Don’t Let HiPPOs Define Your KM Strategy

Posted by Ron Aspe, CEO on 8/30/2016
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Originally Posted: 2/19/2016

A HiPPO is the “Highest Paid Person's Opinion.” Often HiPPOs are very wrong. Just ask BlackBerry and Nokia, two big name TELCOs with leaders who completely misread the smartphone market. Allowing the HiPPOs in your organization to have complete control of your KM strategy could result in similar consequences.

Heard this one before?

With much fanfare, an organization announces a KM initiative that will further organizational goals or provide a competitive advantage. Everyone is excited, resources are allocated and some progress is made. Then the wheels come off. What happened? It might be that the HiPPOs were ignored.

HiPPOs say they want KM: Think about it, who could say otherwise? After all, sharing knowledge is a good concept and has a lot of “feel good” values.

HiPPOs don't need KM: At their level, and with their specific roles, many HiPPOs already have the knowledge they need to be successful. HiPPOs may not even really want KM: They may feel threatened that sharing their knowledge will weaken their position. They may only be supporting the KM initiative to appease the Board, investors, or, in the case of a nonprofit, the funders.

Don’t worry, most HiPPOs genuinely want KM: And they need you, the valued KM practitioner, to bring their vision to life. Smart HiPPOs know KM can have both strategic and operational benefits. They have a holistic vision of their organization and know that better decisions are made if people are informed, and that new hires come up to speed twice as fast if they have access to the right information.

Keep the HiPPOs happy and build the KM solution your organization needs.

In the interesting Harvard Business Review article The Antidote to HiPPOs: Crowd Voting, author Karim R. Lakhani states, “Over the past 15 years, we have seen the emergence of an antidote to HiPPO-driven decision making: crowd voting… [which] integrates the expertise, knowledge, and perspectives of many more people … And it can vastly improve the chances that a strategic decision… will lead to success.”

Be more agile than a HiPPO!

So what does “crowd voting” mean in terms of building advocacy for a KM program? Well, you have to run a campaign before people feel qualified to support or “vote for” your efforts. Users will not adopt systems they haven’t seen and tried. Test all your ideas, procedures and tools with groups of interested users at each step of the way and make it fun.

Per author Lakhani, “Crowd funding is another form of crowd voting.” Every department within an enterprise can benefit from effective knowledge management. Include department heads in your agile KM program development process and show them how you can enable their success. If each department head allocates time, effort and budget to support the KM program - and then shares their excitement and some visible tangible results with their HiPPOs - you will avoid getting your project stuck in the mud.

HiPPOs may not need KM, but KM initiatives need HiPPOs:

HiPPOs who are convinced of the organizational benefits can offer the visible top level advocacy and role modeling that is required to spur adoption of KM procedures and tools. With careful grooming and regular feeding, they can be powerful allies.

Topics: Knowledge Management, HiPPOs, Leadership, Project Management

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