How to Start KM

Last September 29, 2008 Rodrigo Gallegos Veliz of Fundacion Chile wrote me (see Email #1 below). Basically he was asking for advice on HOW TO START KM. Here was my email response:

Hello Rodrigo,

Thank you for your faith in me.

You can try one or more of the following:

1. Look for problems or needs that your organization or the divisions know are very important, serious or urgent to them, and build KM to solve or contribute to the solution of those problems. KM should be problem-driven or needs-driven. What information, work template, manual, database, etc. do they need often? What information do they spend too much time looking for? What are the common mistakes in a job? How do we locate quickly the right person to ask about specific problems?

2. Start with a small, “doable” or feasible, low-cost and short-term project from which you can produce a “quick win” or “early success” that can encourage others to see the concrete benefits of KM and then they may want to follow. Using metrics will even be better to convince those who doubt KM. Small KM projects are less risky and more manageable than big organization-wide KM programs.

3. Look for potential or actual “KM champions” in each division in your organization, and get his/her support and cooperation for your KM initiatives. Look for people who already have energy and interest for KM. They are your allies. For example, senior staff who are very experienced can be given a special honor or title such as “Coche Sabio” [“Wise Coach”] who can answer any question from junior staff, or teach junior staff how to do specific things or use specific tools.

4. Identify clearly simple actions or behaviors like knowledge sharing, suggesting new ideas, documenting a good practice etc. and convince your Human Resource Division to include these behaviors in the monthly or quarterly employee performance appraisal system.

5. Most important: make sure you have the support of the top boss; keep him informed so that he understands and appreciates your KM moves.

These take longer time:

6. Since you are also responsible for CRM (customer relations management), you can “mine” customer (or users) knowledge (even customer complaints) to obtain possible high-value improvements in your product or business process. Feedbacks of your customers, users or stakeholders are very good sources of ideas for R&D.

7. Look for workers from across different divisions/silos and who are doing similar technical work; if you bring them together into an internal community of practice (CoP), they can beneficially share good practices, practical work tips, tools, useful “tricks of the trade”, answer questions of junior staff, learn from the most senior or experienced ones, etc.

8. If you have a TQM or business process improvement program, organize a cross-functional or cross-division team to look at the entire business process, see how it cuts across silos, learn to serve their internal customers, and make process improvements to cut costs, mistakes, cycle time, etc. See how the goal of “serve your internal customers as best you can” can be shared by as many employees as possible — especially if the internal customer works in another division/silo.

I will appreciate if you keep me informed of your progress.

Cheers!

After about a month Rodrigo wrote me about his progress (see Email #2 below).

——————————————————————————————————
EMAIL #1 (reproduced below with permission of email sender)
On Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 11:35 PM, Rodrigo Gallegos Veliz <rgallegos@fundacionchile.cl> wrote:

Professor Serafín,

I’ve been reading some of your articles posted on Internet, and I’m really interested in sharing some ideas with you. I came upon with your article because I attended executive classes at Kellogg and I’m always connected with professors.

I was appointed two months ago in my company as the new knowledge manager, and it has been a tough challenge because I’ve got so many ideas flurrying around that sometimes I don’t know where to start in order to draw an approach to follow inside my organization.

The thing is the company to which I belong is a non profit foundation, with a large amount of R&D projects which aim to launch new innovative products or ideas. It is the most important company on innovation and research in Chile, but on the other hand the internal culture has made this company behave as silos in terms of its units.

So the key point right now is try to make these silos talk again through vital information. My question is how to structure a solid backbone from which the knowledge management flows easy and smooth, with valuable information. I know that you must have uncountable experiences in organizations like this.

All the best

Rodrigo Gallegos Véliz
CRM and Knowledge Management Manager
Fundacion Chile

——————————————————————————————————
EMAIL #2 (reproduced below with permission of email sender)
On Tue, Oct 28, 2008 at 10:04 AM, Rodrigo Gallegos Veliz <rgallegos@fundacionchile.cl> wrote:

Apin,

Very valuable and insightful your info, for example I realized the point in your remark regarding user’s information and typical work templates that our internal clients are always asking us to prepare.

We are currently trying to make the best of management software (Qlikview) that is supposed to handle a lot of information and at the same time show these data in different dashboard views combined with ratios and charts. This might cover one of the points you mention in your commentaries concerned with metrics.

I love the concept you suggest about “Coche Sabio”, it is really innovative.

Particularly most of the areas are requesting me to prepare a handbook of how to make a good budget for an economic proposal since they are normally preparing and presenting economic proposals to gain government or private funds. Besides they want to know who the clients are connected with within our organization, for them this data is key in order to take advantage of the previous customer contacts already made.

Maybe this information is really simple and plain and sometimes I feel afraid of ranking it as a KM issue.

I would really like to read one of your books about “Knowledge Management in Asia: Experiences and Lessons” to delve into more details about KM, or maybe you can suggest me another books to start.

Apin, do you know in Philippines or in Asia any not-for-profit organization that had adopted this concept as part of its cultural issue?

One more thing if you are planning to come to South America soon just let me know to arrange a visit to my company.

Keep in touch,

All the best,

Rodrigo Gallegos

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2 Responses to “How to Start KM”

  1. Guillermo Prat Says:

    Apin, the organization of Mr. Gallegos looks very big. The site indicates that some form of KM exists in the different silos. Your suggestion number 3, KM champion in each division looks like the best place to start, if there is such a best place. it really looks like a good place to create a “learning” environment/organization.
    Cheers. Merry Christmas.
    Chito

  2. apintalisayon Says:

    Chito, I agree…and if the divisional KM champions come to an agreement, I think the silos will eventually disappear!

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