Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tough Subject Matter Experts

As a follow up to our June 17th post about capturing subject matter expertise, we thought we should take a moment to address a subject we're always asked about and occasionally run into.

How do you approach subject matter experts that are less than willing participants in the process of gathering/documenting their knowledge? These folks are different from SMEs that find it difficult to articulate their knowledge. This group simply tends to obstruct the process, don't necessarily buy into the project, and as we often hear "are trying to protect their jobs."

The initial trite comment is that you don't need them. In our experience, it's often the people that are most difficult to deal with that a) possess something that really doesn't have that much organizational value or b) have created such convoluted processes or approaches that you'd be better starting from scratch once they're gone (this response is often met with the nodding approval of the project leader or executive sponsor who realizes "Joe the SME" is really a liability to the organization, much less a team player.)

The kinder gentler answer of course is that you need to apply a combination of carrot and stick. Here are few to consider.

Sticks (we're not a big fan)
-incorporating knowledge transfer into performance review objectives or goals
-heavy supervisor/management intervention-peer pressure (e.g. publishing KM project progress to all involved and highlighting constraints)

-Appeal to ego. Educating the SME on their role in the organization and leaving a legacy (most well intended people want their company to succeed in the short and in the long term).
-Appeal to laziness. A true SME is sought after frequently...to answer the same or similar questions over and over again...a well run capture project will reduce the amount of time SME spend answering questions.
-Financial or professional recognition. Everyone likes rewards, even non-monetary. Having some incentives in place for a KM project and as part of your project plan/budget can get more out of people
-Be reasonable and accurate in the time required from the SME. If you need more than 10-12 hours of their time over a couple of month period, you've lost them-Show them; involve them in the results of your effort. Most projects such as knowledge capture or process capture have very little near term gratification. Systems or projects that show incremental success and output have a far greater chance of convincing those involved that the project is worth the effort.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tweeting for Business

Having created my own Twitter account a couple of months ago, I still struggle with trying to determine the business value of tweeting. Although there are plenty of anecdotal examples of how Twitter can benefit a business those examples are the exception and not the norm. And as a result it seems difficult to envision a systematic adoption of tweeting in a business environment. That said, here is an interest blog page from blogger Chris Brogan titled 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business. They aren't use cases as much as they are things to consider. Check it out if your looking for an excuse to dive in.