Developing a KM Strategy

I recently celebrated five years working in a law library. I graduated with my library technician diploma eight years ago, and yet I still feel new to the library world. I think part of the reason for that is I have a relentless curiosity about everything, so I’m always asking questions. My latest wonderings today are about Knowledge Management

My knowledge of Knowledge Management is self-taught; what I’ve read on blogs and white papers, and what I’ve gleaned in conversations with KM practitioners. I’ve been thinking about it a lot more lately, since I recently left one firm to join another. I tried to leave notes wherever possible, but of course, a lot of my knowledge didn’t get left behind. And in my new firm, there are areas where I have to start from scratch as well, even though the previous librarian did a much better job of leaving a trail than I did.

There isn’t anyone taking on a KM role in my new firm, so I thought I would try to develop it. I’ve been trying to get my head around knowledge management as a discipline. While browsing through my rss feeds, I see that I’m not the only one trying to understand and implement this concept. A guest post on 3 Geeks and a law blog (KM: The Big Room by Ryan McLead) posed the same question. Fortunately, I also came across Guy St. Clair’s series of blog posts on how to introduce KM into an organization. So I have a few places to start.

As with all new projects, the first thing to determine is what I want to achieve. In simple terms, I want to leave a roadmap of my work so that if I’m hit by that proverbial bus, someone can step in and take over without a huge delay. Applying it overall to the firm, I’d like for anyone to be able to access and retrieve anyone else’s work product. This is where a document management system would come in very handy. A controlled vocabulary is a must as well. I can see that just getting started is going to be a challenge!

I know that KM is more than a technology solution, but I’m not quite sure what else to include. I will be reviewing Guy’s posts very closely, as well as other blogs on KM. Please feel free to offer any other suggestions for developing a KM strategy in the comments.

Additional Resources:

Mary Abraham’s Above and Beyond KM

ILTA KM blog

Once Were Lawyers (Ryan McLead’s follow-up post)


  1. Hi Karen,

    I would highly recommend doing a course in KM, and checking out any texts you can get your hands on. In my experience and studies, KM is to say the least, it is a whole other profession in lots of corporate organisations. I have been working steadily on a KM committee for over 4 years….it’s been a long journey because alot of us are working on it together with juggling our other responsibilities, we have been waiting for IT projects to roll out and we have been working on management. KM is a big picture approach, but the key is creating small bit size projects to achieve realistic wins. As you say you are looking at your own trail and you have thought about the rest of the organisation – start here, map out the organisation and the groups. Take a knowledge audit – what knowledge are different groups creating, how do they capture that, share that, how do they store it, how can it be leveraged – that is just the physical stuff, what about the tacit knowledge. We have created pilot groups to assess their physical knowledge so documents and materials they think are useful and want to keep, share and collaborate on. We have been lucky that some have approached us, but it has also involved us talking more with people in the organisation to learn what they do and create and how they currently store knowledge. The pilot groups have been required to nominate a knowledge champion who is the contact for the group. They motivate other groups members to share knowledge and nominate knowledge for capture, storage and leverage. They facilitate this to the knowledge team. We have been building a KM system to capture, store and leverage the knowledge. This has required designing the search function, policies around protecting confidential information, the taxonomy, promotion form, metadata. Additionally we are designing training materials and looking at ways to introduce KM into the firm….of course maintaining the momentum is the next stage as well as capturing tacit knowledge. We have had to work collaboratively with Human Resources to integrate KM as a recognised organisational firm and embedd this into the performance appraisal process to give KM weight and ensure there is uptake from staff at this level to contribute to organisational knowledge building. We have recently implemented Yammer as a means of encouraging collaboration in an online environment and give people an informal idea and trail of how this can operate and create opportunities for knowledge sharing. It is a start for us, but it is definately big, and we are only trialing KM to present a case to management about what it is and how it works for people before we can think bigger. I hope this might help give you an example of how a KM initiative. kind regards, Cindy.

  2. Karen–

    Thank you for the link to the ILTA KM Blog. One of the scheduled upcoming posts concerns starting a KM program, stay tuned!

    The current post reviews a new and excellent book by the APQC, The New Edge in Knowledge, which I highly recommend for those starting to think about enterprise KM in terms of the value to the business, to first questions about what the knowledge needs of the organization are as a means for obtaining buy-in and for more effective execution.

    For instance, you outline two worthy goals:

    I want to leave a roadmap of my work so that if I’m hit by that proverbial bus, someone can step in and take over without a huge delay. Applying it overall to the firm, I’d like for anyone to be able to access and retrieve anyone else’s work product.

    The first of these lays out a project with explicit business value–which I would characterize as having an organizational system or approach that allows for effective succession for the next person to take your role without losing too much implicit knowledge (the business value is risk reduction).

    The second does not have that explicit value laid out (I don’t dispute that this is an excellent project, of course). It bears thinking, what are the benefits of having a system that would let your firm retrieve other’s work product? What are the current processes and inefficiencies that results from that lack? Can we measure that? Etc. etc.

    I like that you are being open, public even, about your KM strategy needs (not surprising in a slaw columnist!). I think “working out loud” in this fashion is a great way to obtain input, and I hope you will continue to post about your progress.

    David Hobbie

  3. Karen Sawatzky

    Thanks David – that gives me a good starting point.

  4. Bonjour Karen!

    Since you opened the door:

    Please feel free to offer any other suggestions for developing a KM strategy

    …I thought you might enjoy seeing these posts on Knowledge Mangement and Information Management. In 2004-2005, I was struggling with the differentiation between these related disciplines and I found that it made my conversations difficult with my organizations stakeholders, because everyone imported different meanings to these two disciplines.

    Good luck and have fun,

    Patrick Cormier
    Canadian Centre for Court Technology

  5. Karen Sawatzky

    Thanks everyone for your comments! I have some good direction to follow up on. David, I purchased the book you recommended. Patrick, I will review your posts. I have to keep in mind this is a fairly long term project!