Get the people right!
That’s what KM is all about, that’s what most social jobs are all about. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Yet we still stick our heads in the sands and pretend that our plans and logical frameworks are more important than simple human-to-human relationships…
Think about it:
- How many times did personal connections play a role – in a way or another – in hiring people (or getting hired) e.g. knowing someone who knew someone… Oh, just this article that was tweeted about coming up today to back this statement
- How many times did an organisation encourage certain processes (e.g. strong cooperation across departments, more facilitated meetings, a strong learning culture etc.) because one or two people were driving that agenda?
- Why are most KM strategies (and me too) recommending to enroll individual champions and management?
- How often do you see one person walking the talk, standing up for all others who don’t stick their neck out – and in the best of cases actually influencing those others to follow their example?
Humans drive change, not organisations, not strategies, not statements. They all contribute, but at the end of the day behind all the great apparatus of change, there’s a (wo)man of flesh and blood, usually rallied by other enthusiasts. We are beings of passionate social movements, not of logical strategies.
What does that tell us?
Perhaps the most useful (and seemingly counter-intuitive) measure to get KM right is not to develop a strategy or an information system – or even better: a portal!!! oh no, please not another one - but first and foremost to hire the right person for the job. Someone who really ‘gets it’ and can influence the rest of the organisation, little by little. Ditto for the other champions that get a KM strategy to fly (even under the radar).
If those people are inside your area of influence or control, it might be easier to approach them and build a rapport – and looking at what causes people to change might help. But it seems to me that in order to adapt to the (inter)personal nature of our work, our agile KM knowledge, skills and attitude should certainly entail:
- A wide range of expertise topics allowing to build initial rapport with a variety of people;
- A sense of vision and a passion for that vision, to communicate it with others and commune around it;
- Strong empathetic skills to be able to listen, relate and trust – based on genuine feelings not just a vernix of diplomatic formulas;
- A good dose of creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and spontaneity to gauge individuals in ways that go beyond marketplace and job-chasing conventions;
- Authenticity, once again, because that might be the best proof of your intentions;
- And fun, flings, fluff, emotions and all the things that seem to unnecessary to a strategy but that are oh so necessary to get two people to trust each other.
And the rest is just about developing joint work to let initial impressions convert to a real, strong relationship.
If the champions are outside the organisation, it might be a great idea to use CoPs (communities of practice), PLNs (personal learning networks) and any face-to-face opportunity (whether short-lived like events or longer such as projects) to build that rapport with them. Because these great people who make change happen, these positive deviants and mavericks simply won’t come if they don’t smell a whiff of social compatibility in their new working environment.
So get the people right, and worry about strategies, systems and processes later. Your ideas will fly if the people that are supposed to bear and apply them are flying freely themselves.
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