December 07, 2003

KM: Ideas for Persuading Individuals to Share Best Practices has an engaging article exploring how businesses have tackled one of the thorniest KM challenges: getting their employees to actually use a Knowledge Management system.

It begins with same problem I've seen firsthand in law firms: "Even in the best of times, it's a battle to convince employees to participate in knowledge management programs. But in tough times, the tendency is for employees to horde what they know."

I've seen senior partners horde their forms in an attempt to retain their edge against other partners and upcoming tech-savvy associates. I'll even unequivocally state that in my humble opinion, there are many law firms which will fail horribly if they try to implement a formal KM program. Perhaps that's why I particularly like the linked sidebar, "What Not to Do". Number One on the list: "Don't call it knowledge management. Employees don't get it, don't care about it and would rather ignore the whole thing."

Does this mean most firms should not attempt it? An emphatic "No" is my answer. In my opinion, there are many subtle ways a firm can implement and ease KM-like activities and features into their existing culture, programs, and daily routines. There is much low-hanging fruit that is ripe for the picking. However, one of the first obstacles is the human factor. People naturally ask themselves, "What's in it for me?"

One of the article's best tips: Show Personal ROI. "Very simply, the effort of sharing knowledge has to be less than the value of participating." Further down, it offers a related idea: "Make it a no-brainer. Most people are already so stretched these days that they cannot contemplate adding another layer onto their daily routine. Therefore, you must bake knowledge collection and dissemination into people's everyday jobs."

There are a number of other creative ideas covered, and they are what I found so intriguing in this article.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard

Thanks Jim. ;^) Speaking of oxymorons, "Knowledge Management" itself is a good candidate -- which is probably why the term has come under a fair amount of criticism.

Short of a brain dump, exactly how does one purport to manage all of the relevant tacit knowledge contained in everyone's heads? IMHO, explicit knowledge is a lot easier to get one's arms around (e.g., identifying who knows what).

Explicit knowledge can then lead one to the expert with the best tacit knowledge, but most experts aren't willing to take a lot of non-billable time converting their tacit knowledge into explicit form. Which is precisely why I liked this article so much.

Posted by: Jeff Beard at December 12, 2003 03:56 PM

Am "engaging article" on Knowledge Management-- now there's an oxymoron. :-)
Sorry couldn't resist, but I have to agree this article is top notch.

Posted by: Jim Calloway at December 11, 2003 05:16 PM