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“KM is dead! Long live knowledge!” Inside Knowledge (Thought Leader) June/July 2011 Vol 14(9)

9 comments on ““KM is dead! Long live knowledge!” Inside Knowledge (Thought Leader) June/July 2011 Vol 14(9)

  1. Douglas Weidner
    June 21, 2011

    Provocative article. Many do succumb to tech as driver vs enabler, but just as many know what KM is and are executing it quite well, especially those doing best practice and lessons learned management processes (note intentional use of process vs system), CoPs, expert locators and innovation.

    • David Griffiths
      June 21, 2011

      Hi Douglas, and thank you for the feedback. I agree that there are those out there who I would describe as KM Actavists, those who are delivering a holistic, business-centric, approach to KM. The problem is that too many organisations forget, or ignore, the drivers that brought them to look at KM solutions in the first place. There is a need to amplify the links between resilience, innovation, sustainability, growth, adaptive capacity, decision-making and Knowledge Management processes; if we can do this then hopefully organisations will begin to ‘reboot’ and see people as the platform for success – No matter how ‘uncomfortable’ they might be with existing organisational knowledge and learning processes…but that’s a different problem for another day!

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  3. Md Santo
    June 22, 2011

    KM IS THE MATTER OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS MANAGEMENT

    I hope that “KM is dead! Long live Knowledge!” as David says, is just a metaphor

    KM should exist in the first place with consideration and postulated as well that “WE ARE KM-REGULATED BY NATURE and BY NATURE WE ARE KM MODEL” – http://mobeeknowledge.ning.com/forum/topics/we-are-kmregulated-by-nature . Further, it is reasonable we should developed Human System Biology-based KM (HSBKM) model framework – http://bit.ly/mQjlgD

    HSBKM is proposed to be a paradigm shift in the evolution of K and/or KM as well as the evolution of Sci-Tech mindset considering that K in essential behaving as subject, and having consciousness after evolved as emergent property inside human being as complex system. It is contrary with Data and Information which are only object without consciousness making …….The essence meaning of Scientific Knowledge still “blurring”, marked with some problems of KM eg relevant knowledge is in the eye of the beholder, no “right answers”, language is imprecise, meaning is vague, centralized control and creation of knowledge does not work…. …..Scientific knowledge as well as KM also challenged by : lack of clarity, absence of meaningful measures, lack of understanding of knowledge flow, complex and changing business environment, knowledge needs are context specific and differing perspectives lead to lack of alignment……. (“ADDRESSING CURRENT EVOLUTION OF SCIENCE AND BEYOND : “RE-WRITING THE RULE OF BUSINESS” – http://mobeeknowledge.ning.com/forum/topics/addressing-current-evolution?xg_source=activity )

    My suggested conclusions regarding the limitation of KM Tools (Technology) among others are,
    1. Scientific KM as a “Science” to greater extend should be shifted towards “Knowledgeable Science” if we want “KM is here to stay”
    2. Technology factor in KM, within HSBKM, is KM Tools functioning as techno-based boundary KM representing Human Knowledge with Lower Consciousness (KLC) especially human sense-taste-feeling-feel-flavor-sensation
    3. The Weighted Score (WS) of KM Tools as the value of KLC only 1.0 compared to 3.0 as the value of Knowledge with Medium Consciousness (KMC) represented by KM Process Framework or Human Mind (Smart Techno) – based boundary KM expressing human reason-mind-intellect-intelligence-way-idea and respectively 5.0 compared to Knowledge with Higher Consciousness (KHC) represented by KM Standards Culture and Value as Human Organizational (Collective / Social) Learning-based boundary KM expressing human reason-mind-intellect-intelligence-way-idea
    4. Considering Internet 2.0 or beyond could be treated as possessor of extensive human knowledge as well as KM tools functioning as human operational platform , and by considerations above mentioned, the maximum possible amount of human knowledge kept or could be substituted on current internet is only 1 + 3 = 4 out of total score 1 + 3 + 5 = 9 or 4/9 = 44.44%. It means that KM as an entity still at least 100% – 44.44% = 55.56% dominated by human factor

    • David Griffiths
      June 22, 2011

      Hello Md,

      The article is more about the state of KM and how technology now ‘owns’ the concept; as opposed to being a metaphor, it focuses on the fact that the need for knowledge and people-centric processes endures, regardless of the dominant techno-centric view. I’m more interested in the future and how we develop growth, resilience, innovation and adaptive capacity in organisations through holistic KM or organisational knowledge and learning methods…the label doesn’t matter to me, it’s the outcome that is driving my (our) work.

