posted 10 May 2011 in Volume 14 Issue 6
In the know
David Gurteen explains why you need to understand the business (and yourself) to succeed at KM
One of the discussions that I often see come up in knowledge management (KM) circles is who makes the best CKO or senior knowledge manager?. Is it best to appoint an internal person or to hire someone from outside the organisation? Which is more important knowledge of KM or knowledge of the business?
I lean strongly towards the business experience. Let me explain why.
KM is extremely context dependent. You cannot pick a prescriptive recipe off the shelf and follow it. You need to really understand your organisation; the business objectives, its strategy and how it really works.
It's the people, both senior managers and everyday workers, who hold the balance between the life and death of your project.
You need to be a psychologist, politician, project leader, IT specialist and more, to be successful. You need to understand the following about your organisation:
The key business processes;
The business language;
The people who the real movers and shakers are;
The economic and competitive climate; and
The technical capability.
I think it is unlikely that someone who has not worked within an organisation for several years, in one or more business functions, can make a good senior KM manager. They simply do not know the organisation well enough; they do not have strong established relationships or the credibility required to succeed.
It can take years to understand the nuances of the business, the people, the politics and the culture. But the nuances of KM are far easier to pick up.
On the other hand, I have heard it argued that making an internal appointment stands the risk of perpetuating the status quo and that an outside appointment brings fresh blood, new perspectives and a broader vision untainted by the past.
I know of one senior knowledge manager who has been recruited from the outside on more than one occasion and done an outstanding job each time.
I think this can work in some situations, where the manager has the drive, the experience, the credibility, the personal skills and an intense business focus, in order to be successful. However, such managers are rare.
I once received an email from a young manager in the
In retrospect, I should have just said find a new job. I suspect that with such little work experience and no KM background, she was probably doomed to fail. Unless, of course, she was an outstanding individual and had the skill and insight to understand what she was capable of achieving and tailored her goals and objectives to match. Then, she might have stood a chance.
So, actually, you need to understand two things exceptionally well to be successful the business and yourself..
David Gurteen is the founder of Gurteen Knowledge and a member of the Inside Knowledge editorial board. He can be contacted via his website at www.gurteen.com