If you don’t have a plan for having dedicated KCS℠ program management, we won’t lead a KCS Design Workshop for you. (With regret.) You’ll be wasting your money and our time. Our fourteen years of doing this have taught us a few things about what works and what doesn’t. A dedicated KCS Program Manager works; spreading the responsibility among a group of managers who all have full time jobs doesn’t.
Now, there are exceptions. If you have fewer than fifty support professionals, maybe you can get by without. On the flip side, once you roll the program out to more than three hundred professionals, you probably need a team. But at least start with a dedicated PM.
Why? Why can’t we just add KCS into front line managers’ responsibilities? Our observations are that there are several reasons this doesn’t work:
- The tyranny of the urgent. War rooms. Growing backlogs. Missed service levels. Support organizations are pressure cookers. (My blood pressure went up just a little as I typed those sentences.) Workers and managers have their hands full dealing with the day-to-day; it’s too much to ask them to remember to work strategically, too, without a PM to help them.
- Cat herding. When you’re planning and evolving your KCS deployment, it’s relatively easy to define processes in a room by yourself. It’s harder to get input from all the people who are doing the work. But as the Adoption Guide says, it’s essential that the people doing the work are the ones designing the processes—they know what will work for them, and if they own the design, they’re more likely to own the results. Pulling adoption sub-teams together takes real coordination and effort.
- Supporting managers and coaches with metrics. In nearly every KCS implementation we’ve seen, it’s surprisingly hard to get managers and KCS coaches the measures they need to help them work with their teams. And, once coaches and managers have the right metrics, they often need help interpreting them properly, and not setting goals on activities.
The bottom line is that a successful KCS program just seems to require someone who walks into the office thinking about KCS and leaves for home at night thinking about KCS.
Where Do You Find a KCS Program Manager?
We’ve seen two types of people step easily into the KCS Program Manager role, and one type that struggles.
Support managers who have a passion for KCS and credibility in their own organizations can become especially effective PMs. They understand what life is like in the trenches. They tend to be detail oriented already. Provided a little structure for program management, they’re off and running quickly. And, they’re often excited about the move to a more strategic role.
Professional program managers (who often work in a PMO) have experience in coordinating activities, getting things done, and leading change. If they get sufficient training in KCS, and are diligent about using materials like the Practices Guide and the Adoption Guide, they can also become effective quickly.
The people who have more of a struggle are content developers or knowledge engineers. It’s tempting to make them the KCS PM; after all, they’re already dedicated full-time to a knowledge role. And some of them do wonderfully. But the shift from doing centralized knowledge creation to enabling distributed knowledge work is profound. Many communications professionals are more comfortable working on structured tasks, by themselves, than doing change management across a large organization. Holding their own writing to high quality standards, they often find the KCS concept of “sufficient to solve” difficult. So, consider carefully before automatically slotting someone like this into the KCS PM role.