Theknowledgecore's Blog

Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…

For KM’s sake, get the people factor right!

Ask yourself, how is it possible to develop KM processes without building in mechanisms to optimise the contribution of people?  How is it possible to manage knowledge in an organisation without engaging with and managing human resources?  How can you expect people to contribute to the vision, mission and purpose of the organisation unless you get the right people, doing the right job in a way that binds them to the organisation’s needs?

To begin to answer these questions there is a need to understand an irrefutable KM truth, being the three key things that determine the value of our efforts:

  • The needs of the organisation
  • The needs of the people that operate within it’s boundaries
  • The processes that bind the two together

If you agree that people are at the core of KM activity then the third aspect on the list must involve Human Resource professionals and frameworks.  This means understanding and influencing key HR processes in the organisation; as well as asking searching questions:

  • Do your Human Resource policies reflect the knowledge needs of the organisation?
  • Are knowledge driven activities outlined in the job description, do they have enough importance to have been considered as a core part of the job analysis?
  • Recruitment and Selection – are your knowledge requirements reflected in the way in your selection criteria and the way in which you interview?
  • Look at your appraisal process, are key knowledge activities reflected in employee goals and/or performance indicators?
  • How do you reward your staff for high performance when it comes to KM activities; how are KM activities weighted within your annual pay and rewards policy?
  • How do you go about identifying learning interventions when it comes to developing skills and behaviors for KM activities?
  • Does your HR Manager/Director participate in the development of KM activity?

If our experience is anything to go by, then I would suggest that you are not doing very much in this area.  So many organisations complain about the performance of their human resources and yet they have not given the first consideration to developing a KM driven HR framework to address the problem.

To give you an example, we recently worked with a large European organisation who asked us to look at their knowledge processes as they couldn’t get their people to engage with KM.  During the enquiry we asked the Training Manager how they evaluated training need when it came to KM activities.  We were told that they did not consider it on an individual basis.  What about during induction training, we asked? No!  So, you collate the appraisal feedback and provide ‘general’ courses to address deficiencies in KM skills and behaviours? No!  So, what do you do?  Nothing, “because I know the job that our people have to do and they don’t need any help in this area”.

And we wonder why we get so frustrated with the lack of return from KM activities.

People are the key when it comes to KM.  They are the engine that keeps the knowledge flowing.  They are the key to creativity.  They are the key to dynamic capacity.

Are you ready to manage them or are you going to leave the future of your company to chance?

17 comments on “For KM’s sake, get the people factor right!

  1. Asif Rafiq
    May 7, 2011

    Hi There David
    I have gone through the contents of today’s blog (main page). I am from a public sector org in Pakistan named Livestock and Dairy Development Deptt. Let me first answer you the questions and then i will ask what are we to do in future.

    •Do your Human Resource policies reflect the knowledge needs of the organisation?
    Goal and vision of the organisation is there and is conveyed to the managers and the staff below time and again by the to management, but the HR policies do not reflect knowledge needs. The org is having different directorates (some 15 in number headed by a director) and the HR policies are scattered among these directorates rather than having a single unit of HR for the organisation.

    •Are knowledge driven activities outlined in the job description, do they have enough importance to have been considered as a core part of the job analysis?
    JDs are very old and reflect no knowledge driven activities. They are required as basic of giving trainings to the human capital but unfortunately no job analysis is there.

    •Recruitment and Selection – are your knowledge requirements reflected in the way in your selection criteria and the way in which you interview?
    the theoretical knowledge which a candidate brings with himself is definitely assessed while recruitment but they are not interviewed on the basis of knowledge requirement of the organisation.

    •Look at your appraisal process, are key knowledge activities reflected in employee goals and/or performance indicators?
    No. For the performance a system of ACR (Annual Confidential Report) exists in the organisation and every director/manager of each directorate writes it at the end of the year for his employees. performance indicators not defined.

    •How do you reward your staff for high performance when it comes to KM activities; how are KM activities weighted within your annual pay and rewards policy?
    Being a public sector organisation, no reward policy for the staff. One who is working hard and the other one who is not even attending office regularly are at par in their pay package.

    •How do you go about identifying learning interventions when it comes to developing skills and behaviors for KM activities?
    Our organisation is committed to develop skills of its human capital and for this reason trainings have been declared mandatory for promotion at each tier but relevant knowledge is lacking in identifying learning interventions an developing skills.

    •Does your HR Manager/Director participate in the development of KM activity?
    May be or may be not coz at the moment i am unable to identify the KM activity in the organisation. May be they are participating involuntary or they may not be doing anything

    By this time you would have come to understand the problems lying in the organisation and if yes pls guide us what we can do to make it a beneficial organisation with a useful Human capital.

