In September 2005, the Executive Director of STREAMS (an international network of NGOs in water and sanitation, which was one of CCLFI’s partners) asked for our help. STREAMS Board members flew to Manila and are meeting together with an Observer from their major funding sponsor, the Netherlands Government. She asked, can I please convince her Board that KM is important? My time slot was only one hour. And she warned that the Observer is avowedly skeptical of KM!
I did a quick workshop with the Board members, where I asked a series of 3 questions.
I asked the Chairwoman (the CEO of the Water Research Commission of South Africa) Question 1: To an outsider like me, can she please tell me in a few brief sentences what are the valuable development results their network wants to achieve?
I then wrote the key phrases on the whiteboard; the result was 2-3 key outcomes.
We next distributed metacards (similar to Post-Its) and felt pens to the Board members including the Observer. Then I asked them to write down (in short phrases) answers to Question 2: What programs, functions or projects of your network and its members are most important in achieving those development results?
We posted and clustered their answers on the white boards. After about 20 minutes discussion, we picked out a very important function or program. There was much debate what is the “most” important; so we settled for “a very important” program.
I next asked them to write down again in metacards, their answers to Question 3: What skills, information/knowledge, support systems and relationships are most important in implementing this program well?
Again we posted and clustered their answers. We then discussed the results and after about 30 minutes arrived at a priority shortlist of Generator Knowledge Assets or GKAs.
Finally, I concluded, “according to your collective judgement, the successful performance of your organization hinges on how well you manage these few Generator Knowledge Assets.”
In about one hour, the Board members saw: (a) the importance of KM to their organization, (b) the link between KM and their organization’s goals, and (c) that focused KM can be inexpensive.
Managing only the GKAs is “high-octane KM”. It is “lean and mean” KM.
During coffee break, the Observer approached me and said something to the effect that KM is indeed important.
I maintain that KM initiatives must be driven by the socially (or commercially) valuable outcomes an organization wishes to achieve or contribute to. One way to ensure this is to ask your internal and external customers’ needs and requirements. In other words, KM must be demand-driven, not supply-driven. KM must start with customer needs.