Some law firm knowledge managers gathered recently to consider the ways in which knowledge management actually makes a difference for law firms. We undertook this exercise as a means of identifying what our KM priorities were and what they should be. To help focus our discussion, we considered the following question:
What single thing does your KM department do that has the greatest impact on your firm.
(This question came out of an earlier blog post and discussion on KM priorities using the guideline If you were the only KM person in your firm, what would be your primary mission?) Here is what some of the members of the group said they were doing now:
- Being the firm’s institutional memory
- Breaking down information silos
- Facilitating information retrieval
- Maintaining the firm’s knowledge bank
- Sharing best practices
- Expanding adoption of KM systems
- Enabling collaboration
- Providing business process vision and leadership
- Enabling innovation and change
What I found interesting about this list is that the various missions appeared to fall into two categories: Information Management (items 1-6) and Firm Management (items 7-9). Further, I left the discussion with the distinct sense that the knowledge managers engaged in Firm Management rather than Information Management were generally more optimistic about the impact and future of KM in their firms.
What is your KM priority? If you could do only one thing for your firm, what would it be? Does it reflect a focus on Information Management or Firm Management? Is that focus sensible and durable given what we know about basic KM principles? And do you think that focus will weather the current economic uncertainties?
Now, taking inspiration from the image of concentric circles above, what mission or project would you add to your portfolio if you could hire one more person? What would they do? And, what if you could hire yet another? What would they do? By building out incrementally in this fashion, you should end up with a more considered, coherent and powerful approach to KM in your firm. Start with what you’ve identified as the number one KM priority for your firm and then expand as circumstances warrant and resources permit.
The key to this approach is have at the core of your KM program a project or mission that delivers maximum positive long-term impact to the firm. And then, to have the discipline not to dilute that impact by cluttering your KM program with projects and personnel that fail to deliver the same or greater impact.
[Photo Credit: fangleman]