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The Art of Managing Knowledge - Book Review

1 November 2011
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

I was coincidentally exposed to the book "Art of Managing Knowledge," 2010. Judi Sandrock, the author, is a knowledge management consultant based in South Africa and a member of a knowledge management social network. She shared news about the release of her new book, offering it directly to us, her colleagues in the online knowledge management community. A preliminary examination of the topics covered revealed its potential. Having read the book, I can attest to its quality. It is a practical work, one of the few that has captured my attention in recent years. It is a recommended read for anyone embarking on a journey in knowledge management and a recommended resource for those already entrenched in the field. The title, "The Art of Knowledge Management," inherently adds value, emphasizing that managing knowledge is not merely a skill to be learned and crafted but an art form. As art demands technique, personal touch, and talent, so does knowledge management.

The book delves into various topics, including:
  • Knowledge

  • Knowledge workers

  • Knowledge Management

  • Knowledge Management Strategy and Plan

  • Data Test

  • Knowledge mapping

  • Finding experts

  • Retirement Plan

  • Knowledge fairs and expert presentations

  • Capturing tacit knowledge in digital photography

  • Storytelling

  • Knowledge Product Development

  • Innovation and ideas

  • Document management

  • Lessons learned

  • Connections – stakeholders

  • Knowledge Community

  • Officials

The book is undoubtedly worth reading and will soon be available in bookstores. P.S. Book buyers will receive a bonus—an accompanying CD with documented materials.


To elucidate the concept of knowledge, SANDROCK presents a series of images derived from a workshop she attended in 2007, facilitated by David Gurteen.

Some key images include:

  • Knowledge as water: It flows, can be hoarded for the future, requires careful stewardship for human consumption, and is vital for human survival and growth.

  • Knowledge as energy: It can be generated from various sources, transported in diverse configurations to meet different needs, is a second-order resource identifiable only by its possessors, is indestructible and can be employed for both benevolent and malevolent purposes.

  • Knowledge as connection: Both necessitate trust and reciprocity, involve sharing and growth over time, attain value when more than one person is involved, and people change their roles in the equation (learn/teach-give/receive) over time. Engaging in such an exercise is undoubtedly worthwhile, and the results may be surprising. Knowledge is timeless, bound by the sharing bar, relevant only to the knower, context-dependent, changeable, and multidimensional—qualities that contrast information.

Knowledge workers

Knowledge workers stand apart from other employees, distinguished by distinctive characteristics:

  1. Geographical Independence: The work of knowledge knows no geographical boundaries.

  2. Instantaneous Knowledge Transfer: Thanks to the Internet, knowledge transfer among these workers is almost immediate.

  3. Self-Creation of Destiny: Knowledge workers forge their destiny through continuous learning and perseverance, with success less reliant on innate genius.

  4. Professional Specialization Affiliation: These workers identify more with their professional specialization than their organization.

  5. Relevance of Knowledge: Knowledge is either relevant to the business need or not, and transitioning knowledge workers between tasks takes time and effort.

Knowledge workers are inclined towards:

  • Complex Problem Solving

  • Progress and Professional Renewal

  • Freedom in Seeking Solutions

  • Public Recognition of Achievements

  • Collaboration with Other Knowledge Workers in their Area of Expertise

Conversely, knowledge workers dislike:

  • Laws Restricting Freedom

  • Routine Work

  • Bureaucracy

  • Micromanagement

  • Power-Oriented Individuals

When delegating tasks, it's crucial to carefully plan collaborative efforts and identify areas where they can work independently. Here are examples for each scenario:

Collaborative Tasks:

  1. Innovation

  2. Answering Questions

  3. Guiding Others

Independent Tasks:

  1. Research

  2. Process Development

  3. Development of Training Materials

Knowledge Management


The potential benefits of knowledge management (this list applies to any organization) include:

  1. Faster and more efficient troubleshooting.

  2. Cost savings result from quicker access to knowledge.

  3. Sharing best practices.

  4. Improved utilization of both people and tangible assets in the organization.

  5. Prevention of recurring errors, leading to cost savings.

  6. Faster and more informed decision-making.

  7. Reduced frustration among employees in fulfilling their roles.

  8. Adequate access to and utilization of knowledgeable individuals within the organization.

  9. Reduced concentration of knowledge within individuals and less perception of knowledge hoarding.

  10. Accelerated and effective onboarding for individuals new to the organization or role.

Sometimes, it is valuable and correct to scrutinize organizations regarding the cost of not managing knowledge.