      Cheers,

      David

  4. Peter
    June 22, 2011

    Hello David,
    thanks for sharing your thoughts and your paper about the death of KM.

    My experience (since 1988) is that you could avoid falling into the IT trap of KM if you use an integrated, holistic KM Framework which guides your analysis and design of the solution(s). The IT people and even senior managers I have meet were generally aware about the limits of IT tools. IT salesmen have not started promising and raising huge expectations when they started selling so-called KM databases in the mid 90ies. So managers were aware about this. But it is not only a problem with the managers, but also with the so-called knowledge workers who get easily exited with the most recent IT gadgets.

    You have to start with the business and put the working tasks first. This is what our research 10 years ago already showed as a world-wide Delphi survey concluded that the most pressing and most promising approach to KM is the “integration of KM into business processes” understood as working tasks and not workflow tasks!

    Your research also seems to validate my own work in KM regarding the analysis 160 KM models from around the world e.g. from companies (e.g. ABB, BP, BT, IBM, Nokia, Lafarge, Porsche, Siemens, etc.), academia (e.g. Nonaka, Takeuchi, Tokyo, Japan, 1995: Spiral of knowledge creation; Probst etal., Geneva, Switzerland, 1996: Eight building blocks for success; Boisot; ESADE, Barcelona, Spain, 1998: Movement of Knowledge in the I-Space; Stankovsky, GWU, Washington, DC, USA, 1999: Four pillars of KM; Weggemann, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 1999: Knowledge Value Chain; Mandl/Reinmann-Rothmeier, Munich, Germany 1999: Munich KM Model; Holsapple/Singh, Kentucky, USA, 2001: Knowledge Chain Model; etc.), consultants (e.g. K. Wiig, TX, USA, 2000: three Pillars of KM; Bain & Company, USA, 2001: A simple KM Approach; APQC/Arthur Anderson, Houston, TX, USA, 1996: KM Framework, etc) and Standard bodies (AUS HB 275, 165, AS5037, BSI PAS 2001, CEN CWA 14924 European Guide, VDI 5610 KM in Engineering, etc.). The results have been published in: Heisig, P.: Harmonisation of knowledge management – comparing 160 KM frameworks around the globe. in: Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 13, NO. 4, 2009, pp. 4-31 DOI 10.1108/13673270910971798. The paper was awarded with the 2010 Highly Commended Award.
    The model derived from this research also served as a basis for the CEN CWA 14924 European Guide to Good Practice in Knowledge Management and the recent VDI Guideline 5610 (Association of German Engineers) “Knowledge Management in Engineering”.

    The focus is on the business and the processes which are the context and the application area for knowledge of the employees, managers, suppliers and even our customers. Therefore we always state that this KM approach is not about implementing any IT in the first place, but improve your business and integrate KM into the daily working tasks otherwise people will hardly accept and change their working routines.

    The research showed that at least 4 core KM activities should be included in a holistic KM solution which are “create/generate” knowledge, “capture/store” knowledge, “share/distribute” knowledge and “apply/use” knowledge. This core process should be linked following the ideas from the learning organisation school about single- and double-loop learning.
    This understanding has been challenged as some colleagues claim that you cannot store knowledge. My understanding of these core activities is that they are used in a broad understanding and have to be adopted to the context which is different in a small business than in a large organisation. From psychological studies about transactive memory we know that working teams develop a shared memory and this could also be understood as a mean to capture and store knowledge in human brains rather than in databases.
    The hard thing to do is to get the balance right between creativity in creating new knowledge and discipline in capturing knowledge or lessons learned and sharing them and really applying or re-use the knowledge or improve it but not re-invent it. Research by my former colleague at Cambridge University (UK) with Rolls-Royce about capturing the rationale for design decisions showed that the new method and tools needs to replace ‘old’ SOP in design reviews such as classical minutes writing in order to accept the graphical knowledge capturing method and tool. This is a long process over a couple of years normally beyond the standard promotion cycles of the high flyers in most large organisations, which is another barrier in implementing KM solutions. They just take time.

