Always interested in what is being said and written about strategy as a general management theory and practice, I found a recent McKinsey Quarterly article particularly useful.
Published in July, 2012, “Becoming more strategic: Three tips for any executive,” by Marshall Birstan and Jayanti Kar gave me the opportunity to think about how some of the concepts of general management strategy can be applied in our field. Birstan and Kar’s three tips make a lot of sense. Here they are, with my “take” on how I would advise KM practitioners, knowledge services professionals, and knowledge strategists to put them to work in the knowledge domain:
- Understand what strategy really means in your industry. We all pretty much think of strategy as a plan for taking certain actions or undertaking activities that lead to agreed-upon results. When we’re working within the company’s knowledge- or information-sharing framework, our strategy focuses on what we will do to ensure that knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) is as successful in the organization as it can be. So we ask ourselves (particularly as we interact with other strategists in the company and observe what strategy “really means” in their specialties) how the strategies we develop and implement contribute to that larger goal. And where our larger goal of KD/KS success matches their larger goals – and those of the company at large.
- Become expert at identifying potential disrupters. Whether the disrupters are knowledge workers who just refuse to participate in KD/KS, consequently holding everyone back, or whether it’s people with some level of organizational authority, when their ignorance (I can’t call it anything else) about knowledge value gets in the way of successful KD/KS, we’ve got a problem on our hands. It’s critical for us to know who these people are. One colleague tells me about an organization where management is still parroting the “all-we-need-is-Google” mantra (even at this stage in the game – hard to believe!) and won’t consider any move toward KM or knowledge services. In fact, in that company management has even shut down the specialized research library since “we can do our research ourselves.” Not good news. But if we know who these disrupters are, we can at least try some subtle methods for enabling KD/KS in the company. Then when we succeed, we’re very careful to make sure the organization’s leaders know how success was achieved.
- Develop communications that can break through. In management these days, we speak a great deal about engagement, yet how many of us give much thought to engaging the people with whom we work most closely? One knowledge manager I know brings his direct reports together each day for a morning briefing – sometimes 10 minutes and sometimes much longer, depending on the agenda. A couple of times each week he has a manager from another unit come in to discuss shared issues and projects. Pretty standard stuff, you say, but you would be surprised how often this basic step is ignored or forgotten in the KD/KS workplace. Birstan and Kar describe how they read about a model that “involves meeting for two to four hours every week or two to discuss strategy topics and requires each executive taking part to flag issues and lead the discussion about them.” That’s break-through communications, it seems to me. This sort of engagement can form the basis for the knowledge strategist for building one’s own model.
Let’s hear from how other KM practitioners, knowledge professionals, and knowledge strategists. How do you apply these three tips in your work with KD/KS?
Guy St. Clair says
Posted by Cindy Callander at the Gurteen KM Group on LinkedIn:
Interesting article but how do you temper the suggestion for ‘more’ meetings against the perception that meetings are a waste of time and management practice of having as few as possible?
Guy responds: That, to me, is one of the most interesting (and most challenging) parts of being involved in KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy. We all know that knowledge sharing (which is – ideally – what meetings should be about, at least in the context of the three tips I worked from in the post) is critical.
Yet our biggest job is to get others – not necessarily involved in knowledge development and knowledge sharing – to understand the “why?” of knowledge sharing. When we’re able to succeed with that, the meetings become far less onerous, don’t they?
You make a very good point, Cindy, and I appreciate your bringing this up. I think we KM folks work very hard at this, but perhaps we have to work harder?
It’s a tough call.
Guy St. Clair says
Posted by Paul T. Jackson at the Special Libraries Association LinkedIn site:
Again; I don’t know about strategy, but I was taught by a philosophy professor to ask questions which lead to discussion which may lead to identifying problems and solutions.
TRIZ teaches one not just to question, but to make sure there is a problem and you are trying to solve the ‘real’ problem by discovering the conflicts. TRIZ (going by another acronym now) is used mainly by engineers but has also been outlined to be used in business, and could probably be suited to use in KM.
Guy responds: Thanks, Paul, and it sounds like your philosophy professor taught you some of the same stuff my philosopher taught me, and it’s good stuff. And it’s what I like about working with strategy. I get the opportunity to tie all this together in a “big-picture” way (I’m teased by my friends for being a little too “big-picture” but I seem to get things done!), and it does seem to contact with what our customers and clients and users required.
And thanks for the TRIZ link. I didn’t know about this but I can see how studying this a little more deeply can be helpful to me, especially as I teach mid-career learners. Appreciate this.
Guy St. Clair says
Posted by Mabel Asabea Opare-Ababio at the Special Libraries Association LinkedIn site:
Very useful tips thank you.
Guy responds: And thank you for letting us know what we posted is useful.
Guy St. Clair says
Margareta Nelke at the Strategic Librarians LinkedIn Group writes:
I can also recommend my book: Strategic Business Development for Information Centres and Libraries published in 2011 by Woodhead Publishing
Thanks, Margareta, for letting us know. Glad to have this reference.