August 27, 2009

Focused Communications in Knowledge Management

In previous posts I have discussed communications plans and stakeholder management. In this posting I would like to discuss the concept of ‘what is the message I want to convey’ and ‘one message at a time’.

When communicating with fellow humans we have a tendency to want to share with them lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of information, some of which may be relevant to the topic in hand and some not so relevant. We also have a tendency to digress, deviate or drift from the message that we want to convey. The politicians refer to this as ‘coming off message’. I won’t pretend to understand why this happens, it’s just something that I have observed especially when doing knowledge harvest interviews or reviewing interview transcripts post interview.

So if you are planning a communication perhaps it’s worth being aware of this and try to ensure that you focus on one message at a time. At one time I used a text summariser to check the message that I wanted to communicate. I would write the email or document and then have the software read and summarise the content. It was always very interesting to read what the software thought was the message I was trying to get across verses what I thought the message should be. I didn’t slavishly rely on the software to verify that I had correctly phrased the message but it was a very useful second opinion.

The other thing that I have noticed in a lot of the knowledge management articles that I get sent to review is that there is a tendency to push the value of knowledge management to the reader. I know someone who has a very successful business and often says that people buy things that take away an itch or pain not aspirin. What he is trying to convey is that you might have invented aspirin and be trying to advocate its use but unless the person you are communicating with as a need to use it they won’t. If the communication is reserved from, “I have this thing called aspirin, why don’t you try it” to “You’ve got a pain? Try this aspirin, I think it will help” it makes a huge difference to how the message is received. If I have a need and I perceive that what you are offering might help with that need, I will pay a lot more attention to what you are saying.

Perhaps when we are communicating about knowledge management we need to focus more on what the needs of the person we are attempting to communicate with are, rather than trying to push the benefits that knowledge management will give them.

Knoco Ltd

August 19, 2009

Stakeholder Management in Knowledge Management

In a previous posting I discussed communications plans and how they are used. In this post I would like to expand on that post and move into the area of stakeholder management and how you communicate with stakeholders. You can download the white paper on communications plans here.

I sometimes think the first step in engaging stakeholders is to start out by thinking of the various steps that you want to move them through. I have found that the eight levels of transformation model to be particularly useful in helping me to visualise the steps that you have to move them through. In the version of the transformation model that I typically use the steps are; first contact, awareness, understanding, acceptance, trial, adoption, embedded in process and eventually embedded in the culture. The pace at which individuals, teams or companies move through these stages varies considerably. For example it's not unusual for a team to move from first contact to trial in six months but it can take five years to go from contact to embedded in the culture as in the case of BP Drilling, highly successful practitioners of knowledge management.

You might consider producing a chart illustrating the pace at which you might want them to move through the various steps.

In order to move them through these various steps you might want to start to think about how you’re going to communicate with them. One of the tools that I like to use is the RACI matrix which stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and inform. Using this matrix I plot the names of the key stakeholders against whether they are responsible or whether I just need to inform them. Let me try to illustrate this by an example.

In the above example we have identified four different stakeholders all of whom have to be communicated with in some way. But we have also identified a critical difference between each of the stakeholders. This table illustrates that while A Johnson is responsible for leading and executing the activity, C Edgeware is the person who is actually accountable and who approves the output of the activity. It also illustrates that D Betterware only has to be informed about the activity. Thus the way in which we communicate both in terms of style and content will be very different in the case of C Edgeware and D Betterware as the latter only has to be informed whereas the form has to approve. The amount of effort that we put into designing the message and how we communicate it will be considerably greater in the case of the person who has to approve versus the person with whom we are only informing.

I will expand on the point made above in a forthcoming Knoco White Paper on stakeholder management. You will be able to download that from the Knoco website in a few days time. It will also have better illustrations.

Knoco Ltd

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