How To Shop for CoPs

Over the past year or two I’ve been encouraged by the quality of knowledge management tenders that I’ve seen broadcast here in Singapore and overseas. It’s seemed to me that there’s been a steady process of maturing in how organizations understand and specify their KM needs. I frequently recall one particularly bad specimen three or four years ago, where an educational organization was asking for a KM system including consulting work around knowledge auditing and establishing communities of practice, but ended with the crucial rider “The consultant shall minimise the involvement of employees time in this process”. How you can legitimately bid for such work with such a lunatic constraint is beyond me – but one major consulting firm did, and I’m told did not do a very good job of it. Surprise, surprise.

Progress notwithstanding, there’s been a bit of a depressing relapse recently. KM teams being told to go ahead with the purchase of multi-million dollar “KM systems” without having a strategy or a real sense of the granular needs that the system is supposed to serve. KM teams painstakingly building a KM strategy and roadmap with their senior executives, and then being hijacked into a rushed technology implementation without the proper groundwork in place – ensuring that their colleagues will forever see KM as intrusive, stupid and inappropriate. Management teams halfway through a technology implementation who are somehow convinced that they need a strategy, so hey, let’s go ahead and buy one…. but why should that have any effect on the technology plans?

At root, the error is the belief that you can “buy” KM just like any commodity off a shelf, in the phrase from my CoP example above: “minimising the involvement of employees” (or managers for that matter). That KM can be plugged in rather than worked in to an organization. So I’m now cooking up a longer article which will be called “How to Buy Knowledge Management” – which I hope will address some of the multi-million dollar stupidities that are presently incubating in uninformed minds.

And I was therefore pleased to see that Anecdote’s Shawn Callahan is conducting a Communities of Practice workshop at the KMAP Conference in Hong Kong next month (15th Dec). The beauty of Anecdote’s work is that it’s both practical and simple. “Involving employees” in KM need not be so terrifying a prospect, and it’s a trillion times more effective than blind multi-million dollar splurges on algorithmic searches and metadata madness (If you are going to splurge on this stuff, make sure you know exactly what you want to do and why!). Back in June, Shawn blogged about three simple ways of building relationships, focus and momentum in support of a sustainable CoP. That, I gather, is the kind of nitty gritty he’ll be sharing in Hong Kong. CoPs are more like puppies than computer games. Make sure you know how to look after them properly before you buy.

0 Comment so far

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

Comment Guidelines: Basic XHTML is allowed (<strong>, <em>, <a>) Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically generated. URLs are automatically converted into links.