Team of Advisors – Developing support while gaining input

Fill-in-the-Blank Advisory Board.   Library Advisory Board, Knowledge Management (KM) Advisory Board, Information Center Advisory Board. Call it what you will, an advisory board can prove a valuable asset.

In addition to providing valuable insights for the strategic and tactical direction of the information center or KM initiative, advisory board members can become advocates and ambassadors strategically positioned throughout the enterprise.

To assemble a powerful advisory board, begin with a charter defining the board’s purpose and the members’ responsibilities. The charter does not need to be long.  One page should suffice in most cases.  The following charter outline will get your team off to a strong start.

Sample Charter Outline

Knowledge Management Advisory Board June 10, 2014

Purpose/Mission Statement Tell how the board will relate to the chartering organization and what role they will play overall.  A mission statement might read:

The ABC Company Knowledge Management Advisory Board will advise the KM team regarding priorities and investments in content and services intended to support ABC Company knowledge workers.  KM Advisory Board members act as two-way conduits between users and the KM team to communicate needs and to act as ambassadors promoting awareness and use of products and services made available through the KM team.

Authority Describe the organizational relationship of the advisory board.  For example:

The KM Advisory Board is convened by the KM team which resides in corporate Research and Development.

Membership Strategic selection of board members yields many benefits. Consider appointing individuals within key partner departments, colleagues who have self identified as information gurus or problem solvers within their own teams, and champions for services and products provided by your team.  Be very clear about the process for becoming a member.  For instance:

Membership is by invitation.  The KM Advisory Board comprises 10-12 permanent employees of the company who have shown interest in using knowledge for the benefit of the organization. Members of the KM staff convene and participate in Advisory Board meetings but are not members of the Board.

Term of Office Select a finite term that suits the culture of your organization. In companies with high turnover and mobility, 12 -18 months may be all one can expect. Other situations may point to terms of two years or more.   You can always add language to permit longer terms, such as:

A term of office is 18 months.  This may be extended by mutual agreement.

Responsibilities Members need to know what is expected of them so that they can budget time and follow through on commitments.  This section should include reference to meeting times and durations along with typical topics or activities.  For example:

The KM Advisory Board members may expect to spend three or four hours a month on Board activities.  This will include 6-8 meetings per year each lasting approximately one hour.

Board members are responsible for:

  • Maintaining awareness of projects, initiatives, and priorities within their departments or teams that could impact products and services provided by KM
  • Providing input to the KM team regarding existing and potential KM products and services
  • Communicating KM related activities to their departments and teams

Budget Authority In most cases the Advisory Board is just that – advisory, having no authority to budget or spend.  Typically this is made clear enough by simply not granting authority in the charter.  In some cases it is better to make this explicit in order to remove all doubt.  In that case you could say something like:

The KM Advisory Board has no authority to budget, allocate, or spend funds.

Adoption Date For future reference, include the date that the Charter was adopted or amended and by whom.

Adopted by the ABC Company Knowledge Management Department on June 10, 2014.

Knowledge Worker Defined

The term “knowledge worker” comes from Peter Drucker, the highly respected business management expert who coined the term in the late 1950’s. The concept first Drucker_mgt challengescame to my attention when I read Drucker’s 1999 book titled Management Challenges for the 21st Century.   Some have said that knowledge workers include those who think for a living. The more inclusive definition Drucker offers in this book makes more sense to me.  He frames it in the context of subordinates vs. supervisors, noting that it’s more about what you know than where you fall in the organizational chart. “…knowledge workers are not subordinates; they are ‘associates.’  For, once beyond the apprentice stage, knowledge workers must know more about their job than their boss does – or else they are no good at all.  In fact, that they know more about their job than anybody else in the organization is part of the definition of knowledge workers.” Drucker says that knowledge workers are part of a system and their key resource is information. Using the term knowledge worker rather than employee reminds us how important knowledge assets are to the success of an enterprise.