Cindy Shamel, Shamel Information Services
How to convince your management to do a knowledge audit, but really about convincing them to do any project you think needs doing.
Bottom line upfront
* Know your executives: what do they value, what keeps them up at night, what are their motives
* Know your organization: what are the goals, what is the current strategy to meet those goals
* Be brief, be clear, and bottom line up front (BLUF)
* Be prepared to answer questions and consider alternatives
Diagnostic company: collecting competitive intelligence, but didn’t have a centralized system for tracking what they had. Need a knowlege audit. Did some benchmarking of competitors. Determined risks of what they were not doing.
Had 15 minutes with the executive committee. Outlined problem and best practices. They said yes.
In another case, she was called in to do a knowledge audit for an international hotel chain. Identify content and put it on a web platform. It turned out there wasn’t that much content. What employees really needed was access to other employees in the company. Had to convince management to change direction. Developed a three-year plan for knowledge management.
Be sure you know who is going to give the final yea or nay. It may be a committee or a key person. Be sure you address what they care about. At diagnositc comapny, nothing happened without CEO approval. At hotel chain, CEO delegated authority but wanted to be informed.
What is their chief concern? At the Navy, they were cocnerned about budget cuts, so saving money was important. She found out by asking people; they usually know. You can ask the administrative assistant of the decisionmaker. Ask your contact. Check public speeches and letters to stockholders.
You are not their chief concern. You need to get their attention. Immediately, point to a cost or benefit. Examples: our competitors introducted three new products while we introduced one; in the face of budget sequestration …
Or quote the decisionmaker him- or herself.
Project reassurance and speak with authority. Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right. This proposal will addreess risks and concerns.
In one project, Shamel offered to translate between a lieutenant and a para-librarian.
“I’ve seen things like this.” “We can fix this with best practices.” You’ve scared them, but you can fix it.
If the goals and objectives have already been set out for the year, say how your project will fit in.
Don’t concentrate on how your team may be overworked. Decisionmakers are focused on the big picture.
Use words from the mission statement or project plan.
Told the Navy they needed to keep spending money on databases, but they also had to hire a librarian to fix the problems. Even though it was going to cost more money, they were happy to know there was a solution.
Talk about the benefits, not the features. Help them envision: once this project is finished, this is how things are going to be better. Don’t say, “I’m going to collect the research documents into a database,” but “We’re going to meet the regulatory requirements to have the supporting documents.”
Other good things to say:
“We’re going to relieve information overload by delivering targeted news updates.”
Some places want a PowerPoint presentation. Some want a written report.
Keep it short, even sentences short.
Animations and music won’t impress executives. They’re thinking, “Why am I here and what do I need to know?”
Avoid jargon, acronyms.
The term “audit” may scare some people. Financial people may like it. You could call it a “Knowledge services study” or “Information access study,” etc.
Keep it short. Assume 15 minutes to make your point. You could have more slides or an appendix to your report, but don’t assume you’ll get to deliver it.
Hotel study: 6-month study summed up in 5 slides. This is what we came to do, this is what we found, this is what we recommend, this is what things will look like in 3 years.
Again, bottom line up front. They’ll be able to listen if they know where you’re going.
Expect the unexpected. Be prepared with back-up slides. Be prepared to shift gears, address objections. Listen to objections and be prepared to make adjustments.
Practice out loud with an audience. Practice answering questions.
Book chapter on knowledge audit:
Semper Gumby: always flexible.