Knowledge Management Strategy and Plan

The knowledge management plan should align with the organizational strategy. Here are vital considerations for a knowledge management program tailored to the organization's strategy:

  1. Strategy of Selling Ready-Made Products at Low Cost:

    a. Emphasize knowledge management on process and continuous improvement.

  2. Differentiated Product Development Strategy:

    a. Focus knowledge management on product development and marketing.

  3. Service Strategy and Customer Relationship Centrality:

    a. Align knowledge management with customers, stakeholders, and external sources.

  4. Project Management Strategy:

    a. Encompass knowledge management with project management techniques and cross-project learning.

  5. Strategy of Unparalleled Service (Public Bodies, Monopolies):

    a. Apply knowledge management to standards and service processes.

Recommendations for the Knowledge Management Program:

  • Focus on a Key Organizational Strategy:

    - Concentrate on a primary organizational strategy rather than multiple ones.

  • Leverage Previous Activities:

    - Build upon previous activities instead of starting anew.

  • Start with 3-4 Applications of Building Blocks:

    - Initiate with 3-4 applications of building blocks for practical implementation.

  • Identification of Core Competencies:

    - Identify core competencies aligned with the organization's strategy for growth.

  • Consider Organizational Culture:

    - Address organizational culture, acknowledging and overcoming obstacles.

  • Promotion through Organizational Leaders:

    - Promote the knowledge management program through leaders, showcasing success stories.

  • Four Factors to Manage Change:

    - Present a positive vision of the future.

    - Reinforce change through a reward system.

    - Provide skills for transitioning to the future.

    - Establish stable and consistent role models.

Last but Not Least:

  • Do Not Wait Until Everything is Ready:

    - Take the plunge without waiting for everything to be perfectly aligned. Perfection may never be attainable.

Data Test

  • Purpose:

    - A questionnaire/survey designed to map the information people use for decision-making, its sources, and patterns of use.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - An essential tool applicable to all organizations, irrespective of their business strategy.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Inventorying information usage, identifying users, and locating information.

    - Conducting interviews on managing information overload and promoting proper information utilization.

    - Regularly updating the inventory based on feedback.

    - It is recommended that the assessment be conducted annually.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Cost savings from deduplication.

    - Time savings through streamlined search processes.

    - Acceleration of decision-making processes.

    - Increased awareness of information delivery.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with Librarians, Information Experts, Users of information, and Interviewees.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Maintain a narrow focus on existing information rather than required information.

    - Avoid oversight of external sources of information.

    - Ensure effective communication of the process to interviewees to exhaust available knowledge.

Knowledge mapping

  • Purpose:

    - Analyzing knowledge holders for each core organizational function, identifying experts and potential gaps. Note: This can be integrated with an audit for comprehensive insights.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - An essential tool applicable to all organizations, particularly beneficial for large organizations where it's challenging to identify who possesses specific knowledge or expertise within mapped core competencies.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Inventorying information usage, users, and their locations.

    - Conducting interviews on managing information overflow and promoting effective information utilization.

    - Regularly updating the inventory based on feedback.

    - It is recommended that the analysis be conducted annually.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Cost savings resulting from deduplication.

    - Time savings through optimized search processes.

    - Acceleration of decision-making processes.

    - Enhanced awareness of information delivery.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with Knowledge Managers, Interviewees, and HR representatives.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Avoid focusing solely on present information and neglecting the value of historical knowledge.

    - Promote regular performance rather than relying on one-time efforts.

Finding experts

  • Purpose:

    - The purpose is to establish a database that facilitates the identification of experts across various specializations, resembling an Enterprise Yellow Pages.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - Crucial for all organizations, with particular benefits in more extensive settings where not everyone is familiar with each other's expertise. Additionally, it is valuable when individuals possess multiple areas of expertise that could benefit their peers.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Promotion of the Knowledge Map.

    - Definition and technological establishment of the database.

    - Encouraging and training individuals to create a personal expertise page.

    - Integration of information from the knowledge map.

    - Encouraging and educating individuals on system usage with incentives.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with the Knowledge Map Team, Computing Professionals, Knowledge Management Representatives, and Knowledge Catchers.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Ensuring the regular updating of database contents.

    - Addressing any technological inconveniences or accessibility issues.

