How to talk to the business about KM

Communicating KM to the business requires using business terms, not KM terms.

Talking to the manager of Publix in NaplesKnowledge Management is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end, and the end is a more efficient, effective and productive organisation.

The senior and middle managers in your organisation are not interested in Knowledge Management – only in what it can do for their part of the business.

Therefore when we talk with the business stakeholders, we need to talk in their terms, and address the things they are interested in. We need to use words they are familiar with, rather than KM jargon.

One approach is to rebadge KM in words they already know, like innovation, collaboration and learning. So instead of talking to them about Knowledge Management, we talk to them about the following;

  • Innovative products – bringing together the knowledge of our people, as well as external knowledge, to build new ways of doing things, new products, and new lines of business. Here you use KM processes such as business driven action learning.
  • Collaboration solutions – bringing together knowledge from different parts of the business to develop better ways of working – using the knowledge we already know, but which is scattered and siloed. Here you use KM processes such as communities of practice.
  • Empowering the front-line with knowledge – arming our customer-facing staff with the knowledge they need to close the deal, or delight the customer. Again communities of practice are important here, and effective knowledge bases.
  • Harmonising the way we work – comparing and learning from the disparate practices across the organisation, to find the ones that work best in given circumstances. Here you use KM processes such as Knowledge Exchange.
  • Learning from Experience – ensuring our projects and business activities do not repeat the mistakes of the past, but build on the successes. This is the whole area of project-based learning.
  • Stopping the brain-drain – addressing the risk of losing capability as knowledgeable people retire. Here you use KM processes such as Knowledge Retention.
  • Speeding up the learning curve – either for new-hires coming into an expanding business, or for new areas of the business (new markets, new products, new geographies). This will require a combination of many of the KM approaches above.

Address these business issues one by one, starting with the most urgent and bringing in KM solutions as you go, and pretty soon you will have a complete Knowledge Management Framework in place!

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