A concise, general framework for KM

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Over the last few months, I have been thinking about ways to generalise the individual theories, practices and expertise of the KM community into a consistent, albeit relatively abstract theoretical framework.

By identifying points of commonality rather than difference, I am hoping that the KM community can begin working towards on a "base layer" of acceptance about what KM is trying to achieve. This would then be built upon and used as a tool to evaluate more concrete KM frameworks and the success of interventions.

For this framework to be useful, it needs to:

  • assist in strategic planning and goal-orientation processes
  • facilitate comparison and criticism of a wide range of different KM practices through reference to the framework
  • clearly identify any axioms of the framework to expose assumptions to scrutiny and criticism
  • distinguish Knowledge Management from Information Management and "regular" Management (KM is often accused as just being a rebadged IM or a fancy name for everyday management skills)

I want to acknowledge Joe Firestone, who has been an invaluable and patient mentor in guiding my thinking. (I am not claiming that he endorses this framework, however.)

Articles of KM

I. The core objectives of Knowledge Management (KM) are to improve an organisation's distributed problem solving and knowledge integration capabilities. Achieving these objectives improves an organisation's adaptability.

II. Organisations with greater adaptability can expect to be more resilient in the face of disruptive changes, and more innovative in finding useful applications of created and/or learned knowledge.

III. Organisations undertake a wide range of activities that support the achievement of the core KM objectives. Some activities supporting KM objectives may be in turn be supported by other activities, and so on.

IV. Any set of linked activities and their consequent objective are collectively known as an objectives chain.

V. KM plans and executes multiple targeted interventions for an organisation, in series or parallel. Each intervention consists of:

  • analysing the current state of the organisation
  • selecting a focal point of the intervention
  • designing the intervention
  • executing the intervention
  • monitoring results

VI. Interventions may aim to:

  • directly enhance the KM objectives of distributed problem solving or knowledge integration, or
  • enhance an activity forming part of an objectives chain, and thus indirectly improve the above objectives

VII. Since knowledge cannot be conscripted, KM interventions do not modify strict cause-and-effect relationships. Interventions merely influence the propensity that certain actions or events will or will not happen.

VIII. In propensity environments, the success or failure of an intervention cannot be tested with reference to a single action or event. Instead, evaluation of success must be done with reference to the aggregated results of multiple events.

IX. Success for KM interventions should never be measured using a metric that follows a scale-free or power law pattern. Doing this is almost certain to overstate benefits or underestimate risks.

These are the core articles. I will try to expand on some of these in future posts.

Beyond this we get into specific implementation details such as which exact activities support KM objectives and how they are linked.

Note that I have tried hard to avoid theory-specific jargon such as Joe's "knowledge processing" or Dave Snowden's Cynefin domains. As far as possible, these articles should act as a neutral starting point.

Thoughts, comments and criticism are welcome -- after all, that is why I've made this available!

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