For knowledge services managers dealing with enterprise-wide knowledge strategy, the newest issue of the McKinsey Quarterly Monthly Newsletter is an attention-grabber.
[Note: you need to register to read the complete issue. Registration directions should come up when you first open the link.]
Here’s how the authors get our attention:
“Do you really have a strategy—crisp thinking about how to concentrate your resources to gain a competitive edge?”
Like that definition? It’s informal, but doesn’t it capture what we’re trying to do, as we try to link the organizational knowledge strategy to corporate business strategy?
Three articles are included in this newsletter “package” and I’m finding it a good exercise to re-focus the ideas presented here – relating to the topic of strategy in general – to our work with KM, knowledge services, and the implementation of knowledge strategy within the larger organization.
For example, the first article asks: “Have you tested your strategy lately?” The article then provides ten “test questions” for organizational thought leaders. And then it offers us an even more succinct definition: “Ultimately, strategy is a way of thinking, not a procedural exercise or a set of frameworks.”
For me, this definition connects to probably the most critical challenge we face in the knowledge strategy development process, or in re-developing or implementing a corporate knowledge strategy that’s already in place. It’s this: for many knowledge workers, there is a tendency to think of knowledge strategy as something like a checklist, a collection of tasks to be accomplished or a set of applications to be incorporated into the larger corporate KM/knowledge services structure.
Nope. That doesn’t work. Knowledge strategy is not just a checklist; it’s a corporate-wide culture that links knowledge sharing and the corporate mission, the organization’s business strategy. The questions posed in this first article are a good place to begin as we think about “testing” our knowledge strategy.
So I’m impressed with the approach the authors of this McKinsey article (Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt, and Sven Smit) take. Referring to their statement that strategy is a way of thinking, they write: “To stimulate that thinking and the dialogue that goes along with it, we developed a set of tests aimed at helping executives assess the strength of their strategies. We focused on testing the strategy itself (in other words, the output of the strategy-development process), rather than the frameworks, tools, and approaches that generate strategies, for two reasons. First, companies develop strategy in many different ways, often idiosyncratic to their organizations, people, and markets. Second, many strategies emerge over time rather than from a process of deliberate formulation.”
Well said. So what we have here is a useful – and very pragmatic – approach for thinking about knowledge strategy, and I’m going to be playing around with these “tests” for some time. Additional comments and questions are most definitely welcome, and I look forward to hearing how other knowledge managers (and their corporate leaders) might respond to the questions raised in these McKinsey articles.
- Guy St. Clair