Keys to Successful KM Strategy Implementation
In Part 1 of the Mind-Alliance blog post series on KM strategy we dealt with diagnosing the “as-is” state of KM and uncovering issues that impede productivity. In Part 2, we presented a process for developing a KM strategy. In Part 3, we discuss pillars of successful KM strategy implementation.
A lot is at stake with KM strategy implementation because if projects fail to yield the expected results, executives, managers, and workers may lose faith in the entire KM enterprise. With that in mind, here are some of the pillars of successful KM strategy implementation:
1. Build effective collaboration and accountability between stakeholders
The design, development, beta testing, rollout, and performance management of each KM solution project demands both effective collaboration and accountability among the corporate KM program office, business unit KM managers, senior managers of corporate functions (e.g., marketing, HR, learning, IT), and managers and employees from line businesses.
These stakeholders must all act in concert if KM strategy is to be executed successfully. This then is where significant risk sets in, because the major factor in getting things done and translating a KM strategy into results is the degree to which commitments across functions and business units can be relied upon.
According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review -- “Why Strategy Execution Unravels — and What to Do about It” -- 84% of managers say they can rely on their boss and their direct reports all or most of the time.
Only 9% of managers say they can rely on colleagues in other functions and units all the time, and just half say they can rely on them most of the time. Commitments from these colleagues are typically not much more reliable than promises made by external partners, such as distributors and suppliers.
A Swiss watch with 50 parts, each of which is 99.5% reliable, will not tell time accurately because each small flaw builds on each other. Similarly, a KM project that requires involvement and support from a dozen or more individuals from different business units will also fail, or be significantly delayed, if people do not follow through on their commitments. Thus KM solution stakeholders must be held accountable for their promised engagement and support, and the status of people’s efforts has to be as transparent to counterparties as possible.
2. Every KM project should have an action plan
KM projects are complex undertakings because they often require changes involving people and processes, as well as technology. “Winging it” is not a viable option for implementing successful KM solutions. Instead, collaborative planning by KM project stakeholders is the cornerstone of effective strategy execution. The plans created by the relevant stakeholders should cover all the major aspects of the KM solution, including:
- Details of the approach and KM goals.
- The company’s or the business unit’s objectives and processes supported by the KM project, as well as the KM issues that are meant to be addressed and the expected impact on existing processes, workflow, and information flow.
- Critical assumptions and implementation risks.
- Expected budget and resources.
- Technology and integration.
- Benchmarks and best practices.
- Associated training and learning.
- Change readiness diagnosis and change management considerations.
- Employee engagement.
- Content management.
- Performance measurement and assessment.
- Needed information inputs to complement the KM project.
3. Measure the performance of each KM solution
KM program leaders and solution teams have to embed new KM systems and processes into business activities. To justify the effort to change people’s behavior – even when framed as “making people’s jobs easier” – it is essential to collect data about the performance measures that link KM to business value propositions in order to verify that the KM project has dealt successfully with the issues it was intended to solve. Appropriate measures may include:
- Activity measures, such as the number of employees using the new KM system.
- Input or cost measures, such as money spent on KM approaches (dollars) and the time invested by participants (hours/month).
- Process efficiency measures, such as the time required to complete tasks in a process before and after the KM solution.
- Business performance, results, or outcome measures that link KM program efforts to organizational results, performance of business operations and activities, and delivery of its value proposition:
- “Hard-dollar" business metrics such as revenue growth, improved productivity, reduced cost, improved quality, reduced process cycle time, and/or number of influential citations in the media.
- "Soft-dollar" measures such as success stories, number of employees trained, increased customer satisfaction, and improved ability to attract talented employees.
A quarterly KM program assessment report will help leaders see the relationship between investments in KM solutions and business results. It will also help to determine where to refocus efforts and budget in areas in which course corrections are needed.
4. Adapt in the face of changing business priorities
If you developed your KM strategy correctly, you should be able to link the new KM solution projects or KM processes to business units, objectives, processes and even to individual roles that are expected to benefit from the strategy. To resolve the critical issues revealed in the diagnostic study phase, raise the level of KM maturity in your organization, and deliver positive impact to business processes, KM program leaders and all those involved in implementing the KM strategy must actively maintain this alignment. In the face of changes in business priorities and personnel, reorganizations, and other disruptive factors, this may well be a challenge.
No KM strategy survives contact with business and organizational reality without adjustments. Assumptions made when the KM strategy was formulated might no longer be true. Budgets can be cut, supportive executives and managers may leave, corporate business objectives and priorities will certainly change, IT department support may wane, and IT system vendors may go out of business. The successful implementation of a KM strategy necessarily requires flexibility and resourcefulness. The strategy itself must evolve as implementation efforts encounter obstacles and ultimately succeed.
5. Foster continual support from management
It is commonly said that success with KM programs requires support from top management. Executives are expected to support the KM program by communicating its importance to the organization and using rewards and other forms of recognition as incentives for participation in KM activities. In many cases fostering the support of middle managers, who are closer to the day-to-day business processes for which they are accountable, is as important as obtaining support from senior executives. Middle managers are the ones who should be cheering for KM because of the impact that the new strategy has on their direct reports. For example, the effect a new content management system has had on the ability of sales professionals to access the most relevant marketing materials is a direct boon to the managers who are accountable for the perfomance of their team.
The “pillars” mentioned above do not necessarily represent a complete set of the factors that are essential for success in KM, but neglecting any of them puts strategy implementation at risk.
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