.
- The knowledge strategist as a voice of reason? Absolutely. If there is any one function that the organization’s stakeholders must learn to understand, it is the on-going quest for success with knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS). Yet most people – even people who self-identify as “knowledge workers” – don’t think about KD/KS. It is just “something we do.” Or not, as is often the case, which is why the knowledge strategist not only must assume responsibility for ensuring that KD/KS is embraced as a “normal” part of the working life of the firm’s employees and clients. When called upon (as happens often, or which should happen often), the knowledge strategist must also lead the way in setting up – or working with the people who set up – the company’s change management processes and activities. This, as much as anything connected with knowledge strategy, is a continuing challenge. The knowledge strategist – as the organization’s voice of reason in matters having to do with the management of the company’s intellectual capital – has an obligation and the opportunity to see that KD/KS succeeds, and if change is required – as it will be – to ensure that change management principles are followed and that the change management function is undertaken for implementing the identified and required changes.
- In the third role of the general strategist, Montgomery also makes a strong case for the knowledge strategist when she writes of the strategist as an operator: “A great strategy, in short, is not a dream or a lofty idea, but rather the bridge between the economics of a market, the ideas at the core of a business, and action. To be sound, that bridge must rest on a foundation of clarity and realism, and it also needs a real operating sensibility.” A critical task of the knowledge strategist is to ensure that the practical, everyday realities of KM and knowledge services are designed into any knowledge strategy being developed. Whether the strategy is expected to provide guidelines for an enterprise-wide knowledge activity, or whether the focus is on a narrower and immediate short-term quick win, the knowledge strategist as operator continually keeps in mind the “distance” (it might be called) between theory and application. In its simplest and perhaps most reasonable framework, the whole purpose of knowledge development and knowledge sharing is to establish a connection between what is developed and shared and how it is applied in the workplace. That application can, of course be rooted (and often is rooted) in the mundane day-to-day work that we just have to get done, and with a strong KD/KS structure, all stakeholders are able to perform those tasks as well as they can be performed. At the same time, though, there is the great goal of seeking and accelerating innovation, getting beyond the mundane, and it is in this role that the knowledge strategist as operator flourishes.