I just came upon a short article in the Harvard Business Review, "Until You Have Productivity Skills, Productivity Tools are Useless," which triggered the following insights.
You could easily replace every instance of the word "productivity" in that article and replace it with "knowledge management." The point is that skills must come before tools.
Most efforts to build skills after the so-called KM platform has been deployed is really "training" to use that particular platform, failing to impart real knowledge management skills.
We deploy a lessons learned platform and we plan to train people on how to put lessons learned into the system, focusing entirely on the mechanics of uploading a document, filling a web-based lessons learned form.
A more valuable approach in the long term, which would also build buy-in from everyone involved, would start by asking how people have handled lessons learned without a sophisticated KM platform, identify the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches and some of the lessons and insights that the employees have about lessons learned.
Before you can expect employees to actively participate in an effort to capture valuable lessons learned and post them in a KM system, a lot of groundwork needs to be done. To be most effective, that groundwork, laying out the foundations for a learning organization, has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with how people think and behave around their own knowledge, that of their team and the entire organization. Then, more specifically, the employees at all levels need to engage in productive high level conversations around lessons (What constitutes a lesson? When is a lesson really learned? How do we share lessons?) as well as more practical conversations, perhaps in the form of hands-on workshops, around documenting specific lessons and working through the complexities involved in that process.
Note that I am not advocating KM "training." Employees do not need to be trained to become KM experts. They need a little help thinking and doing their job with a more developed sense of what it means to be part of a learning organization. None of this needs to be in the form of formal training. Indeed, the more informal, conversational, hands-on, and embedded in the work flow, the better.
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