by Jerry Ash

All the Right Stories

Jun 12, 20072 mins
Enterprise Applications

This case study is, in itself, a wonderful example of the power of storytelling. Because its not the right story.

Knowledge management has been plagued in its infancy with all the wrong stories, often promoting an off-the-shelf tech solutionleading to disappointment and skepticism about the value of KM.

Not so at CNA.

A KM strategy is, foremost, a solution that should change the way we are organized and the way we work. The beauty of the CNA story is the prologuea shift in direction that required a dramatic change in corporate structure, employee responsibilities and working relationships. That’s exactly what needs to precede knowledge software solutions.

It is particularly significant that CNA created a CKO position and a KM staff to show executive commitment and establish accountability. Just as significant, the new office was placed in corporate developmentnot IT or HR.

There is a growing defeatist attitude among influential KM advocates that the knowledge movement should go underground because eyes glaze over or even harden when the elusive term knowledge management is heard. This tactic calls for stealth under assumed identity and behind the doors of other functions.

Not so at CNA.

The KM initiative is up front at CNA with the right label (KM) because it is a corporate strategy of change management to accumulate, create and share corporate and human knowledge across the board. Without that perspective, a KM project is at high risk of losing focus, momentum and identity.

Yet, KM is an up-down strategysupported by the top but powered by individuals throughout the organization. People must be convinced of WIIFM (what’s in it for me) as well as corporate objectives. CNA’s KM Road Show is a perfect tactic to develop both the stories and a network of storytellers.

Be sure, though, that it’s “truth telling.” Disingenuous, fabricated or doctored stories that obviously serve the self-interests of the organization can do more harm than good.

The CNA story, however, is right on and worth telling again and again.


Jerry Ash is founder and chief executive of the Association of Knowledgework, a Web-based group composed of people from 90 countries who are engaged in KM. He can be reached at