I know what I mean . . . Don't you?

By Art Schlussel posted 05-10-2010 11:22


Recently, I asked a question on a KM forum asking for examples of best practices for collecting and processing requirements for a KM tool implementation. I thought I phrased my request in a clear and precise way, and was looking forward to receiving numerous examples of processes for accomplishing this task. I did get back great feedback; unfortunately none of it really answered the mail. Instead of receiving "plans of action" I received all kinds of good advice on ways one can go about collecting requirements. I realized that perhaps I knew what I was talking about, asking for, and hoping to receive, but my communication was not as clear as I thought it was. Another thought crossed my mind. That perhaps all I can expect to receive are generalizations and tips, not concrete plans and detailed answers. So I pondered both thoughts.

The first thought - I know what I am asking, but do not articulate it clearly enough for you to understand what I am hoping to receive. This is a tough one. It is difficult to write a short and concise question that provides the reader enough context and understanding to assist them in framing their answer in a manner that truly helps me. This is compounded by the fact that perhaps I do not know what I want in return and hope that someone out there is smart enough to provide me what I am looking for. Over time I hope to get better at writing and framing my questions. I will try to do a better job in describing what I want. Here is what I intend to do:

  • Clearly and concisely state my problem or dilemma
  • State any known constraints or qualifiers
  • Describe the type of feedback I am seeking such as advice, recommendations, examples, processes, checklists, or connections to people or places that may be able to assist me
  • Let it be known that I will share my solution and outcome with the group so it can be learned and reused

The second thought - that perhaps all I can expect are generalizations and tips. I think this is a good going in position. Perhaps I need to adjust my own expectations that a specific answer to my specific question exists within the group. Perhaps I need to realize that even if the answer is out there, can I really expect someone to provide it for "free" in a simple forum response? Obviously there is value in the answer and just maybe an actionable response with clear direction has to be "paid for" in some way. I know that sometimes I think about that myself when I decide to respond to a forum question. Should I give away my IC for the greater good, or should this be a consulting engagement? I suppose it depends on who asks and what the forum is. If it is a company community of practice then perhaps I do benefit in some way if I contribute to the bottom line by providing good advice. However, if it is a more social/professional forum like one on LinkedIn perhaps I can provide a taste and have the person want to come back for more (at a price). 

But no matter the venue I still need to really try to hone my communications skills in this area. This can make the difference in finding that one nugget of information that can make my life easier. At a minimum you will know what I am asking for. Then you can choose to respond or not.

#implementation #knowledge #KM #communication