For knowledge management to be successful, the organization must undergo some form of cultural change. In the same manner, developing and implementing a human capital strategy for an organization also involves change management. Bob Lewis, in his article "On-Demand Knowledge Management: A Two-Tier Architecture" in IT Professional (January/February 2002), refers to John Kotter's eight-step process for changing an organization's culture, as outlined in Kotter's book Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press, 1996):
Creating a sense of urgency
Establishing the guiding coalition
Developing a vision and strategy
Communicating the change vision
Empowering employees for broad-based action
Generating short-term wins
Consolidating gains and producing more change
Anchoring new approaches in the culture
Bob Lewis, the Director of Knowledge Management at Mitretek Systems in Virginia, feels that these steps (especially steps 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6) are important for knowledge management to be successful. He feels that the overall knowledge management plan must include a change management program that emphasizes collaboration and sharing. He further states that, traditionally, change management has been a separate initiative that precedes the knowledge management system's actual deployment. Such an approach, according to Lewis' experience, can delay deployment by more than a year. Lewis feels that the change management process should be incorporated into the knowledge management initiative so that both advance together.
Dr. Andy Macdonald, a former Comptroller General of Canada and the first Chief Information Officer for the federal governments of both Canada and Australia, feels that successful change management in the government requires a visible, senior champion, communication, and Kotter's principles, as listed above (http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/pe/changeman.htm). Steven Kelmen, a Harvard professor and former administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, in his article "Sowing Seeds of Change" (Government Executive Magazine, October 1, 2000), indicates that the challenge is to find features of the existing culture, even if they're not dominant, that can serve as a basis for reforms. Kelmen also cites research showing that the best path to attitude change often starts with behavioral change. Kelmen points out that a key advantage of government organizations over the private sector is that employees in public service have a strong sense of mission. This could be used to constitute a basis for reform.
In April 2002, the first Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) Summit for the Public Sector was held by TFPL, Inc. in Bath, England. Public sector CKOs gathered to discuss common areas of interest and the challenges they faced in knowledge management. One of the chief barriers to knowledge initiatives in the public sector was identified as "changing behaviors and culture." A key learning from the Summit was to focus on changing behavior, not culture. If behavior changes, culture change will follow. According to the Summit, within government there are some crossfunctional groups, but they tend to be independent, not connected together, and certainly not connected to policy-making. They really need to be connected.
According to the writings of Warren Bennis, Kenneth Benne, and Robert Chin, editors of The Planning of Change (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1969,) and the change management experience of Fred Nickols (http://home.att.net/~nickols/change.htm), there are four basic change management strategies as shown in the following table:
People are rational and will follow their self-interest, once it is revealed to them. Change is based on the communication of information and the proffering of incentives.
People are social beings and will adhere to cultural norms and values. Change is based on redefining and reinterpreting existing norms and values, and developing commitments to new ones.
People are basically compliant and will generally do what they are told or can be made to do. Change is based on the exercise of authority and the imposition of sanctions.
People oppose loss and disruption but they adapt readily to new circumstances. Change is based on building a new organization and gradually transferring people from the old one to the new one.
According to Nickols, a change management expert, an organization usually applies a mix of strategies as opposed to a single change strategy. Some of the factors to consider when determining the right mix are:
Degree of resistance
The time frame
If, for example, there is a short time frame, then a power-coercive strategy might be best.
Another important factor concerns the level of trust in the organization. For online communities to be successful, trust among the community members needs to be built and maintained. The effect of interorganizational trust on knowledge cooperation has been documented in a number of articles, including Vijay Khandelwal and Petter Gottschalk's 2003 paper titled "Information Technology Support for Interorganizational Knowledge Transfer: An Empirical Study of Law Firms in Norway and Australia" (Information Resources Management Journal, vol. 16, no. 1, Idea Group Publishing, January-March 2003).
How does change management and knowledge management relate to human capital strategy? In the October 2002 issue of HR Magazine, the cover story by Steve Bates is "Accounting for People: HR Strives to Measure the Value of Human Capital." In the article, David Norton (one of the founders of the Balanced Scorecard) indicates that people are looking for leading indicators of a company's success, and human capital investment is one of the best. People must be thought of as an asset, not an expense. Human capital measurement, empowered teams (as used at Dow Chemical), and clear communication of strategic directions are examples of important attributes that affect achieving the mission of an organization.
Dan Caterinicchia, in his article "Cultural Change Trumps Technology" in Federal Computer Week (January 7, 2002), states that government experts indicate that technology is important, but the key to making knowledge management programs work is changing an agency's business culture. According to John Cabral, director of the office of knowledge management at the U.S. State Department, and Bao Nguyen, chief of the Air Force's information and knowledge management division, culture change is the key to success.
Let's now take a look at NASA, a government agency that is a strong believer in change management.