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The KM Cookbook - Book Review

1 June 2022
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

"The KM Cookbook: Stories and Strategies for Organizations Exploring Knowledge Management Standard 30401" is a book published in 2019 and authored by Chris Collison, Paul Corney, and Patricia Eng, esteemed figures in the field of knowledge management.

 

One might question how these authors managed to write a book about implementing the knowledge management standard when they were not part of the team of experts who co-authored it. As a result, the book's title deviates slightly from its actual content. While the book does include knowledge management strategies and case studies that showcase organizations and their knowledge management activities, with 16 stories from five continents as its core, the book's theme, which heavily employs restaurant and cooking metaphors, takes a prominent role (in my opinion, perhaps overly so). However, the book lacks a strong enough connection to the knowledge management standard. In my perspective,  although there are occasional mentions of it, those seeking a book solely focused on knowledge management may be disappointed.

 

The book covers a range of topics, such as an introduction to knowledge management, key individuals involved in the process (including the lead sponsor, knowledge manager, and knowledge management consultants), implementation aspects like knowledge management strategies and programs within organizations, preparations for the knowledge management standard, and a collection of knowledge management stories from around the world.

 

Although I purchased the book based on Patricia Eng's recommendation in the context of the standard, it is worth reading for other reasons. It provides a wealth of knowledge about knowledge management and presents numerous interesting and instructive stories related to the field.


What is knowledge management?

This question prompts various definitions, and each organization can adapt a definition that aligns with its specific needs. In their book, the authors present three possible definitions, indicating their disagreement on a single definition and proposing multiple alternatives:

  1.  Knowledge management is the combination of processes, tools, and behaviors that foster connection and motivation among individuals, encouraging them to share their experiences, insights, and learning.

  2. It encompasses an organization's capability to capture critical knowledge, continuously enhance it, and make it easily accessible to those who need it. This facilitates creative utilization and value generation within the organization's normative work.

  3. Knowledge management consists of principles, tools, and practices that empower individuals to generate, share, translate, and apply knowledge, thereby creating value and enhancing overall effectiveness.

 

Additionally, the authors refer to Kabbalah, which involves the collection and connection processes within knowledge management. They use "collect" as a codename for connecting individuals and content repositories and "link" as a codename for interpersonal connections. They raise whether there are additional components beyond these two and promptly provide a clear answer: Yes, the creation of new knowledge. This concept holds practical significance. The authors recommend mapping strategic objectives and knowledge management activities against the three categories of create, collect, and share. Each organization has a distinct center of gravity among these categories, and ensuring that the desired and appropriate practices are effectively implemented is crucial.

 

(Note: The section regarding "Processescollect&connect" and "Knowledge creation" is slightly ambiguous and may benefit from further clarification or restructuring for better coherence.)


 

Officials

Sponsor

The sponsor typically represents the party to whom the knowledge management function reports. Therefore, the role can be assumed by a manager from various disciplines such as strategy, computing, human resources, organizational development, R&D, operations, project management, quality, business excellence, customer management, or even the CEO. When considering where the function should be integrated within your organization, it is crucial to ask the most important question: Which manager is perceived as having credibility, and who will exhibit the most enthusiasm in leading the activity?

 

Here are ten characteristics of an effective sponsor for knowledge management:

  1. Genuine dissatisfaction with the current situation, coupled with a positive mindset that believes in the potential for improvement.

  2. Willingness to allocate resources.

  3. Possesses a deep understanding of people and demonstrates emotional intelligence.

  4. Publicly supports knowledge management activities.

  5. Supports knowledge management activities not only through public statements but also in personal and one-on-one conversations.

  6. Has a strong network and the ability to influence others.

  7. Monitors the progress and performance of knowledge management activities.

  8. Fearlessly reminds individuals to promote knowledge management activities when necessary.

  9. Focuses on the future.

  10. Acts as a role model by exemplifying proper conduct and behavior.

 

(Note: The last characteristic, "Conduct & Conduct," seems unclear and could benefit further clarification or revision.)