    • theknowledgecore
      May 7, 2011

      Hi Asif, I have replied to this offline…let me know if you get my email

  2. Frank Leistner
    May 15, 2011

    David – a great blog entry – I am also a great believer of the importance of focussing on human elements when introducing any KM type of initiative. Not to say, that technology cannot play a role, but it will only be patchwork without that human focus. In my book that I published with Wiley last year one of the key themes was that HR should get involved and not let KM be dominated by IT, and part of that is also creating and supporting KM intermediary and support (not IT support) roles. Why are organizations spending large sums of money on systems, that go down after the initial phase, because acceptance and participation is way beyond expectations. With all the development, introduction, training etc. it is a waste of money if then after a couple of years everything goes down the drain, because there was no investment into the human support infrastructure ongoing. Organizations often say knowledge is their biggest asset, but they try to make best use of without investments.

    Without any “support”, any investment, it is often that thinking that you pointed to in your last section: Well it is their “job”, it is everybody’s job to share knowledge! I told them!
    That is just unrealistic thinking and missing understanding of human behaviour. Also KM activities are effort and it is effort that is a future investment. If we at the same time we create big barriers like not giving any time – (aka priority) to invest, how is it going to happen? If there is no supporting roles, and no HR measures and processes that support the activity how can the sharing activity ever compete with other objectives…

    Thanks again – and if you are interested in some real-life examples on where the human focussed KM introduction has actually been successful maybe you want to consider having a look at “Mastering Organizational Knowledge Flow”.

    Regards,
    Frank Leistner

    • theknowledgecore
      May 15, 2011

      Frank,

      Just to say, it’s a pleasure to be in touch and thank you for your response to the blog. It’s good to hear another voice championing the human-centric aspects of KM…I hope that we get a chance to chat sometime, it would be really interesting to share ideas and case examples!

      David

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  4. theknowledgecore
    May 24, 2011

    Just seen this from David Gurteen – We seem to be saying similar things, but from slightly different perspectives: http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/stop-doing-things-to-people?open

  5. Frank Leistner
    May 25, 2011

    Yes, David is very much aligned with that type of thinking. One other way of looking at it is also instead of making people do things is to remove all the barriers that keeps them from doing it themselves. That thinking made me end up with the knowledge flow notion as well. Lets take the bricks out of the flow so what is often quite natural can actually happen. And barriers are often not even that hard to identify. Not always easy to remove, but people can relate to them, I found, which makes it easier for them to believe they can do something about it.

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  9. Dr. Rudy garrity
    August 15, 2011

    Yes and No to all the above. Many perspectives are here that convince me that the American Learnership Forum (www.alforum.org) is on to something useful. What if we start with a societal social construct important to human progress such as: 1-Personal (seek self-fulfillment), 2-Organizational (seek high performance), 3-Community (seek the common good), and 4-Society (seek human enlightenment) where we all have rights and responsibilities.

    With that framework, go to work synthesizing the “requisite knowledge” research and experience that informs us on what matters the most at each level. Then, integrate the mutually reinforcing factors that link and re-enforce a holistic model of what it means to achieve a “mindful way-of being.” Having said and done that, guess what: KM is easier to teach that it is to implement. BUT, it is not dead! KM never was what the hype claimed — it is extremely dependent on people to be open-minded, willing learners who are on a lifelong learning journey we call “Situational Learning” that encourages unlearning of past programming. Learnership “situational learning” the catalyst for KM.

    • Frank Leistner
      August 25, 2011

      Rudy, I agree, that KM was never the hype it claimed, specifically as it was in my mind “hi-jacked” by technology companies that used it to sell products that have hardly anything to do with “managing knowledge” but rather are information handling systems, that provide a basis to where humans can develop knowledge from.
      I also fully agree that implementing is hard work (I have spent great energy the last 14 years doing so, and it does need extra energy, it is specifically not a “project”.
      Yes, KM is not dead – at least if understood as an activity to enable knowledge to travel from human to human and not as a technology centric data and information collection activity.

      • David Griffiths
        August 25, 2011

        Frank, you hit the nail on the head with this: “…KM is not dead – at least if understood as an activity to enable knowledge to travel from human to human and not as a technology centric data and information collection activity”

        Now, if we can just get a few more organisations to think that way…. hmmm

  10. Frank Leistner
    August 25, 2011

    Yes, David, hopefully after some of them realized that technology did not do the full trick, they will reconsider and be open for new more holistic approaches. But I actually also think it should start with schools and universities already. I know that KM is making it even into some high-school programs these days. Hopefully those teaching them will be receptive as well.

    … and I know it is a pretty cheap plug here – but how about more of them reading “Mastering Organizational Knowledge Flow” … 🙂

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