Yet again, Mary Abraham has hit the target. In a blog post earlier in the week, “Off-Route, Recalculate”, she uses satellite navigation as a metaphor for planning KM activities.
As we plan and carry out our knowledge management efforts, it can be difficult to identify the correct route. And, it can be unpleasant to be informed that we’re off-route and need to recalculate. Many of us have taken the current economic situation as a call to recalculate our routes. Unfortunately, given the extent of the economic turmoil, it can be hard to identify our alternatives and most of us are all too conscious of the pressure on us to get the route right. Further, few of us have knowledge management GPS. So what should we do?
I was intrigued by the GPS system that Mary described at the beginning of her post. It sounded very bossy, and not at all like the one in my own car. As I put it in a comment on Mary’s blog (the “she” described is the voice of the satnav system):
For me, she is very good at applying all the information that she has (and I don’t) about the road network (and some other points of interest) to help me get to the destination I specify. Occasionally I make a detour along the agreed route, but she is very amenable to finding a new way to get to the final destination. She also has an array of different ways to show the key information that I need, but she doesn’t force me to choose any particular one of them (I can even see two different views at once if I want). Ultimately, her goal and mine are the same — to reach the specified destination. Otherwise, she is happy to respect the decisions I make about the position of the steering wheel.
Sometimes, I need to change the intended destination. That is easily done, and all previous instructions are put aside without rancour. Her role, after all, is to support me in achieving my objectives.
Mary responded, “It sounds like your GPS ‘person’ is a bit more competent than the one I met in my friend’s car last weekend. After being presented with several unattractive route alternatives during the trip, my friend actually turned her GPS off in frustration.”
This conversation made me think about extending the metaphor in a slightly different direction. As lawyers, we can be compared to navigation assistance for clients. They are the ones who specify the ultimate destination, and lawyers (together with other advisors) suggest different routes to get there, and keep things on track if diversions are made (whether those diversions are necessary or frivolous). Within law firms, those supporting KM and other internal activities need to adopt a similar role. Admittedly, our advisory role can be very different from that of a GPS system — we can influence the decision about the destination itself as well as the route taken to get there — but ultimately we have to respect the client’s choice of destination. This means that our advice should not be tainted by regret that a different destination was not chosen or that the business prefers to use back-roads rather than pay the tolls on the autostrade.
Like all metaphors, this one shouldn’t be pushed too far, but at its heart I think there is an element of truth. It is also worth remembering when you find yourself in the position of being a client. To what extent are you being led to a destination that isn’t quite where you wanted to be, or taken along a route that is not really the way you wanted to go?