Knowledge Manager

Undoubtedly, the knowledge manager holds significant importance in ensuring the success of knowledge management activities as they take on a leadership position. While the required skills of a knowledge manager are influenced by the organization's knowledge management strategy (covered in the strategy chapter below), here is a typical list of skills to consider:

 

  1. Research: Dedicate time to thoroughly understanding the organization's context and specific needs. Use this understanding as a basis for action.

  2. Navigation: Assist the organization in navigating the vast amount of information and various knowledge assets that are present and operational.

  3. Negotiation: Skillfully negotiate the boundaries of knowledge management and define the extent of the knowledge manager's involvement and authority.

  4. Facilitation: Conduct meetings and work sessions in a humble manner that encourages and supports knowledge sharing.

  5. Collaboration: Engage in knowledge sharing and collaboration with multiple stakeholders, creating synergy.

  6. Communication: Effectively communicate knowledge management activities and possess the ability to listen to needs and feedback actively.

  7. Curation: Organize, store, and ensure the accessibility of content. When necessary, perform actions such as processing, integration, updating, and other related tasks.

  8. Celebration: Give recognition and acknowledgment to individuals, celebrate successes, and share inspiring stories.

 

(Note: The original text regarding the "strategy chapter below" and "humble manner" was omitted as it was unclear in the given context. Please let me know if you would like to provide more information or further clarify these points.)


Knowledge Management Consultants

In their book, the authors delve into using external consultants to establish a knowledge management system and address operational needs. They offer ten valuable tips for clients and consultants to foster successful collaboration. Here are notable tips for each party:

 

Tips for Clients

  1. communicate your expectations of the consultants and the rationale behind these requests.

  2. Foster transparency by avoiding the concealment of peripheral activities, past endeavors, or the involvement of other advisors.

  3. Don't delegate the thinking process entirely; instead, collaborate with consultants to develop solutions.

  4. Avoid setting overly ambitious goals and expect consultants to solve every problem within a single assignment.

 

Tips for Consultants

  1. Conduct thorough research and be well-prepared. Show genuine interest and explore potential development directions. Familiarize yourself with the organization and its operations.

  2. Don't hesitate to acknowledge areas where your expertise may be limited or where someone else may be better suited to address certain aspects.

  3. Share models and ideas with others outside the organization. Clients also value your network and relationships.

  4. Encourage clients to consider how they can sustain the progress made and build their internal teams for the future, even after your engagement ends.

  5. Collaborate with clients to create new and customized models. Avoid solely relying on preconceived notions brought from your own experiences.

  6. Resist the temptation to belittle the work of previous consultants.

  7. Embrace a giving mindset rather than solely adopting a transactional approach. In knowledge management, reciprocity matters as the community is tightly interconnected.

 

(Note: The original text did not include Tips 7 and 8 for consultants. I have renumbered the tips accordingly for consistency.)


Implementation

Knowledge Management Strategies

Implementing a knowledge management strategy should be tailored to fit the nature and context of the organization. Here is a comprehensive list of possible knowledge management strategies:

 

1. Top-Down:

  • Leadership from the management level of the organization.

  • Advantage: Captures employees' attention and emphasizes the initiative's significance.

  • Disadvantage: Limited commitment from each board member compared to a dedicated individual and challenges maintaining momentum.

 

2. Top-Down & Bottom-Up:

  • Combining leadership from the organization's management with input from field workers.

  • Advantage: Employees recognize the importance of knowledge management, leveraging their expertise, and identifying areas of excellence for action.

  • Possible approach: Establishing a knowledge community of enthusiastic employees and collaborating with them.

 

3. Pilot:

  • Implementing knowledge management in a localized and incremental manner.

  • Advantage: Allows gradual experimentation, builds credibility, and facilitates learning.

