Congratulations on your success! You’re no longer needed.

After a number of years in the knowledge management space, I have come to realize that I know I am successful when I am no longer needed in the role I was hired to play. KM professionals generally get hired to “fix” things – better content management or search capabilities; better processes for storytelling and sharing; better mechanisms to capture tacit knowledge or connect people to people.

Once these systems, processes and expectations have been communicated and integrated into the way people work, what then? The goal for every KM professional is to work yourself out of a job.

KM professionals are like organizational SWAT team members – they come in, assess the situation, set up culture-appropriate processes, measure success and move on to the next opportunity whether it be within the same organization or a different one.

This is a scary proposition in a down economy…the fact that if I do my job right, I won’t have one in the future. But, I think it is the true test of success. Having KM processes and systems part of a culture and a way of doing business really ought to be our ultimate goal.

Now, this can take years…especially if leadership desires change that may not be indicative of the current culture but of a future state they envision. So, we can probably relax a little as we all certainly have work to do. However, we should always be looking for future opportunities to fix and depart from.

Initiative Overload: Is Less Really More?

How many of us are already on initiative overload and it’s the third week of January? It seems the economy and the need to sustain business has catapulted leadership to focus on too many “things” right out of the gates. New tools, new processes, new roles, new strategies, new products, new programs. While some of these might be necessary, I think we have lost our ability to prioritize.

Prioritization takes a huge amount of discipline. Many of us can see 50 feet in front and know what needs to be done to be successful. But, we only have so many resources to get it done. I don’t think a person can be successful if they are so splintered.

One of my favorite quotes I learned in business years ago is: “What gets measured, gets done.” Measurement takes a lot of effort. I mean true measurement. Not just logins, hits or activities but true measurement of success based on business goals.

I argue that focusing on 3 real priorities with real plans, measures and follow-up will yield more success than having a list of 20 projects to do. But, sometimes, that philosophy is not embraced. Being busy and churning out work justifies our existence. But, does it?

Establishing performance measures tied to business results will force a conversation about prioritization. It all starts there. Many of us will have to lobby for the less is more approach, and you can do so by showing what will be measured and what impact the less approach will generate vs. an endless task list.

My hope for this new decade is a focus on less. Less is better. Less is achievable. Less is necessary.

Should I Measure if No One Asks?

I have seen many measurement models to determine the value of knowledge management and learning. The trick is to have a methodology to measure whatever you say will be the result. Many of you are probably saying: “Of course! This is nothing we don’t know.” You’d be surprised how simple and oftentimes that important point is missed. If you say you will save time, then you need a baseline and post-measure of time spent. If you say you’ll move the financial needle either in cost savings or revenue generation, then be careful what you state. You will have to measure that!

I have noticed in today’s fast-paced environment, some leaders don’t have a tolerance for capturing a baseline. They are okay with just surveying people afterward to see if they are satisfied with the new tools. On one hand, we could feel blessed that we are not always asked to prove ROI as that is a difficult thing to do. However, spending a little time to capture a baseline is a battle worth fighting.

Even if management doesn’t ask for measurement, do it. You never know when you might be asked down the line. “How successful was that intranet re-design?” “Do we know how much time people actually saved with these tools?” I have been in that situation before where measures weren’t expected but then a year later, an executive wanted to report on results to the board or upper management.

Two Rules of Thumb

DON’T attempt to measure ROI or IRR unless it is required. (I know…the easy way out but there is no reason to cause yourself undue pain. However, get agreement on this up front!)
DO set up activity, usage, time, satisfaction and other targets before you begin making changes and measure after changes have been implemented. If nothing else, you have evidence in your hip pocket  should you need it.