Let me begin with the end in mind:
Take Aways: (1) Gradual change may be more effective than abrupt change; (2) KM has broad reach and impact; (3) KM and change management (CM) are inseparable.
It has been said that if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out; but if you place a frog into a pot of cool water and slowly raise the temperature to a boil, you’ll have dinner (if you like frog legs). Some have disputed the veracity of this claim (experiments date back to the late 1800s). I’ve never tried it; but true or not, there is a point. Beings (frogs or humans) react differently to abrupt changes than they do to slow, gradual changes.
Yahoo is applying this theory (in a much more animal-friendly way) as it slowly changes it’s home page. A colleague pointed me to an article in the New York Times called Changing that Home Page? Take Baby Steps that discusses what they’re doing. “You could call it stealth innovation. The company’s goal is to end up several months from now with a completely different, and presumably better, front page — with its audience intact.” You might be wise to approach KM efforts the same way. However you do it, don’t forget one of the most important things: the perspectives of the people whose work lives you are changing. How will they be affected?
Knowledge management is different wherever you go. For a law firm, KM concerns (among other things) issues about who the firm knows, what the firm knows, and how the firm does what it does. That can be pretty broad and far-reaching. And dealing with the “who-what-how” issues can have a huge impact on the people in your firm. Managing the effect of that impact is part of the job of a knowledge management professional. In my opinion, knowledge management cannot exist without change management.
Nina Platt wrote about the connection between KM and CM a while ago in a piece called Change Strategies are the Key to KM. There, she has some words to the wise when dealing with the change management issues that come along with knowledge management initiatives. One message is, don’t just understand and acknowledge that change will have an impact. Be proactive. Let people know why the change is happening, what it will be like, how it will be done, and what their role will be. In other words, don’t plan to announce a major new process, procedure or application on a Friday afternoon and launch it on Monday morning. Ease them into it. Raise the heat slowly so it’s not such a shock to their systems.
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