    Finally in order to have a sustainable KM solution, we have identified by analysing the 160 KM Frameworks about 5-6 key success factors or enablers which are “Leadership and strategy”, “company/organisational culture”, “Skills and motivation”, “Measurement/Controlling” (KPI), “Roles and responsibilities” and “IT and Infrastructure”. These factors have been also identified in an earlier European wide (n=146) company survey in 1999.

    The proposed KM Framework has served as a conceptual model for diagnosis and analysis tools developed and applied in mainly (German) industry and public administration and research organisations over the last decade and as design principals to define KM solutions for organisations.

    The advantage by using such an integrated, empirically-based model is that you do need to fight with IT and senior management will buy-in – if properly briefed – as the core of the model is the business where you already apply your knowledge. Therefore I fully agree, that KM is nothing new, but we can do better!
    This is what should be improved by KM. Also most managers I have met over the last 20 years, understand that KM is about a socio-technical improvement issue and not IT only. But this is true for all human factor improvement activities since the 50ies.
    Managers with engineering or business accountant background often struggle to accept fuzzy or qualitative data. In the Mid 90ies I was responsible to run employees satisfaction surveys for a business unit (> 10000 workers) of large German corporation. We did this three years in a row. I remember very good the first presentation of the results to the executive board. The first questions was, why our numbers do not add up to 100%. Only in the third years the managers started to accept the figures and began to think about improvement action, such as “can we live with every third person is not fully satisfied with ABC”.

    At the end it seems similar to the quality movement. It’s not about documenting is about being and becoming better. The same applies to KM. Its all about using our knowledge resources at hand better to become better.

    Good Luck with your efforts,

    Peter

    • David Griffiths
      June 22, 2011

      Thank you for the response. As you know, I am very familiar with your work and your analysis, citing it in my work (please note this is a slightly amended response from the one posted to the same discussion on Linked In – (http://www.linkedin.com/groups/KM-is-dead-Long-live-3737784.S.58741671?qid=2a933065-2aec-4edb-ba14-ff729ed66842&trk=group_most_popular-0-b-cmr&goback=.gmp_3737784)

      Coming form 20 years of industry experience (I’m work at the University of Edinburgh and have been for almost five years now, but they seem to refer to me as an entrepreneurial academic as I am more interested in practical problem solving than theory building (I understand from your Linked In comments that you might believe my work to be one and the same thing, but I am speaking of the Aristotelian view on the value of knowledge in comparison to the applied view) I find much of the KM literature frustrating. For example, while I found your research interesting, it seems that you stopped short of identifying the actual constructs for management. Much of the literature out there has now distilled the functions of KM down to the four core functions that both of us have discussed – My published research cites the use of 287 literature sources from academic literature, which now exceeds 500, survey data and fractal analysis to demonstrate potential self-similarity across sectors and geographic location.

      Where we differ in our approach is that, for me, the identification of the four functions of KM is not enough for organisations, who need to understand the constructs that come together in this complex process – they need to understand what to manage within the KM functions, the mere identification of the functions is not enough. Also, many theorists have identified the existence of general models (you refer to the standard models in your post) for the field, as did you, but stop short of either recommending one for general application or identifying the reason why they are not being applied universally – surely, this suggests an unsolved problem? Which, if we can agree on this, suggests that the models that are in the field at the moment just aren’t good enough and we have to ask ourselves, why?

