Challenges of Change Management

[Transcript of video interview with Steve Barth, Senior Consultant, Hitachi Consultant, at the KMWorld 2015 conference.]

Q: What are the challenges of change management?

A: People are just as cynical about the idea of change management as they are and as they should be about Knowledge Management. We can only do it well if we maintain that healthy skepticism even as KM professionals. When I was a journalist, I was one of the founding editors of Knowledge Management Magazine. I was a columnist for KMWorld for a long time, and by far the most popular article I ever wrote was called "KM Horror Stories," about why and how often big KM implementations fail.

It's not so much that there's a bad idea in the plan itself, but we tend to focus almost exclusively on the technical implementation and not getting the people ready to go. As a result, we offer a system that doesn't really meet people's direct needs, and the people themselves aren't willing to do the necessary effort to learn the system and to learn how to get the most knowledge into and out of the system.

At Hitachi, we've been taking a more technical project implementation approach to change management and walking back from there to see which parts of the traditional project-based change management program are most appropriate and most effective for rolling out a Knowledge Management program. Walking backwards from that rather than starting from scratch--as too many companies do--isn't necessarily appropriate for knowledge management.

In the end, they end up doing almost nothing except for maybe sending one email that says, "Here it is." You end up with a checklist of possibly a 100 items that you will select from in categories such as mapping organizational landscape, identifying the gap analysis for training, developing a fairly detailed communication plan, and constantly focusing on both leader and stakeholder engagement.

As a result, you see a much bigger and richer picture of how to get the people ready when the system is ready. In practice, most of that comes down to what some people would think of as marketing. If your new Knowledge Management program or system is the product, how do you convince people to convince themselves in both rational and emotional terms that this is something that they should invest their time and their energy in so that they can get value out of it?


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