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.

Can KM and AR work together?

I love to read – Harvard Business Review and Fast Company being my favorite business reads; FBI crime thrillers my favorite leisure read. Sandra Brown and Catherine Coulter really know how to write engaging dialogue! I used to just skim Fast Company for big ideas but I have been reading most of the articles now because while they may not be completely related to my profession as a communicator, I find that in every technology, innovation and green article, there is something I can take away about what the future may hold. And, I challenge myself to draw connections and be forward-thinking.

In November’s issue, an article on Augmented Reality (AR) caught my eye, and I put my futurist hat on to think about the link between Knowledge Management and AR. AR is the technology concept where you can be visiting Paris, walking by the Eiffel Tower and your device will know where you are based on GPS and display historical information about the Eiffel Tower. I would be nervous if I was a tour guide.

What an astounding concept for knowledge management! Imagine if we could retrieve information about people that way…the new augmented expertise locator! Or, embed information about a system, process or experience this way. It wouldn’t depend on GPS because these are not tangible items like the Eiffel Tower but if they could depend on simple inputs like voice instead of GPS.

I could say: “Close deal with UPS.” And, videos of people telling stories could be downloaded to my mobile device telling me how to do that, a screen listing hot buttons about UPS, bios of decision-makers, and the list goes on and on.

What we can’t avoid is even with the convenience of AR, there still has to be someone who creates content. The ease in which we access that information can be aided by mobile devices, cloud computing and other technology but content will continue to be king.

Real Change?

Every month, I enjoy reading “The Future of the Future” column in KM World. In April’s article, Art Murray wrote part one of a two-part piece on Real Change and how companies should be transforming their way of doing business.

I loved all of his ideas: move from hierarchies to networks, eliminate silos, make learning systemic, focus on systemic improvements not band-aids, and be positive about how to make things work. Common sense tells us that, yes, these are all great ideas to make the organization run smoother and employees happier.

So, why do silos still exist? Why do we implement bandaids knowing they will peel off eventually? Why don’t people share information with each other freely?

In a word…FEAR. I hoard information to make myself more valuable. I don’t share in forums because I am afraid of looking stupid. I implement band-aids because doing something quick looks better than taking time to plan, which looks like I’m doing nothing.

I have spent my entire career championing ground-up, organic change. And, once leaders saw the degree of  crowd approval and desire, that was the tipping point to making that change a reality but it always needed an eventual leadership endorsement to become a business practice.

Lately, I have found that grassroots efforts aren’t enough to tip the scales if leaders aren’t willing to acknowledge and listen to the fear that permeates their employees. I think it takes a brave soul, willing to take a risk, to point out to leadership how to alleviate people’s fears.

I still think real change takes real leadership. Plain and simple. Real leadership is:

  • Setting expectations to share; in fact, hoarding should be disciplined
  • Empowering people to make mistakes…..once
  • Giving time to properly plan and discouraging band-aids, unless they make business sense
  • Assuring people to share ideas; don’t penalize if they are off the mark
  • Empowering people to make decisions
  • Delegating authority with tasks