Changing one mind at a time: Influencing behaviour in legal KM projects

Together with co-author Shimrit Janes we published an article in the Ark Group’s latest publication called Legal Knowledge Management: Insights and Practice (link to the TOC and a sample). The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.

Examples of truly effective KM programmes in the legal sector can be difficult to find. Challenges such as securing budget, engaging leadership and employees in the necessary change process and influencing their behaviour can all stand in the way of a succesful project. The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but ultimately zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.


Changing behaviours

Change is hard. The ‘9x effect’ states that people tend to weigh the benefits of something new by a factor of three, and equally also overweigh the cost of what they have learned by a factor of three. Thus, something new needs to be nine times more appealing than the status quo. Whilst the ‘9x effect’ is more a rule of thumb than hard science, it is a useful story for illustrating why overseeing a change project can be so hard.

We should be under no illusion; implementing new social tools within a KM programme requires change. This is not just because of new interfaces and functionality. More importantly, they break with long-learned behaviour patterns in the enterprise. In order to be valuable to the firm and its people, these technologies require its users to share instead of hoard their knowledge; ‘work out loud’ instead of either alone or within their confined team; to trust and be open instead of control and being secretive; and to actively build their own reputation, instead of passively relying on their manager to choose them for promotion.

The Influencer Framework

There are two fundamental elements that impact the probability of someone changing their behaviour: motivation and ability. Simply having the motivation to change does not mean you have the ability to do so, and vice versa. Consequently, both elements need to be considered in equal amount when trying to influence people to change.

This logic lies at the heart of a framework developed by Patterson et al. called ‘The Influencer Framework’. It can be used in any situation and context in which encouraging change is necessary. It is not, however, a change management model in and of itself. Rather, the framework can be appliedto different elements of a wider change management programme, for example to communication promotion, education and coaching, and technology selection. The framework identifies six sources of influence as shown in Table 1.

[table id=1 /]

Table 1: An adapted version of The Influencer Framework

From knowledge management to knowledge networking

This presentation, given at the Legal KM Conference in London in May 2013, talks about these changes and challenges of introducing an enterprise social network in a professional (legal) environment and particular workstreams of a change acceleration programme.

In the past, knowledge was treated as just another company asset, that could be captured, stored and retrieved in a big warehouse. The role of knowledge management was to ‘manage’ knowledge. This is still important for certain knowledge, but most of our knowledge is inherently attached to people. Thus, Rather than desperately trying to connect employees with some KM system, it is even more important to connect people with each other. Therefore, the role of a knowledge manager has all of a sudden become even more interesting by thinking of ways to enable employees to connect with others inside and outside the company. The introduction of an enterprise social network is only one aspect to facilitate these connections.

Introduction of social tools in the enterprise

We just published an article (in German) in the Community of Knowledge called ‘Einführung von sozialen Technologien im Unternehmen – Erfolgsfaktor Mensch‘. It looks at a variety of barriers to introducing social tools in the enterprise and presents strategies on how to overcome them. In particular, it focuses on how human behaviour can be influenced to overcome the stated barriers.


Today, there is hardly a company that has not already experimented with social technologies. The high expectations, however, have only been met in very few cases. Will this new software category suffer the same fate as the first generation of knowledge management tools? Disillusionment is spreading, but also the realization that the introduction of social technologies is not a typical IT project and that this is not a sprint but a long process.


To be successful and economically viable social technologies require nothing less than a new form of organization – the networked enterprise. Depending on the size of the company the cultural and organizational change, however, tend to be extremely difficult, costly and above all very tedious. On the other hand, large companies can benefit most from using social technologies because of network effects.

For managers of initiatives tasked with the introduction of social technologies, this results in a dilemma. The success of their initiative depends not only on technology, but depend even more on employees and organizational factors. See diagram below:

Diagram: Corporate struture and culture can only be influenced indirectly, yet are very important for the introduction of social technologies



© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz