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Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…

Getting KM right! (4 Functions and 12 Constructs)

For a while now we have talked about the need to manage the ‘whole’ KM process. We’re not the only ones, this article in The Hindu, an interview with Sandhya Shekhar, the CEO of the Chennai-based IIT Madras Research Park, shows that people are talking about the same things, but the way to operationalise the “weaving” or integration of KM within the wider organisation is not necessarily clear – It is almost like an ideal, something we talk about without being sure of how to actually do it.

Sounds like a challenge…

So, what do we mean and where’s the evidence?

Cutting through the jargon and the hype, this is it.  First the evidence process…with links to our other blog posts to help bring some extra context to what we’re discussing:

  • We have examined over 500 aspects of operational, practitioner and academic literature to find out what people are talking about when they are working with KM – to do this we looked across sectors and geographic locations
  • We found 278 descriptions of KM activities that we boiled down to 16 groupings – basically groups of synonyms
  • We then took these groupings and tested them to see what KMers and academics thought of them – an opportunity for challenge
  • We then looked at the complexity of the groupings and through further analysis developed 4 functions and 12 constructs – ending up with the K-Kore Model
  • Taking it a step further, we wanted to know if there was another model out there that showed practitioners what the KM system and sub-processes looked like; so we looked at over 100 theories, frameworks and KM models – from popular frameworks, such as SECI, through to consulting tools published on KM consultant websites…we didn’t find one that explicitly answered to our findings (using the 278 descriptions identified in the first part of the analysis).  See the blog post:  “Nonaka, the wonderful wizard of KM
  • We then tested our findings through a survey of practitioners and academics mapping the responses through fractal analysis to identify self-similarity in what people were saying
  • We needed to take things a step further – Not only did we need to show people ‘what’ the KM system incorporated, but we needed to show them ‘how’ to integrate the constructs; to do this we created the K-Core toolkit
  • We then took the findings out for a ‘test drive’ through various face-to-face forums in the UK, Hungary, Hong Kong, France, Ireland, Bahrain, Russia, Singapore and the United States
  • Finally, the model and toolkit was tested in Multi-Nationals in Europe and Asia Pacific along with SMEs in the UK and public organisations in the Middle East and the UK.
  • The research has been peer-reviewed and published in 5 journal articles and 6 international conference papers; it has also been made available through 3 professional journal articles – see these blog posts:  “The Knowledge-Core (K-core) model” or “I say tomato” (Inside Knowledge May 2011) or “Redefining KM:  New principles for better practice” (Ark Group Publications)

The basic overview and simple descriptions of the 4 functions and 12 constructs is as follows – please note, this blog is far too limited to discuss all the aspects of the research or the 278 descriptors…happy to chat off-line with anyone interested in a more detailed discussion:

The 4 Functions

KM needs to enable the organisation to…

Create Knowledge

Share Knowledge

Acquire and store knowledge – Not just about technology or information storage, see these blog posts:  “Knowledge Leak?  Don’t just stick a thumb in it, KM it” or “KM and organisational learning in Bahrain

Use Knowledge – see these blog posts: “The critical function of KM” or “Knowledge, best enjoyed socially

The 12 Constructs

To enable the 4 functions, KM needs to ‘manage’ these constructs…

1.    What you already know: What do you know, and how do you know what you know?  See these blog posts:  “Six critical things your company wants to know” or “Two killer KM  questions, how would you answer them?”

2.    Context: How do set the context for what you are doing; how do you align and operationalise KM with strategy and planning processes?  See the blog posts:  “KM is dead!  Long live knowledge!” or  “KM:  The ROI myth

3.    Motivation: What frameworks exist to stimulate people to interact with KM processes, including leadership – basically, how do you motivate people?  See the blog post:  “For KM’s sake, get the people factor right!

4.    Culture: What does your organisational typology say about your culture and how do you adapt your processes to overcome barriers – this can include multi-cultural issues experienced by multi-location organisations?