      We have examined well in excess of 200 models and frameworks against our own findings and did not find a complete model – I will not bore the reader with what constitutes a complete model. What it came down to is that on average the models we looked at only transmitted approximately 70% of the content that we identified – which creates a critical problem for organisations looking to operationalise them. As you suggest, KM is about 5-6 key factors; sorry, but we strongly disagree. KM is a complex environment where constructs, not success factors, act in a non-linear manner where the intensity of any given construct will vary according to issues of time, place, history, location etc. Also, if KM was as simple as 5-6 CSFs we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If, as you suggest in your Linked In discussion, I have misunderstood this, then please point me to your published research where you identify the constructs that need to be managed as would be eager to read your views in this area. Also, I appreciate that you speak of limiting complexity, and I agree with your argument in this regard, but I am not sure that limiting complexity to the four functions of KM and 5-6 CSFs (we could also debate the merits of general K/CSFs in a complex process) assists in the operationalisation of the concept.

      Also, the ‘Know-What’ transmitted through the modelling process often doesn’t help organisations develop the KM ‘Know-How’ that will help them address strategic issues, such as resilience, growth, innovation and adaptive capacity. This is where I went a step further to develop a diagnostic toolkit (the K-Core method) that shows organisation how the constructs connect and how to address gaps in their operational and strategic processes – a case study of one application of the process can be found in the last edition of the JKMP: http://www.tlainc.com/articl251.htm We contend that though KM models may have a perception of success, it does not mean that they are complete or that they are being applied holistically…again, there is far too much to discuss here, but our data supports this position; as does our industry engagement in public, private and third sectors across the EU, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

      Also, we have a 2011 Global Knowledge Management Observatory survey in the field at the moment – the findings will be released later this year – and our data (300+ global respondents at this time) is showing that the socio-technological view is very much in the minority. In fact, our data is suggesting a major disconnect between KM practice and human resources…if this is true, we would consider this to be an issue for organisations looking to address strategic issues of innovation, growth, sustainability and adaptive capacity. I realise that on the Linked In discussion (http://www.linkedin.com/groups/KM-is-dead-Long-live-3737784.S.58741671?qid=2a933065-2aec-4edb-ba14-ff729ed66842&trk=group_most_popular-0-b-cmr&goback=.gmp_3737784) you are calling into question the validity of our survey tool; where I have responded with a suggestion that you wait for the research to be published before passing judgement on our methods.

      The beauty of this field is the multiple perspectives that come to bear on the problem – we just believe that the situation has not been solved and we believe we can assist in bringing clarity to organisations. Thanks for the stimulating response and I look forward to hearing your criticisms once our latest research has been published in full.

      Cheers, David

      To save readers bouncing between sites – the original Linked In conversation can be found below:

      Peter Heisig • Hello David,
      thanks for your paper about KM.
      I had a look at your blog about “Getting KM right: 4 functions-and-12-constructs” it seems to prove my research in analysis 160 KM models from companies (ABB, BP, BT, IBM, Nokia, Lafarge, Porsche, Siemens, etc.), academia (Nonaka, Takeuchi, Tokyo, Japan, 1995: Spiral of knowledge creation; Probst etal., Geneva, Switzerland, 1996: Eight building blocks for success; Boisot; ESADE, Barcelona, Spain; Stankovsky, GWU, Washington, DC, USA, 1999: Four pillars of KM; Weggemann, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 1999: Knowledge Value Chain; Mandl/Reinmann-Rothmeier, Munich, Germany 1999: Munich KM Model; Holsapple/Singh, Kentucky, USA, 2001: Knowledg Chain Model; etc.), consultants (Wiig, TX, USA, 2000: three Pillars of KM; Bain & Company, USA, 2001: A simple KM Approach; APQC/Arthur Anderson, Houston, TX, USA, 1996: KM Framework, etc) and Standard bodies (AUS HB 275, 165, AS5037, BSI PAS 2001, CEN CWA 14924 European Guide, VDI 5610 KM in Engineering, etc.).

      Our research results have been published in: Heisig, P.: Harmonisation of knowledge management – comparing 160 KM frameworks around the globe. in: Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 13, NO. 4, 2009, pp. 4-31 DOI 10.1108/13673270910971798.
      The paper was awarded with the 2010 Highly Commended Award.

