December 3, 2008

Chasing a Moving Target

When I first began talking years ago about the need to consider more than technology when implementing a knowledge management program, it seemed like a good start to have my technophile friends concede that there just might possibly be elements of user behavior, business process and corporate culture that could have an impact on their roll-out of a cool new tech toy. Now, however, it's time we thought in more granular terms about corporate culture.

In a recent post on culture and knowledge management, Carl Frappaolo reminds us that culture is not static. Like many things in life, it responds and adapts to stimulus in its environment. He takes the example of current economic conditions and the impact they are having on previously happy-go-lucky Millennials who had been approaching life quite optimistically based on their relatively adversity free existence to date. Suddenly, they can't find jobs and their outlook on life changes. And, as that outlook changes, the culture of their generation changes.

Similarly, corporate culture changes as it reacts to its environment. Here's how Carl describes that process:
...the culture of a corporation can change, can move backwards if you will, if serious underlying conditions of an organization change. A culture thriving in “self actualization”, comprised of individuals that readily embrace knowledge sharing and social computing can see itself slip backwards, further down the evolution chain, should it be threatened or altered by radical change in profit, a poorly managed merger or acquisition, a change in leadership, or any such situation that alters the states of basic safety and stability.
Taking Carl's reminder to heart, it's not enough to assess your corporate culture early in your tenure and then treat it as a constant. Rather, you have to take regular readings. Are conditions around or inside your law firm shifting? Is the firm's culture shifting to respond? As we move from the years of plenty to the lean years, are people changing the way the way they work and the way they spend? Of course. So, how are you adapting your law firm knowledge management program to suit this cultural shift?

2 comments:

Carl said...

Mary:

First, thanks for referencing my blog post. Second and more importantly, great job on expounding on it. Yes, we KM converted get it - and have to keep pushing on those who do not recognize KM and/or see it through a single lens, be that technology or culture. Of these two, culture is the more difficult to stay on top of. Unlike changes in technology, changes in culture are typically not heralded with marketing programs and market studies. We have seen the legal profession change culture and practice due to changes in technology and client demand. These are a bit easier to spot and manage than changes from more internally focused issues. I sure hope you get some answers to the question you pose at the end of your post. Should provide some interesting commentary.

Mary Abraham said...

And thank you, Carl, for starting this conversation with a thought-provoking post.

Chances are that current economic conditions will impose even greater pressure on law firm organizational culture. It will be interesting to take a look in 12 months to see what has changed.

- Mary