Professionals trying to garner support for a Knowledge Management (KM) initiative within their team and/or organization are often asked by well-meaning colleagues and executives: “so what exactly is knowledge management?”
For all professionals seeking to make KM a priority within their organizations, being able to concisely articulate what KM is and the value that it brings is paramount. As such, a KM elevator pitch is an apt solution for those seeking to garner buy-in and excitement for KM within their organization, as it provides individuals with a shared understanding of KM, the organizational challenges it can address, and the business value it can provide. In this blog, I break down the key steps to create a successful KM elevator pitch that will help you to champion and gain momentum for KM initiatives at your own organization.
Definition of KM
An effective KM elevator pitch must include a definition of what encompasses KM. EK uses the following definition when it embarks on a KM Strategy engagement:
Knowledge Management (KM) involves the People, Processes, Culture, and enabling Technologies necessary to capture, manage, share, and find knowledge and create value from it. This covers a wide spectrum of tacit and explicit knowledge as well as structured data and unstructured content.
To incorporate KM into teams, workstreams, and/or on an enterprise scale, KM supporters must provide a definition that is concise, thorough, and customized for the specific needs of their organization. Asking the following scoping questions can help produce a more specific KM definition:
- What unique knowledge (i.e. tacit knowledge, information, data) do employees need to accomplish both daily work and the organization’s higher-level strategic plans?
- Are you defining knowledge management for the enterprise or for a specific department, function, or team?
- What is the organization’s unique knowledge in service of? What is it used for?
- What aspects of knowledge management are most important for your organization (i.e. finding, capturing, sharing, managing, storing, enhancing, etc.)?
Current organizational challenges as related to knowledge and information
With a definition of KM in mind for your organization, the next step is to identify and highlight those organizational challenges staff are experiencing as related to knowledge and information. When crafting a KM elevator pitch, professionals should specify whether their outlined challenges manifest within a particular team or department, or if the obstacles correlate to a chronic occurrence at the enterprise-level. Additionally, you should also consider who you need to sell KM to, and what will specifically resonate with them. The KM challenges that front line staff, managers, and executives each experience will be distinct from one another, based on their role-specific needs and responsibilities. Based on an understanding of your colleagues’ specific obstacles, it is possible to customize an elevator pitch to speak directly to their challenges and increase the likelihood of support and buy-in for KM projects. Possible challenges can include loss of institutional knowledge following employee departure or retirement, inconsistent conventions for naming and storing critical information, and time wasted in the search for reliable information.
KM business value statements
The most important step of a KM elevator pitch is tying the identified organizational challenges to business value statements that speak to how KM will provide tangible benefit to your organization. Business value statements about KM should be measurable (through different types of metrics) and aligned with enterprise-wide strategic goals to ensure buy-in. A possible business value statement could be: “Institutional knowledge is not lost when employees retire or leave the company because the organization has established processes to capture key information, ensuring operational effectiveness.” This business value statement incorporates the organizational challenge of tacit knowledge loss from employees’ departures and provides actionable KM solutions to combat it. With this comprehensive yet concise business value statement, the organizational stakeholder has seen the definition of KM applied in action (rather than through an isolated definition), an outlining of challenges, and a KM solution that can save the organization time and money and improve employee productivity.
Having considered how to define KM for your organization, along with associated challenges and opportunities for KM to provide tangible value, consider the following elevator pitch-specific “best practices” to ensure that you are as concise and powerful as possible:
- Utilize a “hook:” If you were to write a headline about what benefits KM could bring to your organization, what elements would you most want to capture? Part of the art of the KM elevator pitch is encapsulating the “aboutness” of KM while also addressing the question of “how can this help our organization” into an ultra-brief, understandable statement. News headlines are famous for not only their clever wordplay, but also their ability to simultaneously convey a message while drawing readers in. Your KM elevator pitch should do the same.
- Make it memorable: We’ve all been in a presentation that could use a bit of excitement – ensure that your elevator pitch doesn’t leave people with the same sentiment. Imagine your listener taking only one thing away from this brief interaction; what would that be? (Hint: Ideally, your listener should come away from your interaction with a baseline understanding of what KM entails and how it can help address your organization’s challenges.)
- Keep it short: As the name implies, your KM elevator pitch should coherently convey your message to your fellow elevator passenger before they exit for their floor (a time span of approximately 20 to 30 seconds). The success of your elevator pitch depends on your ability to keep it short and to the point.
The ability to concisely convey the basic elements and enduring importance of knowledge management can serve as your best marketing tool, costing virtually nothing but providing continual value. Every effective KM elevator pitch should include an applicable definition of KM as it relates to your organization, the challenges that it can mitigate, and the ways in which it provides specific business value for your enterprise. Want KM experts to help you craft your KM elevator pitch and champion KM across your organization? Connect with us here.