  • Criteria for selecting a suitable pilot: Manageable scale, superior value, core process involvement, non-unique process, strategic knowledge relevance, alignment with sponsor's interests, resource availability, risk assessment, and potential for easy recognition and sharing of success.

 

4. Slipstream:

  • Integrating knowledge management behind the scenes of another successful project.

  • Advantage: Leverages the momentum of the existing project.

  • Disadvantage: Potential limitation of knowledge management perception to the context of the other project.

 

5. Stealth:

  • Implementing knowledge management discreetly during another activity without explicit discourse.

  • Advantage: Overcomes anticipated objections.

  • Disadvantage: Lack of recognition. Requires careful and strategic execution.

 

6. Copycat:

  • Imitating successful knowledge management practices from a similar organization.

  • Advantage: Gains entry into knowledge management practices that would otherwise be challenging.

 

7. The Buffet Menu:

  • Leading by offering a wide range of knowledge management options for employees.

  • Advantage/Disadvantage: Suitable if there is an existing demand for knowledge management within the organization.

 

8. Phoenix-from-the-Ashes:

  • Reviving enthusiasm and motivation from a past knowledge management project.

  • Advantage: Provides a second chance to engage in knowledge management initiatives.

 

Of course, combining multiple strategies based on the organization's specific needs and circumstances is possible.


Knowledge Management Program in the Organization

The knowledge management program encompasses a range of tools and processes designed to address the organization's knowledge assets. It includes the following components:

  •  Identification of needs: This will be conducted through knowledge mapping assessments, which assess risks, gaps, and information accessibility issues.

  • Knowledge management initiatives: These can include various approaches such as lessons learned, knowledge communities, collaborations, repositories, taxonomies, search tools, wikis, portals, knowledge packs, guides, videos, employee mentoring, knowledge café sessions, seminars, storytelling, idea promotion, and more.

  • Consideration of advanced technologies: Implementation of gamification, artificial intelligence, and VR/mixed reality solutions can also be explored.

 

The knowledge management plan will encompass the following components:

  • Enabling factors

  • Strategic context

  • Officials

  • Processes

  • Technology

  • Evaluation

  • Interaction and internalization

  • Culture

  • Encoding and curating knowledge

  • Improvement

  • Governance

  • Leadership

  • Support

  • Organizational Knowledge Management Canvas

 

(Note: The original text did not have clear bullet points for each section, so I have added them for better readability and organization.)

 

Preparation for the Knowledge Management Standard Test (30401)

After providing an extensive description of the history and development of the standard, the authors address the arguments both for and against its implementation. Ultimately, the recommendation leans in favor of adopting the standard. A standard offers a framework for the success of a knowledge management program, providing additional value. It outlines "what" needs to be done while leaving the "how" details to be determined at the organizational level based on its specific context, goals, needs, risks, and opportunities. The standard can document processes, showcasing a competitive advantage in the market. It can also aid in developing or reviewing an existing strategy and identifying the way forward. Moreover, the standard emphasizes the importance of leadership support for implementing the standard.

 

The role of the audit editor is to assess whether the organization has developed effective processes to meet the requirements of the ISO standard. The audit editor acts independently and does not serve as a knowledge management consultant.

 

In preparation for the test, consider the following steps:

  • Ensure that the editor is authorized to conduct tests in the specific area of knowledge management.

  • Prepare the standard documents and provide copies to the editor beforehand.

  • Conduct an internal workshop within the organization to anticipate potential questions using The KM Chef's Canvas.

 

During the test itself, follow these guidelines:

  • Begin the meeting with a brief introduction to the organization.

  • Verify that the individuals being interviewed within the organization know the knowledge management program and confirm that the announced activities are taking place.

  • Come prepared with records demonstrating ongoing activities and progress, such as meeting summaries and reports.

  • Address all questions before the final meeting, a summary meeting where the editor presents their findings.


The book provides detailed test preparation questions (The KM Chef's Canvas) with topics aligned with the components of the knowledge management plan described in the previous chapter. These specific questions can be accessed on the book's website at:

https://www.iso30401.com/km-canvas.