      The full study with all figures and statistics has been translated into English and published in 2007: Heisig, P., Orth, R. (2007): Knowledge Management Frameworks. An international comparative Study. Berlin – Cambridge: eureki 2007 ISBN 978-3-00-020575.

      The model derived from this analysis has been used in the CEN CWA 14924 European Guide to Good Practice in Knowledge Management (Brussels, 2004) and also the guideline 5610 of the VDI (Association of German Engineers) “Knowledge Management in Engineering”.

      The focus is on the business and the processes which are the context and the application area for knowledge.

      The research showed that at least 4 core KM activities should be included in a wholistic KM solution which are “create/generate” knowledge, “capture/store” knowledge, “share/distribute” knowledge and “apply/use” knowledge. This core process should be linked following the ideas from the learning organisation schoold about single- and double-loop learning.
      This understanding has been challenged as some colleagues claim that you cannot store knowledge. My understanding of these core activities is that they are used in a broad understanding and have to be adopted to the context which is different in a small business than in a large organisation. From psychological studies about transactive memory we know that working teams develop a shared memory and this could also be understood as a mean to capture and store knowledge in human brains rather than in databases.

      Finally in order to have a sustainable KM solution, we have identified by analysing the 160 KM Frameworks about 5-6 key success factors or enablers which are “Leadership and strategy”, “company/organisational culture”, “Skills and motivation”, “Measurement/Controlling” (KPI), “Roles and responsibilities” and “IT and Infrastructure”. These factors have been also identified in an earlier European wide (n=146) company survey in 1999.

      The proposed KM Framework has served as a conceptual model for diagnosis and analysis tools developed and applied in mainly (German) industry and public administration and research organisations over the last decade and as design principals to define KM solutions for organisations.

      The advantage by using such an integrated, empirically-based model is that you do need to fight with IT and senior management will buy-in – if properly briefed – as the core of the model is the buisness where you already apply your knowledge. This should be improved. Also most managers I have met over the last 20 years, understand that KM is about a socio-technical improvement issue.
      Good Luck with your efforts,
      Peter
      2 hours ago

      David Griffiths

      David Griffiths • Hi Peter,

      Thank you for the response. As you know, I am very familiar with your work and your analysis, citing it in my work.

      Coming form 20 years of industry experience (I’m work at the University of Edinburgh, but they seem to refer to me as an entrepreneurial academic as I am more interested in practical problem solving than theory building) I find much of the KM literature frustrating. For example, while I found your research interesting, it seems that you stopped short of identifying the actual constructs for management. Much of the literature out there has now distilled the functions of KM down to the four core functions that both of us have discussed – My published research cites the use of 287 literature sources from academic literature, which now exceeds 500, survey data and fractal analysis to demonstrate potential self-similarity across sectors and geographic location.

      Where we differ in our approach is that, for me, the identification of the four functions of KM is not enough for organisations, who need to understand the constructs that come together in this complex process – they need to understand what to manage within the KM functions, the mere identification of the functions is not enough. Also, many theorists have identified the existence of general models for the field, as did you, but stop short of either recommending one for general application or identifying the reason why they are not being applied universally.

      We have examined well in excess of 200 models and frameworks against our own findings and did not find a complete model – I will not bore the reader with what constitutes a complete model. What it came down to is that on average the models we looked at only transmitted approximately 70% of the content that we identified – which creates a critical problem for organisations looking to operationalise them. As you suggest, KM is about 5-6 key factors; sorry, but we strongly disagree. KM is a complex environment where constructs, not success factors, act in a non-linear manner where the intensity of any given construct will vary according to issues of time, place, history, location etc. Also, if KM was as simple as 5-6 CSFs we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      Also, the ‘Know-What’ transmitted through the modelling process often doesn’t help organisations develop the KM ‘Know-How’ that will help them address strategic issues, such as resilience, growth, innovation and adaptive capacity. This is where I went a step further to develop a diagnostic toolkit (the K-Core method) that shows organisation how the constructs connect and how to address gaps in their operational and strategic processes – a case study of one application of the process can be found in the last edition of the JKMP: http://www.tlainc.com/articl251.htm We contend that though KM models may have a perception of success, it does not mean that they are complete or that they are being applied holistically…again, there is far too much to discuss here, but our data supports this position; as does our industry engagement in public, private and third sectors across the EU, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

