Knowledge management (KM) has a tradition of enormous challenges. Virtually all of them can be traced back to its most serious problem: talent.
The intention of the KM Talent Crisis clarion call is not to indict loyal, hard-working KMers. Rather, it is to offer an observation on the qualitative decline in talent and capabilities of KM people. In particular, the ability of these people to conceive, initiate and lead large-scale knowledge transformations has diminished sharply.
Leading enterprise knowledge transformation is a key KM behavior and skill. Today KM is populated with very capable and very nice senior workers in operations and administration. They have lots of great organizational knowledge and clerical skills. Unfortunately are just not prepared to step-up, to lead KM innovation, adoption or diffusion. These people are essential and critical; it is the expectations of leadership capacity that has failed.
Note that a major contributing factor to the KM Talent Crisis is the ridiculous farce called ‘KM Certification.’ KM charlatans still offer useless KM clerical and administrative training. Nothing has ever been gained by pretending to make KM a vocational discipline. They made illegitimate claims and created false expectations. The fact remains KM Certifications are worthless. Beware.
There is a popular social network and KM anecdote that the persons with the most important and useful knowledge in the organization are the hubs. They have high degree centrality. Often these key people are receptionists, executive assistants or senior administrators. They have a unique perch. They have mastered the day-to-day network patterns. They know the essential knowledge flow paths required for smooth operations.
Problem is management took this important anecdote literally. They moved these lovely and highly valuable people to KM positions. Therein lies the KM talent crisis.
KM, first, foremost and forever, is about leadership. The administrative and clerical skill profile in contemporary KM is ill-suited for leadership. Same goes for the technical whiz, the top IT professional or the highly regarded subject-matter experts (SME). They are also found in KM roles. Sadly, most all fall down badly in KM because they lack primary leadership abilities.
This talent management defect makes KM akin to the IT or HR backwater. KM in these settings is primarily a back-office risk management and document control operation. Again, there is nothing wrong with IT, document management and support processes. They are certainly important and needed. Thing is, it is just not meeting the KM expectations of the organization. This is why so, so many, most all, KM programs simply collapse – missed expectations.
Also, rather unfortunately, it is very difficult for KM to recover from this organizational and talent trajectory. Unless KM develops the courage and talent to fundamentally lead, then it is far better to reset much lower expectations for the KM role, its people and information processes. Setting lofty expectations when you do not have the talent, vision or sponsorship to deliver is not a good practice for KM; it is not good for anything.
Thus, the clarion call is clear. Strive to discover, nurture and groom your best leaders for KM. They must propel the social reorientation of work and KM transformation. Remember, KM is positively essential to tomorrow’s environments of social competition and the critical enterprise ability to compete socially. Identify, acknowledge and reward the next-generation 21st Century KM leaders.
Finally, KM inhabits complex network domains requiring the shared imagination of natural leaders. Coach you KM incumbents to focus on cultivation and coordination. Retire command and control. Acknowledge KM offers comprehensive advantages to the agenda of all organizations. Allow your KM leaders to reveal the paths to prosperity and Create The Future.