August 10, 2009

Communication Strategy for Knowledge Management

I have just returned from vacation and one of the first appointments that I had in my diary was to present via a webinar some of the experience that I had gained over the years on the topic of successful implementation of knowledge management programs.

In this edition of my blog I would like to share one aspect of that experience, the need for a communications plan.

The introduction of knowledge management to your organisation should be treated as a change management project. In change management two of the most important aspects are Communication, and Stakeholder Management (I will discuss Stakeholder Management in a future posting). Delivering change means getting people to change their attitudes, behaviours and mindsets, and this only happens at an individual level. Communication is key, but communication must be targeted at those key individuals [stakeholders] who will really make a difference. Therefore the team delivering change should have a clear Communication Plan, and clear Stakeholder Management plan, and should follow these closely. Don’t make the mistake of trying to communicate the same message to everyone in the same way, be focused.

The communication plan describes how the team will communicate to the organization during the different stages of introduction of knowledge management. The communication strategy is required to ensure that

• The conditions, attitudes and expectations are created which will facilitate change
• The aims and objectives of the change programme are clearly understood by management and staff
• The message is clear, concise and fit for the audience
• Communications will be set in the context of business delivery and business strategy

Communication therefore needs to be

• Simple, explaining Knowledge Management in understandable ways of your organisations context (not any other organisation)
• Consistent, both in content and in branding
• Reinforced from all levels, and
• Focused on the value to the individual, as well as on the value to the organisation

The communications plan should contain

• A simple and consistent message which describes the vision for Knowledge Management, and the benefits that it will bring.
• This message needs to be endorsed by the very top of the organisation.
• A clear definition is needed of “What’s in it” for the individual staff, for the project managers, and for the company
• A consistent set of communication materials should be prepared
• Managers should be given briefing material for discussion with their teams; and a process put in place for collecting feedback
• The communication roll-out needs to be aligned with the stakeholder analysis
• As soon as any successful pilots or proof-of-concept applications are complete, these should be communicated through internal communication channels
• You should aim to release at least one communication per Quarter, to keep the awareness going.

The strategy and subsequent communications plan will outline the various channels that will used, and distinguish between communication PUSH (where you push information to the audience) and communication PULL (where you request or seek feedback).

Communication is likely to occur in three stages;

• Initially communication will focus on the objectives of the Knowledge Management program and the planned activities.
• Once the piloting stage is reached and internal success stories are generated, the focus of communication will change to publicising the internal successes.
• Once the roll-out phase is reached, communication will change to communicating the expectations on the individuals and teams

For each of these stages, the communication plan will describe what will be communicated, by whom, using what medium, with what frequency, and will also describe the sign-off process for communication materials.

A Communication Plan template might look like the following;

A completed example might look like;

Before you go out and discuss knowledge management with the businesses, and the culture change that it will enable, you have to consider the engagement style that you will use. You need to consider things like;

• How will you demonstrate the potential of knowledge management to the individual and the organization?
• How will you help develop a shared vision?

Using stories and scenarios to paint a picture of the knowledge-enabled future is a very powerful way of helping people understand knowledge management, and understand what it can do for them. Stories could come from other organisations who have already implemented the change; or (more powerfully) from early successes within your own organisation.

A traditional, stand-up, show-and-tell presentation is nowhere near as successful as engaging the audience in dialogue or conversation. A standard engagement presentation might a last couple of hours, of which at least half will be dialogue with the audience.

Create a standard engagement presentation pack and make sure that team members are very familiar with it, and are bought into each component. Regularly review the content of the engagement; retain bits that work, remove bits that don’t.

In the next posting I will review stakeholder engagement and how to map that.

Knoco Ltd

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