In his recent piece for KMWorld, What is KM? Knowledge Management Explained, Dr. Michael Koenig provides an excellent overview of the origins, goals and fundamentals of knowledge management. The article is useful for those new to KM, and also reminds seasoned practitioners of the discipline’s principles, stages of development and current status.
Per Dr. Koenig, “… Knowledge Management can best and most quickly be explained by recapping its origins.” In his article, he provides an overview of the discipline’s original principles and techniques, as well as describing its two major goals of:
- “Rich, Deep, and Open Communication
- Situational Awareness”
In additional to describing the goals of knowledge management, Dr. Koenig summarizes its operational components, including:
- Content Management
- Expertise Location
- Lessons Learned
- Communities of Practice (CoPs)
He then describes the stages of KM’s development, including:
- First Stage of KM: Information Technology
- Second Stage of KM: HR and Corporate Culture
- Third Stage of KM: Taxonomy and Content Management
Explicit, Tacit and Implicit Knowledge
In a section on current KM issues including “tacit knowledge;” Dr. Koenig expands its classic definition (‘knowledge in people’s heads”) into a “more nuanced categorization …explicit, implicit and tacit.” He asserts that implicit knowledge is more important within a KM environment than tacit: “What is often very extensive is the amount of implicit information that could have been made explicit, but has not been. That it has not been is usually not a failure, but usually simply a cost-effective decision, usually taken unconsciously, that it is not worth the effort. The danger lies in assuming that explicit information is addressed by “collecting” and tacit information by “connecting,” and not examining whether there is potentially important implicit information that could and should be made explicit.”
Knowledge in Interaction
Another important issue the world of KM faces is that of “Knowledge Retention and Retirees” as baby boomers reach retirement age. Dr. Koenig asserts that an exit interview “data dump” is insufficient for continued access to the knowledge created and held by departing employees. He suggests, “Much more likely to be useful is to keep the retiree involved, maintaining him or her in the [Communities of Practice], involved in the discussions concerning current issues, and findable through expertise locator systems.”
Per Dr. Koenig, “The real utility is likely to be found not directly in the information that the retiree leaves behind, but in new knowledge created by the interaction of the retiree with current employees.”
Certainly, that vision of how knowledge is created (through human interaction) is inspiring, but it’s only through enabling KM technologies that knowledge becomes widely accessible by those who need it. Dr. Koenig writes, “Increasingly KM is seen as ideally encompassing the whole bandwidth of information and knowledge likely to be useful to an organization, including knowledge external to the organization—knowledge emanating from vendors, suppliers, customers, etc., and knowledge originating in the scientific and scholarly community, the traditional domain of the library world.”
We at Lucidea suggest that a powerful knowledge management application in the capable hands of a special librarian—in an environment that values continual knowledge creation—approaches that ideal.
Knowledge managers must establish links between different groups; this is boundary spanning; enabling discovery (learning from existing data) is key
Creating and executing a KM program plan involves implementing people, process, and technology knowledge flows that achieve objectives
How a KM program is governed is key to success. Knowledge managers should pay close attention to getting this right, and it will deliver results later.
Knowledge managers must define KM program governance, including team composition, virtual teams, and leader communities