Retirement Plan

  • Purpose:

    - The purpose is implementing retirement knowledge retention programs to preserve and transfer valuable knowledge from retirees.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - A vital tool for all organizations, regardless of their business strategy.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Assigning apprentices (shadowing) to retirees during their departure.

    - Establishing a virtual community to maintain relationships with retirees and enhance knowledge sharing before retirement.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with the Knowledge Management Team, The Dissidents, Computer Professionals (for community establishment), and Employees receiving the knowledge.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Only allow the publication of the plan with actual implementation to prevent false expectations regarding the legacy of retirees.

    - Allocating sufficient time for the effective transfer of knowledge.

Knowledge fairs and expert presentations

  • Purpose:

    - The purpose is to provide expression and recognition to experts, fostering a culture that encourages knowledge sharing and participation. It serves as a platform for experts to build a lasting legacy.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - A crucial tool for organizations adopting the first two strategies is selling general or differentiated products.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Organization of an expert list based on existing knowledge communities and the organization at large.

    - Hosting fairs/presentations.

    - Documenting the process when applicable.

    - Evaluating the need to prepare and equip lecturers with public speaking skills.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Participation in fairs.

    - Requests for copies of presentations.

    - Increased motivation among specialists.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with the Knowledge Management Team, Experts, Knowledge Communities, and Unit Communications Officer.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Timing of fairs, avoiding periods of difficulty for participation.

    - Avoiding extensive activities to prevent lecturers from facing numerous empty chairs.

    - Ensuring that intelligent lecturers possess adequate presentation skills.

Capturing tacit knowledge in digital photography

  • Purpose:

    - The purpose is to document intricate and challenging knowledge digitally, recognizing the verbal limitations of conveying such information.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - A crucial tool for most organizations, particularly those with differentiated products.

    - Appropriate when visually demonstrating procedures proves more effective than literal description and when knowledge consumers cannot access or comprehend textual information. Justified when the business impact warrants the investment.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Logistical planning of photography sessions.

    - Obtaining consent for photography from all participating experts.

    - Executing the photography.

    - Swift distribution to prevent delays.

    - Simultaneous documentation in a digital library for future use.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Assessing reactions from individuals who have viewed the recordings.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with Experts, Knowledge Managers, Photographers, and Digital Repository Officers.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Avoiding excessively cheap production to ensure quality.

    - Preventing the loss of knowledge in the long term.

    - Balancing photography to enhance knowledge without overshadowing or hindering the role of experts.

    - Ensuring timely distribution to prevent delays.


  • Purpose:

    - Facilitating knowledge sharing through storytelling, legends, and folklore to establish a shared tradition, ethics, values, desired behaviors, and solutions embedded in the narrative.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - A crucial tool for all organizations, regardless of business strategy. Particularly effective when:

    - - Implementing new behaviors.

    - - Undertaking change management.

    - - Extraverting the organization's values.

    - - Replacing rumors with positive narratives.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Collecting "successful" anecdotes and stories serving specific purposes.

    - Presenting stories to senior management, analyzing and elucidating the stories and their rationale.

    - Encouraging managers to retell and propagate the stories.

    - Publishing stories in internal media.

    - Disseminating stories through complementary means to integrate them into corporate folklore.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Assessing the speed and frequency at which stories circulate and return to the source.

    - Evaluating the closeness between the original and recurring stories (considering optimal proximity).

    - Observing behavioral changes following the storytelling.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with the Knowledge Management Team, Organizational Developers, and the organization's Leadership.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Ensuring sufficient filtering of stories to avoid disseminating messages that are not optimal.

    - Avoiding the narration of dull stories.

    - Abstaining from inventing stories that seem too good to be realistic.

Knowledge Product Development

  • Purpose:

    - Incorporating the knowledge accompanying a product and offering it as a separate or bundled product/service.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - A crucial tool for organizations employing a differentiated product strategy or emphasizing meaningful customer relationships.

    - This is particularly suitable when the knowledge component of the product/service holds significant value for customers.

    - Appropriate when an organization possesses unique market knowledge that can be strategically leveraged.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Identifying knowledge with potential leverage.

    - Packaging knowledge as a sustainable asset.

    - Deciding on sales/marketing approaches in one or more formats.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Assessing revenue generated from the sale of the knowledge product.

    - Evaluating the increase in customer retention resulting from knowledge sales.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with Product Managers, Sales and marketing, and the Knowledge Management Team.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Avoiding the misrepresentation of knowledge as unique when it is not.