 

Knowledge Management Stories from Around the World

This section is highly instructive, presenting 16 case studies showcasing successful knowledge management implementations from various organizations worldwide. Each organization highlights specific aspects of the knowledge management plan described earlier in which they have excelled.

 

For detailed case studies, please refer to the book. Here are summaries:

 

World Bank:

Noteworthy solutions: AI-based smart knowledge packages, pockets of excellence for answering questions, and knowledge management competition.

Highlight Integration of 150 different internal and external sources.

 

General Electric:

Key solutions: Knowledge communities; Wicky; common taxonomy; comprehensive expert map.

Highlight: Rebranding from knowledge management to knowledge sharing; involving the business entity in idea generation; AGILE implementation.

 

USAID-Humanitarian Aid USA:

Key solutions: Knowledge communities, storytelling, process documentation, and creating knowledge-sharing opportunities.

Highlight: Managed as a model with collaboration, learning, and flexibility/adaptation components; self-evaluation using the model.

 

Schlumberger-Energy and Petroleum Industries:

Unique solutions: 24x7 access to technical expertise knowledge; knowledge communities; Yellow Pages; increased learning.

Highlight: Linking knowledge management with career advancement; knowledge communities serving defined business needs.

 

PROCERGS Brazil-Digital and Service Centers for Public Organizations:

Noteworthy solutions: Ideas portal, storytelling, lessons learned.

Highlight the Combination of knowledge management and innovation.

 

The Olympic Games:

Key solutions: Lessons learned; gathering insights; knowledge reports; learning from behind-the-scenes visits.

Highlight Integrated coaching, training, people, knowledge, and data analysis.

 

Medicins Sans Frontieres – Humanitarian Organization Médecins Sans Frontières:

Meaningful solutions: Lessons learned; knowledge coffee; design thinking; 1-2-4-all; portals; critical knowledge packages; knowledge files for new employees.

Highlight Self-assessment tools for teams and projects, selecting suitable tools.

 

Transport for London:

Key solutions: Lessons learned; Knowledge Hub for lessons learned; show-and-tell events; knowledge communities.

Highlight the Transition from intra-unit to cross-organizational knowledge sharing.

 

Syngenta-Agricultural Technology:

Key solutions: Knowledge communities; recognition awards; learning from leaders, departed employees, and projects; podcast.

Highlight Voluntary inclusion in knowledge communities, the heart of the knowledge management program.

 

Linklaters-Law Firm:

Key solutions: Organizing and making 90 million documents accessible; professional content specialists; knowledge communities; ideas.

Highlight: Shifting focus from knowledge management to innovation; providing customer knowledge management services.

 

Defense Science & Technology Laboratory UK:

Unique solutions: Intra-organizational knowledge sharing platforms; an external venue for sharing knowledge with academic institutions; knowledge retention.

Highlight Knowledge management as an ecosystem; management in technical, project, organizational, and personal categories.

 

Financial Conduct Authority UK:

Key solutions: Monthly meetings to share cross-team legal knowledge; expert groups; coffee sessions; learning events; professional forums; capture and share knowledge.

Remarkable: Achieving successful knowledge management with limited resources; close connection to business needs.

 

Petroleum Development Oman-Oil Industry:

Key solutions: Lessons learned; Lessons Learners Database; workflow guides; knowledge cards; storytelling.

Highlight KM Dashboard for activity monitoring.

 

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia-Oil Industry:

Key solutions: Knowledge retention; Knowledge Coffee sessions; expert map; content management; collaborative platforms; knowledge communities; knowledge transfer; strengthening knowledge skills; storytelling.

Highlight Emphasis on knowledge risk management, aligning with Knowledge Management Standard 30401.

 

MAPNA: Iran – Transportation and Industrial Power Facilities and Infrastructure:

Key solutions: Learning processes before, during, and after activities; project knowledge management.

Highlight: Celebrating knowledge management milestones with captions.


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