5.    Spaces: Virtual and physical spaces, how do people interact, do they meet their needs?

6.    Organisational structure: How does it impact the knowledge flow, where are the blockages?

7.    Artefacts: What knowledge artefacts exist, where do they exist and do they transmit the knowledge that you need them to?

8.    Reflection: What feedback processes do you employ; do they tell you what you need to know; what about quality assurance?

9.    Knowledge structure: How do you structure your knowledge, how is it indexed and how does it impact access?

10.  Catalysts (four of them): Do you give people enough time; the financial resources; do you have the right people doing the right job; and the right technology frameworks to enable your people and their projects?

11. Communication: How do you communicate your knowledge and your knowledge needs; how do people communicate?

12. Extending what you know: Questioning processes that allow you to learn and build upon what you already know or create that ‘epiphany moment’ of something totally new.

How to enable and analyse these constructs and their interactions… well, that’s what we do for organisations through the K-Core toolkit and we’re happy to share our process with anyone who would like to chat – just contact us off-line (for an example, see the blog post “Knowledge and Learning at the new frontier:  A K-Core case study“)

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5 comments on “Getting KM right! (4 Functions and 12 Constructs)

  1. Albert Simard
    June 6, 2011

    1. I use three major functions: create, manage, and use knowledge. Management involves much more than sharing, acquisition, and storing.

    2. The 12 constructs seem to be a hodge-podge of topics. I don’t see a structure to them.

    3. I can see why KMers would like it; it’s all about doing KM! Only one of the 11 constructs (context) hints at the bigger picture. Until KM comes to understand that it is a technical function (along with IT and IM) that supports knowledge work that, in turn supports the business, it will continue to struggle for existence.

    • theknowledgecore
      June 6, 2011

      Hi Albert and thank you for your comments. In response:

      1. KM has four key functions that have to be in play if we are to ‘manage’ the function – I think you will see from the functions we put forward that we identify 4 functions and not just, “sharing, acquisition, and storing” :

      Storage and Acquisition

      2. Please follow the links for the K-Core model (, hyperlinked in the blog, and the construct should become clearer.

      3. In so far as the bigger picture, please see the model illustration in the link above. secondly, I’m sorry, but we seriously disagree – KM is not a technical function and nor can it ever be, not if we are speaking of the strategic and operational application of knowledge in an organisation against the drivers of the knowledge economy ( KM fails unless organisations understand that the management construct (our K-Core) is a complex environment that encompasses multiple complex constructs that need to be managed in order to enable success – KM cannot be managed in a complicated reductive “technological’ manner, it just doesn’t work that way.

      Hope that clarifies some of your concerns and thank you again for responding.


  2. Md Santo
    June 11, 2011


    Just visit the special URL as our exercise in “VISUAL KM 2.0 MAPPING”. In this case generated from 3 sources :

    1. Md Santo (in yellow color) – (functioning as KM 2.0 Basic Visual Map template),

    2. Nick Milton (in green color) – (material from “Knoco Stories : What do your staff want for KM?”),

    3. David Griffiths (in orange color) – (material from “The Knowledgecore’s Blog : Getting KM Right! – June 5, 2011”)

    The benefit of KM 2.0 Map will give us feedback regarding the KM activities needed to be added or to be deleted

    Once again, just visit our special URL Happy Viewing and Have a Nice Week- End! Your feedback will be appreciated. Thank you

    • theknowledgecore
      June 11, 2011

      Very interesting representation of our work… As you know, we have already produced a map, or model, of the K-Core process and i am not sure how representative the mapping exercise is of our findings – for example, I would suggest that “catalysts” have to exist across all aspects of the four domains within your map. Also, the map gives the impression that KM constructs exists in isolation and that the variables contained within are specific to an individual construct, when our work attempts to convey a concept of universal complexity, where the same variables constantly interact within the construct regardless of which KM function you are looking at.

      I like what you are trying to do, but I think that the mapping exercise could give the wrong impression to practitioners looking to effect change through KM processes.

      Thanks for posting this…looking forward to seeing what others think….


  3. Pingback: Complexity: Mapping Knowledge Management | Theknowledgecore's Blog

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