Agile Knowledge Management (KMAgile)
Time and Results Are Inseparable in Business
Developing and integrating a meaningful KM strategy and sustainable knowledge transfer capability faces many challenges, even in the most innovative and forward looking organizations. The complexity and operational tempo of today’s business environment requires a new, more agile approach to transforming the behavior of knowledge workers and enabling higher levels of individual and organization performance through knowledge and collaboration.
Knowledge workers are more likely to invest their valued time and energy on knowledge capture and knowledge sharing activities that provide them with an immediate and measureable benefit. In other words, from the worker perspective, “If I spend time on this, how will it enable me to perform better? What benefit will I get from doing my work differently? “What’s in it for me?”
From leadership’s perspective, investment in KM must directly benefit the business of the organization. Agility in knowledge management, in this context, refers not only to speed in addressing business and operational performance challenges, but also the development and implementation of a fit for purpose KM strategy and enabling practices to address these challenges.
Results Change Behavior
We know from experience you cannot impose knowledge management practices on people to make them share their knowledge and experience, nor get them to instantly accept KM as a valuable investment of their time. Both novice and mature workers, millennials and boomers, for different reasons, need to experience first-hand (1) how working differently by changing their knowledge sharing behavior can make their jobs easier, and (2) deliver for themselves the higher performance that impacts their performance, recognition and career development.
Behavior change is hard even in the most forward looking organizations. Through an agile approach to KM, people not only realize the benefits and promise of KM in real-time, but also change the way they act and work as part of the experience.
Agile in the KM context means rapid implementation and results, being adaptive to culture, context, and the business environment, and focused on changing knowledge sharing mindsets and behaviors. In our Agile approach to KM, business strategy and operational requirements continuously and iteratively inform and evolve KM efforts to deploy knowledge capabilities faster with meaningful results. Whether developing and then implanting new concepts, strategies, and implementing practices, or focusing on existing KM strategies to renew or revitalize them, improved performance and an appreciation of KM is integrated as part of the way work gets done. Agility in sharing and transferring knowledge emerges as an iterative outcome of the application of proven KM practices in and as part of the work environment.
In the KMAgile approach to assessment, design and development of a flexible KM strategy is accomplished in the background while proven KM techniques are applied to existing business challenges through short, quick win pilot projects. The results and key learnings from the KM pilots are then quickly and iteratively combined with proven KM practices to produce a “fit for purpose” KM strategy and roadmap to guide ongoing implementation.
Within just 12 weeks, individuals, teams and leaders participating in this effort discover new possibilities, begin to shift their mindsets, and directly experience the business impact of new capabilities for sharing and transferring their knowledge.
Distinctions between KMAgile and Traditional KM Strategy Development
In the traditional, best case approach to KM, senior leadership supports and invests heavily in the formal development of a “perfect” KM strategy and the right enabling technologies. In these cases, which typically take 6 months or longer, key deliverables take the form of comprehensive, implementation roadmaps and schedules for follow-on KM projects or programs. This means stakeholders will not typically see the benefits of the KM efforts for up to a year from when their initial investment is made.
While the support and commitment to KM from senior leadership is necessary, it is not sufficient if the immediate effort is not focused upon delivering quick, meaningful and manageable results tied to measurable business outcomes. Without this direct and visible connection between KM and business outcomes (Knowledge at the Point of Execution®), leaders and workers quickly lose interest and don’t experience the benefits of capturing, adapting, transferring, and reusing knowledge. Instead, work and process remain business as usual.
KMAgile Approach Explained
KM Agile (Figure 1, KMAgile) is based on the following elements and tradeoff priorities:
- People and practices over high-level processes and tools;
- Performing and learning over strategy in a vacuum;
- Collaboration over traditional consulting; and
- Responding and adapting to change over following a perfect plan.
This Agile KM approach establishes a foundational operating capability for KM accomplished in three “sprints” or cycles of work.
In Sprint 1, key stakeholders and pivotal work teams are engaged to create new possibilities about how KM can impact their individual, team and organizational performance and gain their commitment to
In Sprint 2, work teams are trained in simple, proven KM practices which are applied to the handful of quick win opportunities in specific work operations.
In Sprint 3, Retrospects generate and capture the key learnings and advice from the quick wins planned and delivered in the previous sprints. This re-usable, internal knowledge is made sense of and characterized for reuse in the context of operations.
In parallel with the three sprints, the Strategy is being developed in the background while reviewing and assessing the clients current and future knowledge management environment (KME). This includes an assessment of previous and ongoing KM strategy, framework, practices and implementation projects, if any exist (and they typically do, even if they have not been formally identified as KM enablers).
 A Sprint is a regular, repeatable work cycle, for an established period of time, during which specific work has is completed and made ready for review.
For more information, contact:
Bill Kaplan, Working KnowledgeCSP (571.234.5942) firstname.lastname@example.org
Kent Greenes, Greenes Consulting (760.450.6355) email@example.com