Agile KM is definitely here. Are you rethinking how you engage with your business?

While speaking at KM Singapore last week about a more agile approach to KM to make business value central again, I was surprised to see how many other people around the world are on the agile KM path.

Whether it is Ewen Le Borgne and his blog on agile KM, including this post about Practice SMARTS, Bill Kaplan giving an excellent presentation of his Agile methodology, thoughts by Enterprise Knowledge or the team at Cognizant, it seems that a more Agile KM approach is gaining ground through principles like Bill's:

1. Focus on People & Practices over Strategy in a Vacuum,
2. Performing and learning over high-level processes and tools,
3. Collaboration over Traditional consulting,
4. Responding and adapting to change over a perfect plan.

Everybody warned that agile KM isn't like agile software development. But that said, if you watch how companies like Spotify are being agile with their agile in these brilliant videos (vid 1, vid 2) then you start to get the idea that it's not so much what you do, but rather how you think about doing it, measuring results and reassessing next steps.

Nick Milton's post on Knowledge Mis-management a few days ago pointed out that companies either willfully or neglectfully fail to manage what is potentially one of their biggest assets: the knowledge held by their people.  Have you seen these symptoms in your business?

  • Crucial knowledge left in the heads of people, and lost when the people retire
  • Critical knowledge stored in databases to which the rest of the organisation has no access
  • No time spent to capture knowledge gained on projects
  • No time spent to seek knowledge to help inform plans and decisions
  • No maintenance of exiting knowledge assets or knowledge stores
  • No consistent taxonomy for stored knowledge
  • No effective search technology
  • Incentives for internal competition, which hinders or blocks knowledge sharing
  • Incentives (formal or otherwise) for knowledge reinvention
  • Rewards for "personal knowing" - promotion and job security for the experts who hoard knowledge
  • No messages from senior management about the importance of knowledge
  • Inappropriate rules on internal information security

If so, then congratulations you are in the majority, but maybe the reason for some of these is because the thought of a large project to address them just never gets enough support and traction to achieve political and financial support?

I suspect the agile approach to KM is the best antidote to this. It allows your company to stick their toe in the water, see what works and quickly get results before committing more resources. Leading with probes and developing a framework around the results may seem backward, but as the amazing strategist General von Moltke said over 100 years ago;
"No plan survives contact with the enemy".

Do you think your company might be being mis-managed?
Have you considered the idea of agile KM?
What would you have to change to take a step in that direction?
This will be a topic we revisit over the coming months at the Knowledge Management Roundtable.

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Randhir said…
Thanks Stuart for the post. If Agile KM could help come out with more Business Oriented KM practices, then that would be the best thing that can happen to KM. In simple terms Agile KM is listening to your client, understand their business requirement and build solution in shorter iterations. Hope I got it right?