On management read-in

Patrick Lambe’s blog post about getting management read-in is very timely for me.

Patrick discusses how we might tackle an organisational audit across information management, records management, and knowledge management. The usual response is to write a report, perhaps do a presentation to senior management after the report has been read, and then establish the level of buy-in and commitment to the proposed project. Often, these types of projects are couched in terms of managing risk, particularly in document and records management.

I am about to embark on a range of activities at work, and partly for the same reason: the first project is to develop a business case for records and document management (including an assessment of risk). In addition, I will be developing a knowledge management strategy, and my team will be undertaking a content inventory of the intranet site.

Now I happen to think that senior management buy-in actually comes before the “reading-in”, as Patrick calls the report-reading stage. The work leading up to the actual report is just as important as the report itself, and must include conversations and discussions with (and between) senior management and all stakeholders.

Conversation, as highlighted in this book I’ve just read by Patricia Shaw, is critical. Yet conversation is often underrated because somehow everyone thinks that the right conversations happen automatically!

Patrick rightly identifies the difficulty of getting the attention and comprehension from senior management for a project. Senior management often does not understand what the project is actually about. However, it is up to us to start the conversation with these people as early as possible, defining the purpose and using appropriate language to enhance understanding. And sometimes, these senior managers may not even realise that the conversation they are having with you is actually more than just an informal chat.

If you can achieve that, your report will have a much better chance of getting both read-in and buy-in.


6 responses to “On management read-in

  1. Hi Brad

    Yes, you’re absolutely right about this, especially where your audit and strategy building activity requires access to all the right people. Your senior management team’s understanding and support is extremely valuable. But – as in all complex enterprises – this still doesn’t guarantee successful comprehension from senior managers. In the case I mentioned in my blog post, the senior management team had been responsible for identifying the need for an IM audit in the first place, they had been informed of its progress and broadly supported it. But they still couldn’t be bothered to read the final report, and took a partly politicised, and broadly superficial view of the findings. *Sigh*. I wish you better luck!

  2. Patrick,

    Thanks for your thoughts. It is important to realise that in the real world, the complex world, some people in senior management don’t understand. One way to help is to couch the discussion or conversation in language they understand or as a business problem they need fixing to either save money, make money, or enhance competitive advantage.

    Senior management may have preferred a powerpoint presentation or a cartoon that encapsulated the written report. Sometimes, a report looks too difficult to read. Sometimes though, some effort by senior management is important too!

    If they still don’t listen and fail to take an interest, it may be the timing is wrong (they have a focus on other priorities), or they don’t want to hear the message, often related to office politics!

    It is indeed extremely difficult to win over senior management if they have no interest in understanding a part of the business that needs strategic attention.

  3. Brad
    Ecellent post – this is an issue which is struggled with in every sector. If management don’t have the initial buy-in your hopes of success are limited. Your comment about informal chats is my way of getting a message across. Too often we concentrate on giving management loads of facts and figures and rationale for doing something – your get a much better impact using stories of incidents or issues which impact on the organisation.
    Last week I sat through a couple of very ‘dry’ presentations at the SLA conference – very factual and gave an appearance of objectivity. I could almost guarantee the audience won’t remember a single point from them. Those that used lots of stories really made an impact and had everyone talking afterwards.
    My team is currently putting together our end of program reports – we are doing both a written document (as required by our masters) and a video record of interviews and commentary with lots of stories to capture everything we did. I bet the video will be watched far more often than the report read.

  4. Nerida,

    Thanks for your comment. I know how effective the use of narrative has been for your work (and at SLA it seems). Long may it continue!


  5. I agree that narrative can be exploited far more than we typically do, and that we overly-decontextualise many matters for audiences including management audiences. However, some content is quite simply technical and stories won’t communicate what needs to be communicated. So I’m not sure we should be over-coddling our senior managers and pandering to their unwillingness to read stuff that’s important to their business, think about it at more than a superficial level, and come up with responsible decisions or guidance.

  6. Pingback: Brad Hinton on knowledge management measurement « Fredzimny’s CCCCC Blog

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