What could a Knowledge Stewardship team look like? Consider the foundational elements below from which a scenario is then briefly sketched. The new model may only be achieved over the course of a few years through multiple step wise iterations.
Managing organizational knowledge for improved outcomes is a multi-faceted endeavor. Each facet requires attention, resources, strategy, and talented people. The facets combine into a mysterious whole. Under-resourced facets mar the entire knowledge stewardship (aka knowledge management (KM)) enterprise. Achieving desired outcomes requires balancing attention to each facet and regular evaluation and course correction.
Embracing the reality of a many-faceted ecosystem necessarily means disabusing teammates of a factory-like environment, where raw supplies enter the back of the factory and emerge from the attached storefront as a complete, perfect product. The false narrative of a linear process is instead replaced by the reality of multiple loops and repeating, iterative processes.
Individuals sit at the heart of the knowledge stewardship ecosystem. These people seek information for decision-making and achieving desired outcomes. People are individuals and manifest their personalities and learning strategies in myriad activities and communication practices. Yes, sometimes people are illogical and inconsistent.
Placing humans at the center of the knowledge stewardship endeavor requires knowledge stewardship leaders to return often to the Who, Why, and How questions of designing a knowledge stewardship system for people first. The system serves the people; people should not be contorted into a rigid system.
Top Line: know the customers. Seek to understand dreams, needs, desires, foibles, opportunities, aspirations.
Information Sharing Culture
People express themselves through routines and rhythms as they navigate the knowledge ecosystem. The organizational culture of information sharing is a rich, messy, and morphing environment. Effective knowledge stewardship leaders possess humble curiosity while seeking to understand an existing information-sharing culture and collaboratively shaping the information-sharing culture into some strategic, desired future state.
Habits, routines, and practices pull and distort attempts at process improvement with significant gravitational force. Process and policies are engulfed by cultural practices.
Technology Stack + Process
Yes, a fit-for-purpose technology stack is vital to success. The hardware, software, settings, and algorithms are significant infrastructure components for sharing knowledge. Yet, the tech is only one facet. Too often tech consumes and inordinate proportion of institutional resources: mental energy, money, personnel.
People use the tech tools, so the tools need to be designed with the humans in mind. In the sequence of a well-designed KM ecosystem, the human need is addressed before proposed tech solutions.
Data and Information
Moving through the KM ecosystem are various information assets. The information weaves into the people, culture, and tech. Quality, accurate, robust, actionable, available, responsible, cost-effective are a few necessary attributes of the information in the system.
In addition to the facets identified above, a set of principles also inform the proposed organizational aspirations below. A set of principles are simply listed here:
- Customer Needs Are Central
- Audience-Centric Communications
- Institutional Knowledge Retention
- Open by Default
- Intentional Reflection
- Culture Change
Multi-Lingual Dream Team
Consider the following structural scenario for a multi-lingual (multi-disciplinary) Knowledge Stewardship Team (also see the Provocative Sidebar below).
Two Co-Chief Knowledge Stewards report to the CEO, with one an expert in the People and Information Sharing Culture facets; and the other an expert in Technology Stack + Process and Data and Information. Of course, both Co-Chiefs will possess cross-functional skills in the other two facets.
3-7 Knowledge Stewards, with each member holding multiple skills across the facets. Such a scenario results in a truly multi-disciplinary and agile team.
The team's purpose is to steward institutional knowledge across all functional units of the organization, attending to people, process, technology, and culture (governance). The team has the authority to speak with all organizational units and is likely to engage in agile, experimental activities for quick learning.
Skills by Facet
- Human learning and development, child development
- Stakeholder engagement, community development, group facilitation
- Deep listening, social awareness, continuous learning, change management
- International development
- Theology and philosophy of poverty and development
- Information Sharing Culture
- Communications, writing, speech writing, presentation
- Instructional design
- Graphic design
- Design thinking
- User-centered design, user interface, user experience
- Video and audio production
- Technology Stack + Process
- Information technology
- Strategy development
- Project management
- Data and Information
- Information organization, knowledge management
- Artificial intelligence
- Monitoring & Evaluation
- Data science, business intelligence
- Statistical analysis
General Team Characteristics:
- Diverse: age, experience, creative bents, analytical tendencies, ethnicity, first language, gender
Instead of two (or one) Chiefs, the multi-disciplinary, agile team behaves as a symbiotic unit with shared leadership and responsibilities. All manage, coach, decide together.
For engagements or meetings where only one person is invited, the team decides who represents. The representative will change over time. During any given interaction, the representative is not considered “the manager” or the “team lead.”