posted 29 May 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 7
The Gurteen perspective: Ducks in a row
By David Gurteen, Gurteen Knowledge
I RECENTLY READ a blog post on the web where someone proposed selling blogging to senior management by explaining how weblogs improved conversations. I wasn’t at all convinced this had much chance of success.
What do you do when you want something? I need £1,500 to attend this course. I need a scanner for my PC. Or, I would like the company to start using weblogs. Well, you normally just ask – don’t you?
And what happens when you are refused? You start to explain your reasons – why you want to go on the course, why you need the piece of equipment, and what’s a weblog. But it is often too late. The other person is unlikely to change his mind. You have blown it.
So what’s the way forward? I think the answer is to focus on business outcomes and not on solutions. Let’s take an example.
You want your boss to sign off on your attending a course. You don’t say, “I need £1,500 to attend a course.” You first need to establish and agree on your objective or the problem you wish to solve.
So maybe you ask: “How important is it that I bring my project in on time?” Your boss is not going to say, “Don’t worry about it.” She will agree it is important.
Then continue by saying something like “Well, as you know I do not have much project management experience. Could we discuss how I might improve my skills?” Again, she is unlikely to say no.
You can then discuss your lack of skills and talk about outcomes, such as the importance of the project deadlines and the specific skills you need to help meet them. And at some point you might say something like:
“Well, I was talking to John and he recently attended a project management course that helped him better manage his project. Would it be worth me exploring attending the same course?”
Now the answer is likely to be yes or maybe your boss might make alternative suggestions.
Then you can go back a few days later with information about the course and some costs. You have hugely improved the odds of approval.
So don’t proffer the solution until you have the other party talking about and agreeing to the problem and the desired outcomes. Then you can discuss solutions.
What’s this to do with KM? Well, we tend to try to sell KM on activity. We don’t take the time to identify and agree on the problems we are trying to solve or the outcomes we are trying to achieve.
We talk about improving knowledge sharing, setting up communities of practice or best practice databases or on improving conversations using weblogs. We need to focus on business outcomes, not activities or solutions.
So identify the problems or challenges and get buy-in to the desired outcomes. Start with a question where the answer cannot possibly be no! Focus on a known problem area. How would you like to reduce our customer support costs? How would you like our business partners to bring complementary products to market more quickly? How would you like to improve our product quality? The use of weblogs could be part of the answer to all of these questions.
In short: agree the ‘what’ and then the ‘how’.