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The Power of KM - Book Review

1 December 2018
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

"The Power of KM: Harnessing the Extraordinary Value of Knowledge Management" is a book authored in 2016 by Bruce N. Hunter, who holds numerous degrees and possesses extensive experience in knowledge management, change management, project management, quality, and Agile development. Hunter adeptly elucidates knowledge and management concepts, offering insights into their applications at personal, business, and holistic levels. The simplicity of Hunter's explanations sets this book apart, achieving clarity where others often need to improve.

 

The book covers the following topics:
  • Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom

  • The Purpose: Objectives of Knowledge Management

  • Who Benefits? Target Audiences

  • What's Offered? Knowledge Management Solutions

  • How? The Application Process

  • Anticipating the Future of Knowledge Management

 

This book is recommended for novices venturing into knowledge management and beyond. I have gained significant insights from it.

 

Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom

Data forms the foundational layer, and information represents contextualized data. Information, in turn, acts as the conduit to knowledge. However, knowledge transcends being mere contextualized information. It can be defined as the understanding derived from experience—an uncomplicated yet potent description.

 

Knowledge takes shape in two forms: visible and invisible. The former is tangible, consciously recognized, recorded, encoded, and shared. The latter remains hidden due to our unawareness of what we possess or the challenge of articulating it.

 

Wisdom and knowledge share a nuanced relationship. Defining wisdom is a more intricate task, and Hunter presents an array of suggestions. All these suggestions converge around the notion that wisdom empowers the utilization of knowledge for enhanced decision-making and superior outcomes. These propositions concern understanding the application of knowledge, encompassing perceptions, beliefs, tools, and skills. This involves discerning the appropriateness of speech, actions, and timing and comprehending their subtleties across various contexts.

 

The interplay between knowledge and wisdom fosters a comprehensive grasp of knowledge management, as presented by Hunter. Knowledge management involves harnessing human capital and knowledge to facilitate problem-solving, yielding optimal outcomes for a wider audience.

 

Purpose: Objectives of Knowledge Management

Knowledge management serves three key objectives:

  1. Efficiency: Streamlining processes to conserve time and resources.

  2. Helpfulness: Facilitating collaboration and knowledge sharing to enhance teamwork.

  3. Effectiveness: Maximizing outcomes by leveraging knowledge effectively.

 

To achieve these objectives, knowledge management encompasses seven distinct sub-objectives:

  • Reducing Knowledge Retrieval Time: Also known as delivering the right knowledge to the right person in the proper context. Examples of relevant knowledge management solutions include refined hiring processes and advanced search engines.

  • Enhancing Knowledge Processes: Given that all organizational processes are knowledge-intensive today, this sub-objective translates to improving work procedures or processes. Knowledge management solutions targeting this objective encompass rewriting methods and fostering continuous team improvement.

  • Cultivating Knowledge-Based Teamwork: Teams operating collaboratively benefit from increased productivity, enhanced effectiveness, and a positive working atmosphere. Knowledge communities and self-understanding programs are among the knowledge management solutions that support this aim.

  • Integrating and Leveraging New Knowledge Creation involves merging knowledge from diverse sources to develop novel insights. Knowledge management solutions that promote this objective include innovation programs and continuous learning initiatives.

  • Encouraging Collaborative Knowledge Sharing: Beyond essential knowledge sharing, this objective spans joint knowledge development and collaborative problem-solving based on shared insights. Knowledge communities and measures to encourage using knowledge stores fall under this category.

  • Managing Knowledge-Related Risks: This sub-objective encompasses identifying risks linked to knowledge and utilizing knowledge management tools to mitigate these risks. Knowledge retention strategies and techniques for identifying knowledge gaps are vital solutions.

  • Facilitating Valuable Knowledge Flow: The promotion of knowledge flow pertains to valuable knowledge exchange rather than every piece of information within the organization. This is achieved across three levels: management to the field, field to control, and among colleagues. Solutions that align with this sub-objective include making processes, standards, regulations, and insights accessible within the organization and encouraging innovation and idea-sharing.


These sub-objectives and their corresponding knowledge management solutions collectively contribute to the overarching goals of efficiency, helpfulness, and effectiveness of organizational operations.

 

 Who Benefits? Target Audiences

Initial contemplation regarding knowledge management activities predominantly stems from a business and organizational outlook. This has become the norm—a narrative that has permeated our understanding. The rhetoric has been consistently reinforced; it's the sphere where financial implications have taken precedence. Nevertheless, Hunter introduces an alternative perspective, awakening us to realize that knowledge management is pertinent across all facets of existence. Its relevance extends beyond a specific arena; this new awakening is an essential shift.


Hunter propounds that knowledge management is aptly suited to various dimensions of life. This is reflected in its application at the following levels:

  1. Business: While this realm requires no elaborate expansion—given the numerous examples, including those in the book, of this field—knowledge management remains integral.

  2. Organizational and Institutional: From profit-driven corporations to non-profit entities, religious institutions, educational organizations, and governmental bodies, knowledge management processes can serve diverse functions. These include advancing an organization's mission, harnessing human capital, and yielding optimal outcomes.

  3. Projects: Irrespective of context, projects are an arena where knowledge management is pivotal for effective operation and success. Document sharing, discussion groups, and lessons learned all contribute significantly.

