The Insignificance of KM Projects

A nice office lunch recently with Patrick and Edgar suddenly slipped into “play acting” when the two of them began their antics, pretending to be the tough guy out to pick a fight, in jest of course. I got entangled in the conversation and ended up sharing a little confrontation I had with my sibling when I was much, much younger. grin

We had planned this weekend retreat to a holiday chalet and were each assigned duties. I was tasked to plan the games. I took the assignment very seriously and worked out the activities for the evening with great detail. I got the necessary materials ready and packed them for taking to the chalet. I was really excited and knew they were all going to enjoy the 2 games I had meticulously planned.

After our afternoon of outdoor activities, we arrived back at the chalet. To my surprise, my sister pulled out a “mahjong” set she had packed along and began to set up the mahjong table that was readily provided at the chalet. I was a little disappointed and it was not because I didn’t know how to play the game, but I was hoping to start MY games, the ones I painstakingly planned. I thought I’d be a sport and let them have a couple of rounds of mahjong first. After several hours and very late into the evening, I realized the end of that game was nowhere in sight and they looked like they could go on till the wee hours of the next morning. It was already too late in the day to start my games and everyone else was tired. By this time, I was really upset. We had a little “exchange” of words, my sister and I. That made things worse for no one was then in the mood for any more mahjong or my games. I laugh when I look back on this incident but am even more amused at how it bears resemblance to KM projects I’ve seen.

Here comes the KM manager, all fired up and armed with the KM spill, convinced that everyone in the organisation will welcome the magic formula he has to help make their work lives easier and more enjoyable. Then, some other initiative comes along to sabotage, oops… I mean sideline the KM project. Even if the KM project gets Management attention, how long can the KM Manager sustain their interest before they want to move on to the more exciting stuff? KM is to many, bread and butter work, unexciting and almost housekeeping in nature. There is nothing breakthrough or innovative about it although KM does contribute towards such outcomes. While people buy the idea and understand the risks of not doing KM, enhanced public image and media coverage do not come from implementing KM initiatives. They are typically not high profile projects.

Back to the games, I could not have convinced them to play my games. They won’t like it until they play. With most games, you have to experience it to feel the fun. You cannot explain the “fun” to someone else. I could have explained the game but not the fun they would get out of it. It might have been counter-productive. It’s like trying to explain how playing the X-box is fun to someone who has not seen or held a controller.

Just the same, you can explain what knowledge management is/is not but it is hard to explain the “fun” in it. You have to experience it to feel the effects. We encounter this often in our work when people want to be convinced that they really have to be engaged before they are willing participate in a KM activity. You can explain the process and the expected results but the results depend very much on them going through the activity, and doing it right. Sometimes you just need to trust the process.

Doing KM might not get you media coverage but not doing it might…damagingly!

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