A Knowledge Management Feel Good Story

In case the summer doldrums have hit you and you aren’t about to leave on vacation, here’s a story that will give you a mental break and, hopefully, encouragement about knowledge management.  Stan Garfield’s Weekly Knowledge Management Blog featured a post by Chuck Hollis regarding KM at General Electric.  In his blog, A Journey in Social Media, he tells the impressive story of GE’s SupportCentral, which one commenter described as GE’s best-kept secret.  This effort, begun in 1999 before most of us were aware of the possibilities of social media, appears to have reached a level of maturity that most knowledge managers can only hope for in their KM efforts.  For example:

– GE employees use SupportCentral more than they use Google and Yahoo (combined) at work.
– The folks that keep SupportCentral fed and watered innovate constantly, dropping new code every two weeks.
Chuck Hollis goes on to describe some of the features SupportCentral offers:
“Yes, they do the blogging, wiki, discussion thing — that’s just for starters.

We debate on ideal SM models occasionally — people-centric, community-centric, discussion-centric, document-centric, process-centric, etc.
They had support for every one of these models — seamlessly integrated.  People can engage in any mode that makes sense to them.  As one example, personal workspace content can be part of a community, discussion, process, etc.

Presence?  Just part of the environment, thanks.  They described themselves in a “post-email world”.  Nice.

Mashups?  Deployed for quite a while, thanks — all corporate repositories could easily be accessed.  They’d lost count of the umpteen thousand mashups people had created.

What really blew me away was their integration of process tools.  Business processes can be defined by anyone, refined by anyone, instantiated by anyone, measured by anyone.  As a result, they could count 50,000 different business processes that were captured on the platform in some form or another.”

But here’s the best part — the part you should really pay attention to when considering the implications of GE’s experience for your organization.  Here is what Chuck Hollis believes SupportCentral proves about KM conventional wisdom:

“First, it clearly isn’t a generational thing.  If you’re of this view, I now have documented proof that you’re dead wrong.  Score one for my generation’s ability to adopt new ways of working.

Second, traditional corporate cultures can’t change.  If there was any corporate culture more button-downed than GE’s, I’d like to see it.  And it now appears to be completely transformed around social computing.

Third, the assumption that this has to be a top-down mandate.  Sure, Mark and his team are pretty senior, but they had to do this the hard way — by convincing hundreds of thousands of people that this was a better way to work.

Fourth, that business justification is impossible.  GE’s culture is all about hard savings, and documented value.  They routinely discredit soft justification.  And they have been convinced in a big way — and for quite a while.

Fifth, that social media is incompatible with business concerns.  Their environment is pretty much business-oriented.  There’s not a lot of “social” going on the platform — and it works very well, thank you.”

This is something to come back to again and again.  What would it take to replicate GE’s experience in your law firm’s knowledge management program?


9 thoughts on “A Knowledge Management Feel Good Story

  1. Thanks for writing this, I was inspired and shared it via delicious, google reader, and my blog. Really, I keep coming back to this one!

  2. Thanks for letting me know your reaction to this. So much of knowledge management blogging seems to be about hurdles and problems. It’s great to have at least one recent example of knowledge management working well. — Mary

  3. Hi I think your post Knowledge Management Feel Good Story | Above and Beyond KM is really great. Hope some another good post to read on this blog in the future. Take care.

  4. Good work! Thank you!
    I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site?
    Of course, I will add backlink?

    Regards, Timur Alhimenkov

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I must admit I’m puzzled since I use Mozilla to write the blog and it looks fine. Can you tell me what exactly is wrong?

      – Mary

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