Knowing the Winds of Change

by BrianKarraker 1. March 2011 15:49

In the prior blog, "The Daunting Apparition of Change", the topic of organizational change was addressed.  As mentioned, change is inevitable...gone are the days when employees could be expected to stay in one place of work forever.  The organization that proactively facilitates change management will be the successful organization.  For this evolution to happen people need to be aware of the changes that are taking place, and know what's in it for them.  Also, people need to be able to share the knowledge of their coworkers...before those coworkers are gone for good!  Leveraging organizational knowledge is the solution to a fragmented and globally-dispersed workplace.  Change management and knowledge management must work hand-in-hand.

"It's not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change." ~ Charles Darwin

Inside the organization, knowledge is power.  Hoarding of information and knowledge is a familiar technique used by individuals to maintain their position and status through periods of change.  "Knowledge hoarding" creates formidable barriers than can derail change initiatives.  Often the barrier is psychological or emotional, such as concerns about job security.  People often feel that if the commodity of knowledge is made communal, then they will lose their worth.  Sometimes "tribal" barriers occur, such as a lack of mutual respect and trust because of events or conflicts in the past. 

This behavior of hoarding cannot be acceptable in the modern organization, as it will cause undue stress, redirection, and information drought for the company and the individual.  The organizational culture needs to treat knowledge as an open resource which enriches everyone that possesses it.  In this culture the collaborative employee will be the valued employee.  Knowledge management helps to collapse knowledge flow boundaries, and allows people to use information across applications.  Knowledge workers and leaders must work to change the culture of the organization to one in which knowledge management is accepted, valued, and practiced.  When this culture is realized, then future change efforts will have less knowledge loss, more "out-of-the-gate" direction, and less resistance.

This culture shift is not easy, as bringing knowledge management principles into an organization can represent an evolution for which many are not fully ready to implement.  Realizing knowledge management implementation is a huge change in and of itself (even if the practices are happening, just not labeled).  It is important to keep in mind that change threatens the comfort level produced by the status quo.  Workers need to be engaged in the knowledge management process.  People are integral to the knowledge management process, but there will be much questioning and consternation.  Knowledge workers must champion the cause of knowledge collaboration, explaining and educating the masses about the benefits of being a knowledge "sharer" instead of a "hoarder".  The facilitators of the change must pay attention to the "prevailing attitudes, beliefs, and practices" of other workers.  Don't hit them over the head too hard though, as they'll turn a blind eye to your efforts.  Knowledge management can help with change management efforts, but first change management needs to help drive a culture of knowledge management.  Again, they must work hand-in-hand.

"Scientia potentia est"

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About the authors

Triune Group deploys knowledge management in some of the world’s largest organizations including the US Air Force.  In our blog posts, we bring our more than 10 years of expertise with the goal of helping others be successful with their Knowledge Management implementations.  Our experts include: Becky Brown, Keith Engelhardt, Doug Brook, Tom Simpson, JoAnn Hague,  and many others who have real world examples of KM success.