  4. Personal Sphere: On a personal level, encompassing our roles as employees and individuals within our private, marital, and family circles, knowledge management finds its place. It provides a platform for learning, enrichment, progress, and connecting with others based on shared knowledge.

  5. Immediate Community: Within neighborhoods and among friends, knowledge management assumes the role of enhancing individual and communal lives, bridging gaps, and fostering mutual development.

  6. Global Community: The global context includes professionals in corresponding fields, individuals sharing common interests, and those akin to knowledge management within broader circles.

  7. Sociocultural: Finally, knowledge management extends its influence to sociocultural contributions globally, contributing to humanity's collective progress.


Hunter's perspective reshapes the conventional boundaries of knowledge management, underscoring its applicability across all strata of existence. This comprehensive outlook highlights its importance as an instrument for personal, communal, and global advancement.

 

What's Offered? Knowledge Management Solutions

Hunter organizes the array of knowledge management activities into seven primary chapters. The significance of these chapters, as we will later observe in their application, lies in the necessity for organizations to encompass all of them collectively rather than settling for partial solutions:

  1. Transferring Knowledge during Position Changes entails sharing knowledge when employees enter or leave positions. It involves instructing newcomers, providing relevant documents, engaging in conversations during an employee's departure, and learning from their experiences to enhance practices.

  2. Continuous Learning: The cornerstone of a learning organization, continuous learning fosters both collective and individual growth. It includes processes like knowledge coffee sessions, lessons learned, and skill development. The focus is ensuring that acquired knowledge is easily accessible, efficient, intuitive, and effective.

  3. Identifying, Implementing, and Sharing Insights: Establishing an insight database based on organizational best practices is pivotal. This involves utilizing checklists to augment the utilization of acquired knowledge.

  4. Establishing Knowledge Databases: Creating various database types (documents, lessons, learning resources, etc.) and their upkeep. These repositories, often aligned with specific expertise areas (Subject Matter Expertise or SME), can be hosted on portals, managed using document management tools, or accessed through network libraries—tailored to specific contexts and needs.

  5. Fostering Innovation: Innovation revolves around developing new knowledge through non-linear avenues. Organizations must acknowledge that key elements fostering innovation include a willingness to accept failures and employee support. Knowledge management's role in innovation might involve programs encouraging novel ideas within an organization.

  6. Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration: This pertains to knowledge communities, encompassing open knowledge sharing, the extraction of tacit knowledge for collective benefit, and collaborative knowledge development. Hunter identifies various types of knowledge communities: CoP (Community of Practice) for sharing among professionals in the same field, CoI (Community of Interest) for those with common interests, and CoA (Community of Action) for individuals with shared missions.

  7. Measurement and Analysis: This involves quantifying and analyzing knowledge management activities and their outcomes. The establishment of objective goals is crucial.

 

Hunter's framework outlines these essential chapters, each contributing to a comprehensive approach to knowledge management that resonates across diverse organizational and contextual domains.

 

How? The Application Process

Organizations can follow a sequence of seven steps to implement knowledge management effectively:

  1. Environmental Assessment: This evaluation discerns how much knowledge management is delineated—whether it pertains to staff, the organization, or any other group.

  2. Survey of Existing Knowledge Management Activities: Even before formal initiatives are launched, organizations naturally engage in knowledge sharing and development. Surveying these ongoing practices is pivotal for understanding the existing landscape and identifying gaps.

  3. Knowledge Management Initiative Planning: This planning phase encompasses concurrently small-scale and comprehensive initiatives. Initiating smaller endeavors, which may not necessitate new technological or infrastructural changes and can showcase quick wins, is critical. Additionally, initiatives should address all seven chapters outlined in the "Knowledge Management Solutions" section.

  4. Implementation Execution: This involves introducing initial small-scale solutions followed by subsequent solutions. A detailed work plan should outline the gradual implementation of proposed solutions.

  5. Change Management and Implementation: Implementing effective knowledge management solutions is not merely about their creation but their successful adoption. Managing change is a process that can adhere to various change management models, some offered by Hunter.

  6. Implementation of Governance Processes: To ensure sustained and effective performance, knowledge management governance plays a vital role. This entails two pivotal steps:

    1. Ensuring management commitment and

    2. Establishing a governance team. This team should comprise representatives from the Knowledge Management Office and its leaders, ideally reporting to the Knowledge Manager.

  7. Communicating Successes, Sharing, and Collaboration: The final step, before embarking on the next cycle, involves sharing the essence of knowledge management, highlighting successes, engaging people, and encouraging their active participation.


This systematic progression provides organizations with a structured approach to implementing knowledge management, enabling them to harness its benefits and foster continuous improvement.

 

Anticipating the Future of Knowledge Management

In the era of information, managers base decisions on data and information. However, in the knowledge age, decisions pivot on knowledge and wisdom. Hunter's anticipation is rooted in the widespread optimization of knowledge management across all domains, targeting seven distinct audiences. Those unable to embrace knowledge management effectively will inevitably find themselves at a disadvantage compared to those who do. This approach centers on knowledge-driven problem-solving and recognizing knowledge management's value and associated endeavors. Knowledge management can propel us toward a more advanced world if these endeavors thrive. Whether Hunter's vision aligns with desire or prediction remains to be seen, awaiting the passage of time (M.L.).


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