Have you ever tried to assemble furniture from IKEA? Everything is packed flat with a carefully crafted set of instructions and (usually) a single tool (the trusty Allen or hex wrench). The instructions are relatively simple. They lead you step-by-step through the assembly process. But the process itself isn’t easy. The instruction books are never one or two pages, but often are an entire booklet with dozens of steps. You need patience and determination to get through the steps (and perhaps an adult beverage or two after the assembly is complete).

Being an operational manager in an organization that has kicked off a knowledge-sharing program is a lot like building IKEA furniture. Knowledge-sharing practices are relatively simple (see our four moments of knowledge sharing), but sustaining them while they become part of how the team does its work isn’t easy. There are three critical things that operational managers can do to build knowledge sharing into the DNA of their organization.

  1. Practice knowledge sharing – As a manager, you need to practice knowledge sharing. You need to know how the tool works (or doesn’t). How much time it takes to write an article. How the process works from the initial need for knowledge (perhaps a question or a new project) to finding, improving and reusing knowledge. You need to understand how this changes the way your team works. You also have knowledge that no one else on your team has. Share it and demonstrate your commitment to the program.
  2. Stay the course – One of the most important responsibilities of an operational manager is to guide the team during times of crisis or change. There will be lots of opportunities for the team to lose focus: new product launches, service outages, organizational changes, significant new regulations, among many others. The operational manager can help the team stay focused on the importance of sharing knowledge. Even in times of crisis, sharing knowledge still can provide significant value to team members, partners and customers. Teams often claim that they don’t have enough time to find, reuse, enhance and create knowledge in times of crisis. The operational manager needs to sustain the team’s effort in the right direction.
  3. Address concerns – The operational manager will be the first to hear when there are grumblings of objections to the knowledge sharing program. There are a number of key objections that the operational manager needs to be aware of and have an answer to. Take a look at our posts on the “Hardest conversation in knowledge sharing” and “Handling objections” for answers to some of the most frequent objections. Operational managers can head off frustration and reinforce the benefits of knowledge-sharing practices.

So, has your knowledge-sharing program affected the way that your operational managers do their work? What are some of the key changes they have had to make?

We’ve put together a job description for a knowledge-sharing program manager that will also give you some insight into the responsibilities of an operational manager.

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