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KMWorld Contest Winners

Last week, we asked our NewsLinks subscribers to respond to the following question:

"In your organization, WHAT HAS WORKED and WHAT HAS NOT WORKED in getting Knowledge Management initiatives to move from the talking and planning stage to broad implementation?"

The two submissions filed by the deadline appear below. Each author will receive two free passes to the Strategic Thinkers Conference in New York.

Just do it!

By Bernie Lannan IT manager for "a large government agency"

In lieu of hard technology (i.e. what products worked or didn't work), here's a perspective based on the school of hard knocks.

WHAT HAS WORKED: Oddly enough, "just do it" is proving to be the best approach. Often corporate politics just doesn't move fast enough to "ask permission," explain what KM is, get support and convince management of a new corporate buzzword. It's like trying to answer the age old question, "Just what ‘is’ Lotus Notes?"

Back to what works: Show 'em. There are many flavors of KM and many ways to give them a glimpse or hint of what KM can look like. Let's break it down to the "K" and the "M." First, you must have a good "K" candidate. It's got to be pertinent to the organization. If it isn't, it won't matter how well you do the "M."

Once you have a knowledge candidate that is truly desired/needed (not just plain data, or the next step "information" but real knowledge), it must enable deductions, predictions and decisions to be made by presenting the data or information in a way that uniquely affords a new/unique way to use the information. Then, use technology to facilitate ease of use, speed of gathering and putting in on their desk — then you'll see the light come on for them.

Remember the first time you tried to explain what a spreadsheet was to someone who had never used one? What did you do to "just show 'em" how it works? Most of us put the numbers 1, 2, and 3 in A1, A2 and the A3 cells, then summed the column in A4 (see, even here it's dry!). The real "a-ha" came when you changed one of the numbers and the answer automatically changed, right? Don't try to explain KM or the concepts around KM, or seek to get permission to do it. Just do it — it will sell itself.

WHAT HAS NOT WORKED: Never underestimate the power of fear, propaganda and organizational egos on ideas, new concepts and convincing someone to make that "leap of faith" into the unknown. In the techie world, it's what you know (and often who you know) that establishes where in the pecking order you are among the techie peer group.

Let’s look at fear of the unknown — and the fear of appearing as if you don’t know. If a group of techies doesn’t know anything about it (i.e. KM), or doesn’t understand it (i.e., hasn’t used it), and if Microsoft hasn't offered a free beta evaluation of it yet (i.e., Microsoft doesn't understand it), then it must not be important.

In the often near-fatal circumstances of introducing new ideas — or worse yet, innovative new ideas — and the obviously fatal circumstances of having to change something (i.e, the way we've always done it, or the way we're doing it now or a way that would depend on understanding what you're doing in the first place), never try to introduce a KM application without building a bridge from the "known to the unknown."

It could be argued that the true genius in Microsoft may not be Bill Gates, but the never-seen-in-public VP of marketing. Who else could put together a selling engine (excuse me, give something away for free) and expect a eventual profit? So, whatever you do, don't forget the marketing, the timing, the "selling" of the concepts. Don’t launch a KM effort (or any new technical effort) without appropriate preparation and marketing (and, of course, ensure it’s a viable product that the organization truly needs). Launching technology doesn't work. Launching a business solution does.

Find just one "right" thing you truly know works (it doesn't have to be the best thing) Just do it — give it away (at least at first). The rest will happen almost on autopilot.

Follow the "show me" model

By Mickey GarverickSubsystem Technologies

WHAT HAS WORKED: The capability to demonstrate the improvements available through Knowledge Management initiatives and not just talk about them. The investment in a corporate intranet made this capability available at remote sites. This investment was a direct result of the demonstration to management of the capability through an internet interface.

WHAT HAS NOT WORKED: Paper-based or computer based presentations on what we could do with technology. The "show me" mentality serves our customers and our staff well by eliminating promises and demonstrating the capabilities to retrieve information or data online in a form or format suitable for analysis or use in their operating environment.

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