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Leaders empower knowledge companies

This article appears in the issue November 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 12]

The dynamic evolution of knowledge management and the strong leadership needed to propel that evolution were key and consistent points made by Empower'98 conference speakers at KMExpo.

Delphi Group (www.delphigroup.com) President Tom Koulopoulos spoke of leadership within the context of "no fear management." Chris Smith, manager of business consulting at Arthur Andersen (www.arthurandersen.com), talked about the role of leadership as it relates to "knowledge vision." Jeffrey Miller, CEO of Documentum (www.documentum .com), said leadership drives success and, "knowledge management is the enabler." Scott Cooper, general manager, document management and imaging products for Lotus Development (www.lotus.com), spoke of how knowledge management requires "executive-level commitment."

Forget what you know

Koulopoulos built his case for "no fear management" on the assertion that companies have to largely forget what they have done in the past--while maintaining a proper sense of history--in order to fully implement knowledge management in the future. Referring to management guru Peter Drucker's term "organized abandonment," Koulopoulos declared, "Knowledge management is about focusing on core competencies and breaking out of core rigidities."

The role of leadership was broached when he told his audience that companies that fail to take the initiative will be eclipsed by more aggressive competitors. The challenge to leaders, he asserted, is finding ways to repackage old products, develop new ones and manage multiple core competencies simultaneously.

Koulopoulos also stressed the importance of "return on time" to knowledge management. Based on the amount of revenue derived from products produced during the current year, he declared, "Time is the ultimate metric of success."

KM calls for vision, focus

Speaking before a standing room-only crowd, Smith of Arthur Andersen said successful knowledge management results from formulating a vision, maintaining a focus and meeting objectives along the way. The leadership must come from two sources: a CEO who participates in forums and a chief knowledge officer (or equivalent thereof) who manages "knowledge performance." Companies today, he claimed, "are only using 20% of their knowledge assets."

"We need to eat our own dog food"

Documentum CEO Miller made it clear that his firm--which announced record results the day after Miller spoke at KMExpo--was dedicated to using its own technology with knowledge management as an enabler. "We're getting to the size where we need to eat our own dog food," he said, referring to the need for the rapidly growing Documentum to better control its own internal workings.

People make the difference

Cooper of Lotus said, "Knowledge management feels like the next big thing." Knowledge management is not about digital scanners or document management, he said, it's "about people, not technology."

Calling for an "executive-level commitment," Cooper cited the CKO as, "the person responsible for helping us know what we already know and using that knowledge to be more competitive."

Internet punks on the rampage

On a slightly less structured note, David Weinberger, editor of "The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization," said the Web is "always a little bit broken," and discussed how "young punks" are taking advantage of the Internet to assert their opinions on corporate direction. According to Weinberger, these young turks are able to promote their philosophies because the Internet provides such a largely unmanageable, highly democratic medium.


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