…as I recently re-visited my former (physical) home and office in Ethiopia for the first time since I moved back to the Netherlands. Among the things that flashed back in my memory is how my former boss (the person who inspired this post) played his role as KM champion and leader, and how that helped or not in the wider organisation.
Now I’m not here to illustrate the qualities and shortcomings of my former boss – though I’m certainly hoping to organise an interview with him some time to cover at least some of his legacy – but instead to reflect on the great characteristics of a great KM champion.
I already blogged earlier about what a truly unforgettable KM boss does. But without being truly unforgettable there is a number of characteristics that any KM boss should possess – and these are:
Understand what KM is
That is obviously the first step – an ‘expect to see’ Outcome Mapping progress marker if anything. Any KM boss, whether focusing on KM only or on KM combined with comms should have a broad and deep understanding of what KM is – at the very least a working definition that goes beyond information management.
Engage, inform and influence (management and others)
Based on a sound understanding of what KM is, a KM leader and champion should be able to:
- Inform others about what KM is and how it supports the overall objectives (of the organisation, project, initiative etc.)
- Engage with an organisation’s management/leadership generally to understand their needs and identify ways to leverage the potential of KM
- Influence management, partners etc. to create opportunities for KM to leverage its potential benefits
Develop and share vision (and foresight)
A KM leader should be able to articulate the vision of how KM will be deployed and how it is responding to the latest upcoming trends, whether about software options, ways of collaboration and learning or otherwise. This is particularly important in the sense that KM is about using knowledge assets to become more and more adaptive and proactive so KM work should be at all times future-oriented, based on the latest knowledge (and information) available.
That vision is contributing to the next trait.
A KM champion really should be walking their talk, of all people. They should be able to inspire others to become like them, or follow their lead. That inspiration is thus also based on the vision and foresight developed (as mentioned above).
But the job is not done by just telling people what to do but by showing it others so they can see the benefits for themselves. And demonstrating is not even enough: they should get others to ‘do KM’ and do it well, so that in turn they become great KM champions too.
So the obvious next step is for a KM leader to empower others. And here it’s easier said then done, and it requires more than ‘just do what I say’. It’s about developing and nurturing a fragile ecosystem that requires a healthy dose of courage and initiative, and liberty to let others make mistakes and learn from them, and get stronger and stronger.
So the last function of a great KM champion and leader is to be the coach of everyone else on their own KM practice. And to be the reflector that KM is supposedly bringing in. Adjusting here and there, nudging now and then, protecting as and when, challenging when things have to be.
That’s what a great KM champion leader does. And that’s how you realise when you don’t have one what the implications are.
Cultivate your own leadership and that of others, and help the whole KM ecosystem grow. One seed of advice at a time, one drop of challenge after another. Just like any other knowledge gardener, only with a lot more responsibility… But that’s what it takes to save the world (lol).
- The constant knowledge gardener
- What an unforgettable KM boss does
- Enabling change: a manager’s choice (and a leader’s decision)