The actKM list has a discussion underway to collect stories of how people have (either successfully or otherwise) tried to get management support for their KM activities. The story below is the one I submitted.
An engineering firm I worked for had a number of management-initiated communities of practice that were languishing and I was trying to secure funding for travel that would enable establishment of relationships to build the sense of ‘community’ needed for the groups to develop. This required a business case which I worked on for several months: it didn’t’ convince either management or me of the ‘value’ of either the groups or the required travel. Changing tack, I started seeking out and testing stories where the communities had benefited the company or its clients. I would bump into the Managing Director in the hall and test the stories: “Hi Joe, did you hear…..”. His eyes would reveal the impact, so I kept trying till his eyes lit up and he said “I need this story put in my weekly newsletter, this is exactly the sort of example of delighting the client we need”. The written version of the story went like this:
Late in the afternoon of Monday 4 Nov 04, [name] was asked by his client if he knew what was happening regarding risk management software within the client’s [very large] organisation. [name] posted a question to the Project Management domain (a community of practice) – ‘Does anyone know what will replace the client’s current RM software?’.
- Replies from three senior staff were received within 10 minutes concluding that there while there was no formal decision to replace the current software, it was likely that the [new software] application would be introduced at sometime in the future. By the following morning, [name] could update his client on the latest available information. He was also able to advise the client that our firm had already conducted a review of the [new software] application.
- [name]’s client was delighted at the accuracy of the information and [name]’s responsiveness. A business opportunity had also been created.
- To follow-up, on 11 Jan 05 another domain member posted a link that strongly indicated [new software] being phased in over the next 24 months. Ten minutes later, yet another domain member posted a message that he had just come from a meeting that had confirmed that [new software] was to become the client’s standard tool.
This example demonstrates that the firm has the ability to comprehend many details of the client’s business and to quickly extract and share that knowledge. All members of the domain now know something about the client business that most in the client’s organisation do not. Combined with the firm’s experience in conducting an evaluation of [new software] for the client, this provides us with a significant competitive advantage. We knew more about the client’s business than the client did.
So, while I would love to say that the MD immediately approved the business case for travel for the domain teams, this wasn’t the outcome. But there was a major change in the MD’s attitude towards the domains. It went from ‘tolerating their existence’ to seeing clearly how they could and were adding value to the business. I then continued to look for and test other stories…
About Mark Schenk
Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on: