While some organizations have yet to embark on organized knowledge-sharing programs, others have well-established document repositories, people-finding directories, and intranet sites highlighting important content and ideas. However, many organizations find that their KM initiatives run out of steam after a while - knowledge capture momentum slackens off, people go back to relying on their immediate networks for answers, and the whole effort gradually loses relevance to front-line operations. What causes this drop-off and what can be done to re-energize KM in these situations?
When diagnosing the causes of a stalled KM initiative, several questions are worth asking, in order to get at the root causes.
- Why did we want KM in the first place? Successful KM programs are always tightly linked to the organization’s strategic goals - leveraging prior experience to generate real impact on growth and operational efficiency. Look at whether these goals have changed since KM started up - do the content strategy, organization of knowledge, and key performance indicators need to be updated to reflect new objectives? Is KM enabling the “front line” staff or has it become another back-office utility?
- Were we too successful at content collection? Sometimes, especially when parts of KM capture are automated, content repositories become so bloated that people give up using them - there’s too much to sort through, even with a good search engine and taxonomy, and a lot of what’s found turns out to be duplicative or outdated. Perhaps KM leaders focused too much on the tools and lost track of the core objectives – sharing critical knowledge and insights.
- Are leaders engaging everyone in knowledge sharing? As organizations get thinned out, people get busier and despite their best intentions, won’t share what they’re learning unless someone specifically asks for it. Effective knowledge management needs an element of organized “pull” – leaders who visibly care about finding and sharing new ideas that will help the business. Is anyone doing the pulling? Are employees motivated to collaborate?
- Did we forget how to use our existing KM resources? KM platforms should be designed to be user-friendly, with limited training requirements, but leaders often fail to communicate why KM is valuable in daily work and how to get the best out of it, especially after the initial launch and internal marketing push. A leading indicator for failure in this area: more frequent all-staff emails, titled “has anyone worked on topic X?”