KM in change averse organizations

July 7, 2006 at 5:55 am Leave a comment

One of my favorite librarian bloggers, Meredith is thinking about KM needs in her organization.

Knowledge management in a growing and change averse organization
Clearly, though, the solution to these problems is not so simple as creating an Intranet or a wiki or whatever. There has to be a real change in culture or people won’t use the tools they are given. That’s really where the managers have to come in. Management style is so crucial to KM. The way you manage people will make them more or less likely to share what they know.

What Meredith is looking for is to simply get all of the information she and the copyright checker need in order to ensure that students have access to materials they need for classes.
Jack has an idea that might be less threatening by requesting the information in a format familiar to the staff and faculty. However, setting any requirement or standard still requires effort and change on their part.

Unfortunately, there are those that simply do not like change of any kind. I used to completely resent these types of people. However, I have come to learn that they can serve as brakes to slow down those of us at the other end of the spectrum. They make me stop and think — what am I trying to accomplish? Is this the only, or even the best approach? What can I keep from what they are used to?

I too have encountered change resistance. I have encountered those who will insist upon doing things in an unbeliably awkward and inefficient manner. In my experience, I have found there is usually a reason (often political, social, psychological or all three).

Meredith also points out that many people view their specialized knowledge as a form of job security. That is an issue that I think trips up every KM and/or collaborative organization and/or learning organization approach. This is a hold over from the 20th century, industrial viewpoints that said that people are cogs and are replacble. Couple this background idea with the request to share information, and you can understand why some people will resist!

I think that management needs to (loudly) value sharing. They need to praise staff for teaching and mentoring other staff. They need to praise staff for sharing experiences. Too often praise is still centered upon a number. You will see a number of them still in traditional libraries (and some special ones too!). For example, those lovely reference desk stat counts and numbers of items cataloged. You get what you measure. If we want quality over quantity, then we have to find a way to measure and celebrate it. Many people can be convinced via intrinsic rewards to collaborate. Look to slash dot and wikipedia for some radical examples of “rep” status in action. On the other hand, there are those that will need more visible rewards. There is another whole discussion around employee incentives — which types work and why and how long.

Some commentors mention the need to work with staff and other commentors indicate the need to work with upper management. I advocate using both approaches at the same time, as much as possible. Working with the grassroots w/o managerial support can be futile if you are in a strong top down organization. In this sort of environment there can be too many employees that, for whatever reason, will not buck the status quo without an overt “ok” from upper management.  On the other hand, if you leave out the employees (aka end users), management may implement “solutions” that users use as long as required and abandon for more comfortable means. In the end, KM is a *people* problem that can be supported via a set of tools, systems and approaches.

In the spirit of Meredith’s request for reading reccomendations: 

The best reading in KM I’ve gotten from reading blogs, articles, conferences and other current info.
That being said:

Peter Senge is an author oft quoted in KM circles:
He has written a number of items, but I’ve found his 5th Discipline to be a good insight guide.

Another oft quoted figure KM thought is Karl Popper. (You will find KM practioners referring to philosophy, as well as sociology, linguistics, and other scattered fields).
A good general Popper book is:
Popper Selections by Karl Raimund Popper, David W. Miller (Editor)

A more current book I find useful:
Knowledge Networks: Innovation Through Communities of Practice by Paul M. Hildreth
(much of what you are talking about could come about via CoP activities which opens the communication channels)

An old one that was one of the first I read 5 years ago, but still a good intro:
If Only We Knew What We Know : The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice. Carla O’Dell

Are there other notable books out there?

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Entry filed under: Knowledge Management, Organizational Culture.

Bloggers that don’t get it ? YIKES Top 10 Ways to Motivate Geeks · The Retrospector

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