    - Preventing excessive release of knowledge without appropriate compensation.

    - Guarding against knowledge commercialization through overexposure and ensuring timely updates.

Innovation and ideas

  • Purpose:

    - A formal process facilitates the organization's surfacing and realization of new ideas.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - Crucial for organizations to employ a differentiated product strategy or focus on meaningful customer relationships.

    - Particularly suitable when the organization's size hinders direct connection to idea diffusion or when assimilating ideas deviates from regular organizational work.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Mapping processes are required to enable ideas, build them, and define accompanying forms.

    - Developing a taxonomy for idea topics.

    - Recruiting content experts to respond to proposed ideas on each topic and facilitate practical changes.

    - Executing the processes.

    - Evaluating the impact and value of implemented ideas.

    - Recognizing and appreciating idea contributors.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Assessing the satisfaction level of employees proposing ideas.

    - Measuring cost savings resulting from implemented ideas.

    - Counting the number of ideas successfully implemented.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with the Knowledge Management Team, Organization Management, Content Experts, Computing Professionals, and all employees.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Avoiding slow or non-existent responses to ideas.

    - Ensuring the realization of good ideas.

    - Recognizing and appreciating individuals who propose ideas.

    - Embracing ideas from all channels, not just those submitted through computing channels.

Document management

  • Purpose:

    - Establishing a shared repository of electronically documented knowledge, serving as an accessible entry point into knowledge management.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - An indispensable tool for organizations employing all strategies, including selling ready-made products. Particularly suitable when:

    - Cross-organizational document sharing is essential.

    - Collaborative document writing is required.

    - Information security is crucial for document sharing.

    - Linking between different documents is needed.

    - Communities need to maintain documents in a defined yet compartmentalized manner.

    - Governance of documents within the organization is required.

    - Document history must be preserved over time.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Analyzing the specific document management needs of the organization.

    - Mapping workflow requirements for documents.

    - Constructing a taxonomy and deriving characteristics and values (Machine Learning addition).

    - Establishing a retention and retrieval policy (Machine Learning).

    - Formulating a conversion plan for existing documents (Machine Learning).

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Assessing the ease of use for users.

    - Identifying cost savings resulting from mechanization.

    - Reducing communication volume through minimized document transmissions.

    - Enhancing information security.

    - Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with the Knowledge Management Team, Users, Librarians, Computing Professionals, and Software Vendor Team.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Avoiding redundant network reproduction.

    - Preventing the creation of an archive-only system.

    - Resisting the storage of mainly non-searchable scanned documents without OCR.

    - Providing an option to update documents that should be read-only.

    - Discouraging the storage of documents without context and specific need.

Lessons learned

  • Purpose:

    - Lessons learned, known as Action Review (AAR) following the commonly applied method, serve as a tool for extracting learning and capturing knowledge for future use.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - An indispensable tool for organizations across all strategies, excluding service providers (Machine Learning).

    - Suitable for implementation in organizations post-milestones, project completion, events with learning potential, or as a general tool ensuring continuous improvement.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Clarification of 5 questions (note: originally the method – 4 questions. Machine Learning):

    - - What was expected to happen?

    - - What happened?

    - - What worked?

    - - What didn't work?

    - - What should be done differently next time?

    - Documenting learned insights and storing them in an easily accessible place for future reference.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Assessing whether individuals refer to past lessons when executing different processes.

    - Evaluating whether partners perceive lesson-learning sessions as valuable for deeper understanding and preparation for future events.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with employees involved in the process/project/event and the Moderator.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Avoiding a bureaucratic and devalued process.

    - Ensuring facilitators adhere to the methodology and contribute value to the review meetings.

Connections – stakeholders

  • Purpose:

    - Managing substantial knowledge critical to the organization is found at the interface with various stakeholders (employees, government officials, suppliers, corporations, fellow professionals, etc.). This embodies the concept of knowledge management at the interface.

  • Relevance to Organizations:

    - An indispensable tool for organizations with strategies that extend beyond pure productivity.

    - Particularly fitting when the relationship with stakeholders is intricate, involves multiple employees as partners or the organization heavily relies on stakeholder knowledge.

  • Primary Activities:

    - Managing knowledge based on its nature and specifics.

    - Identifying knowledge critical to competitive core competencies and concentrating efforts on this knowledge.

  • Metrics for Success:

    - Assessing the level of understanding of connections before and after establishing the database.