      Also, we have a 2011 Global Knowledge Management Observatory survey in the field at the moment – the findings will be released later this year – and our data (300+ global respondents at this time) is showing that the socio-technological view is very much in the minority. In fact, our data is suggesting a major disconnect between KM practice and human resources…if this is true, we would consider this to be an issue for organisations looking to address strategic issues of innovation, growth, sustainability and adaptive capacity.

      The beauty of this field is the multiple perspectives that come to bear on the problem – we just believe that the situation has not been solved and we believe we can assist in bringing clarity to organisations. Thanks for the stimulating response…

      Cheers, David
      1 hour ago

      Peter Heisig • Hi David,
      thanks for your fast response. It seems that you misinterpreted my comment.

      You are right that in practice KM does not boil down to only 5-6 critical success factors. This is not my interpretation, but the space was limited in this comment.

      I understand these factors more as categories or design areas (German: Gestaltungsfeld) and not as single factors. Companies have to undertake actions in these areas in order to achieve a successful and sustainable KM solution. And you are right this is complex and until now it has not been properly researched and relys on experience-based heuristics employed by KM consultants or KM practitioners.

      A Ph.D. student of mine is currently reviewing the factors which affect the implementation of KM solutions and he already found more than 150+ in a small part of the academic KM literature.

      The challenge every researcher and practitioner faces is how to handle such an amount of factors. You probably agree, that you have to limit the complexity when you want to change and improve things in practice. Therefore your model is also limited to 4+12 constructs.
      Buy the way, you are also doing theory building if you propose this model based on analysis data. I will try to get a copy of your paper to better understand your approach.
      So what was your guiding theory or method applied to derive your model?

      Regarding the survey you are carrying out currently and the first indicative results suggesting a gap, I am wondering about the reliability and validity of this online survey.
      The other aspect to consider is that I human resources does not equal human factors.

      Best wishes
      Peter
      30 minutes ago

      David Griffiths

      David Griffiths • Hi Peter,

      I understand the potential issues around ‘factors’ – it is how you distil the factors that I believe to be key; for example, there was a Phd student from Deloitte (Curtis Connoley *sp?*) who identified 250+ several years ago.

      In so far as reliability and validity of our current survey, we are confident that we will overcome any potential issues in this area – obviously any failure to do this will be made clear. The results will be published and, as such, open to peer review and wider academic/practitioner scrutiny. May I politely say that I think it is a bit presumptuous to call our findings into question before the methods have even been published. I realise you may have been through the survey to examine the question set, but, as a professional courtesy, I think it is best to wait for the research to be published before passing judgement on our methods.

      Also, insofar as our previous research, it is in the public domain, has been published and presented at various academic conferences, in academic/professional journals and commercial reports. You, as with any researcher, are welcome to scrutinise our methods – we welcome this as it furthers our thinking and the robustness of our research.

      Thank you again,

      David

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  6. Monica Henao-Cálad
    September 30, 2011

    Hi David. Thank you very much for your article. I totally agree with your position. I think the big problem of knowledge management in companies, at least some that I know, is that knowledge is reduced to data and therefore is handled by IT. Additionally, knowledge management is understood as a synonym for computer information management (not even considered all non-digital information).
    If knowledge is associated to humans, then knowledge management should focus on human beings, people who work in the company. Everything is done with the knowledge: creating, sharing, updating, training, maintenance, preservation, documentation, etc.. origin and is also targeting humans.
    For me it is much more important for a company that employees share their knowledge, teamwork, co-created and have a knowledge culture. As well you say in your article, technological tools, especially the computer, are a means to support and facilitate information management, an important component of knowledge management.

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