I attended at KMLF meeting last month and someone shared an interesting observation; i.e. “70% of all KM strategies have failed.” As bad a figure as this is, I suspect the overall failure rate is actually closer to the 90 percentile given the degree to which we rationalise our efforts in hindsight, selectively tout good aspects and neglect to encompass the whole longer-term picture..
I’ve heard many a strategy spruiked as a major success by practitioners, but conversations with the troops on the ground often tell a very different story. (I too, have been complicit in this type of behaviour in the past … guilty as charged your honour!)
Having worked (or at least been employed) in the “knowledge management” field for 10 years now, I’ve seen many a noble endeavour designed to get meaningful knowledge-transfer happening. I can’t help but think however, one of the key areas in the transfer of knowledge has been largely ignored throughout the journey.
Anyway, the point I’m laboriously moving toward is, that maybe it is radically different thinking that is needed to achieve the kind of successes that we envisage and are so fond of making Powerpoint presentations about. My humble contribution to this is, I concede, a rather simple thought and one therefore that has perhaps been overlooked for this very reason.
We spend millions on IT systems to capture, store and disseminate ‘stuff’. We endlessly attempt to codify “what we know” into different forms of media for those who might benefit from it, so they can completely ignore it. We set up communities of practice to connect the unconnected and link our structural silos. We endlessly promote the virtues of Web 2.0 and social media as the panacea of all our knowledge ills. We do all sorts of things in the name of KM it seems – except tackle potentially the most productive and lowest hanging of all our fruits …. our meetings.
In terms of knowledge-transfer and decision-making our meetings are potentially our most potent method because we:
- have the right subject matter experts invited and in attendance,
- if they are in attendance, they should be there with intent, and
- they are in a face-to-face setting where the most meaningful communication should be possible.
Why then are our meetings so unmemorable and unproductive? And more importantly, why don’t we do anything about it?
There are a number of methods doing the rounds that focus on improving meeting processes and many of these work quite well but the real key to effective meetings is addressing the thinking that takes place within those processes. Now, this is one area where I can, with hand on cold heart, claim to have a good degree of success using the parallel thinking methods of de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats.”
Not all meetings require such facilitation, I suspect a great deal could be run simply and efficiently if the participants could simply develop some tolerance and empathy for opinions that differ from their own. However I routinely use parallel thinking when:
- there are strongly held views
- there are challenging issues at hand
- there are diverse perspectives on offer
- the conversation is rambling and unfocused, and
- when time is short
Contrary to popular belief there is rarely any reference made to hats or colours in a meeting and I find that skeptics who like to dwell on this aspect are those who do not understand the methodology and are unwilling to learn it. Unfortunately, when this is raised I do myself no favours by didactically explaining that “one needs to be sufficiently adult enough to understanding why such “seemingly” childish concepts are used.” (Simply put, the hats and colours create ‘mental hooks’ for the language and methods to embed and exist in the mind.)
Anyway I digress, what I really should be making reference to are the substantial quantifiable outcomes I can direct their attention to, that we have managed to save in such meetings that the usual meeting modus operandis have failed to deliver, particularly when we have incorporated some lateral thinking techniques to gain some traction on some of the more difficult issues.
Now that’s my primary way of dealing with the difficult issue of meetings and there are other efficient ways of doing so as well – I’m just wondering why they are not absolutely mandated and being put into use?