    - Evaluating process improvements in the interface with stakeholders.

    - Gauging the level of trust with stakeholders.

  • Partnerships:

    - Collaboration with the Knowledge Management Team, Employees interfacing with stakeholders, Stakeholder Representatives, Process Mapping Experts, and Individuals involved in mapping knowledge in the database.

  • Critical Checkpoints:

    - Avoid neglect of individuals and focus solely on knowledge.

    - Preventing excessive investment in computing and relying on it as the sole solution.

Knowledge Community


All knowledge management solutions, presented as building blocks, function as a knowledge community—a collective of individuals sharing a common interest in the organization, collaborating for mutual benefits derived from shared knowledge. Three key dimensions define the community: 1) Area of sharing, 2) Community members, and 3) Shared work and experience.

Critical Officials in Each Community:

  1. Core Group (Up to 5 People): Carrier, Coordinator/Facilitator/Escort, Content Experts.

  2. Active Group (15-30 People): Sponsor, Community Members, Informatics.

  3. Additional Population (Up to 150 People): Interested Colleagues.

Importance of Functionaries and Their Roles:

SANDROCK emphasizes the significance of each function and its role in the community.

Reward and Recognition:

Vital for community success: examples include financial incentives, subsidized training, flexible working hours, article presentations, organizational success communication, business and pleasure trips, professional promotions, publication by managers, monetary gifts, and gift coupons.

Types of Communities (According to APQC):

  1. Strategic Support Communities

  2. Project Communities

  3. Communities Supporting Tactical Processes

  4. Communities Cultivating Knowledge for the Distant Spinner

Community Success Factors:

Categorized based on importance and community life stages:

  1. Management sponsorship

  2. Relationship to Strategy

  3. Leader

  4. Facilitator/Enabler

  5. Core Group

  6. Line Manager Support

  7. Clear goals

  8. Participation

  9. Personal value

  10. Quality Friends

  11. Trust

  12. Promotion

  13. Quality content

  14. Sufficiently friendly technology

Everyday Activities in Knowledge Communities:

  • Assistance in the knowledge mapping process

  • Process mapping

  • Defining Best Practices

  • Comparison to other organizations (benchmarking)

  • Sharing learning processes

  • Discussing frequently asked questions

Possible Checkpoints Along the Way:

  1. Overcoming concerns about sharing (from both the sharer and the questioner).

  2. Addressing language difficulties, especially in global communities.

  • Additional Tips for Knowledge Communities:

    - Trust needs mirrors and must permeate all levels; it starts from the top.

    - While building trust, fostering relationships, and analyzing the value to all partners.

    - For a new community, consider benefits for participants, colleagues, and managers.

    - Utilize a virtual tool that is available, simple, and accessible for community activities.

    - Periodically check if goals and directions are being met.


Team Stability in Organizational Knowledge Management:

Success in organizational knowledge management activities necessitates a stable team, serving both in establishing and maintaining knowledge communities across all implemented building blocks. Occasionally, different functionaries may be part of the same team.

Key Roles in the Knowledge Management Team:

  • Knowledge Manager:

    - Responsible for developing the knowledge management strategy aligned with the overall organizational strategy.

    - Identification of building blocks for implementing the strategy.

    - Advocating the value of knowledge management within the organization.

    - Determining cultural characteristics and gaps in knowledge sharing to implement a change management plan.

    - Identifying knowledge communities, their nature, and the necessary infrastructure for support.

    - Coordinating with the organizational computing body for joint development of knowledge management solutions.

    - Measuring and reporting success and value derived from knowledge management.

  • Facilitator/Knowledge Coordinator (One or More Team Members):

    - Mapping knowledge and its flow.

    - Conducting interviews to extract valuable knowledge.

    - Providing support to knowledge communities.

    - Facilitating expert locator content (lateral organizational system, Machine Learning).

  • Information Specialist/Information Expert:

    - Conducting audits.

    - Leveraging informatics to bring external information into the organization and disseminate it to the appropriate individuals.

    - Developing and maintaining organizational taxonomy.

    - Supporting knowledge communities, especially in the realm of information.

  • Computing Professionals:

    - Developing portals and websites.

    - Managing users and permissions.

    - Enabling discussion forums.

    - Overseeing systems for managing documents, content, and records.

To summarize: We are never fully prepared for knowledge management. You just have to jump into the water and get started...

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