What technology will you choose to implement a knowledge management initiative? If you answered without first considering these important commandments, you may already be on the wrong track.
In over 20 years I have watched dozens of knowledge management initiatives fail because IT staff failed to follow a few simple pre-tech principles. I call them the 10 Commandments of Successful Knowledge Management Projects.
1.Thou shalt not choose a technology because it is bright, shiny, and new. Knowledge management projects centered solely around a technology repeatedly fail.
2.That shalt not use more technology than is actually needed.
3.Thou shalt not embark on a knowledge management project without first laying out a pilot process. If you cannot do it “by hand,” you cannot successfully augment nor automate it.
4.Thou shalt not design a knowledge repository or collaboration space without first understanding who will be using it.
5.That shalt not design a knowledge management system without understanding what users really want and making it easy for them to (a) get what they want; (b) comply with the knowledge management process; and (c) provide what their associates, managers, and customers need.
6.Thou shalt not design a knowledge management system that does not meet the needs of the organization as a whole and its constituents. Adoption is driven by need, urgency, and ease of compliance.
7.That shalt not design a knowledge management process that does not incorporate the ability to redesign itself as needed.
8.Thou shalt not proceed without quantifying in clear, precise language what knowledge management will measurably do for your organization. What constitutes the measurable criteria for success in your organization? Adoption? Integration into daily workflow? Hint: Measures such as “the number of innovations” won’t cut it.
9.Thou shalt ensure that knowledge managers or “cybrarians” exist at the group and organizational levels to ensure continuity and handle (a) taxonomic organization such as keywords, tags, and knowledge hierarchies; (b) process changes based on need; (c) user support for technical upgrades; and (d) user interface enhancements.
10.Thou shalt not continually point out “dangers and obstacles” to users who request or promote knowledge management initiatives. It isn’t about the technology.
Technology is merely a hammer. It’s about getting things done in as effective and inoffensive a way as possible.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention an 11th commandment, my personal favorite (thank you, George Orwell):
■Thou shalt break any of these commandments lest you create something unmanageable and barbarous.