Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations

Dr. Toby Pearlstein reviews a "practical and pragmatic" book that recognises that one size does not fit all.

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Dr. Toby Pearlstein reviews 'Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: the view from inside'


 

Would you characterise your organisation as 'smart' or 'dumb'?  Is it a 'learning organisation'? 

While seemingly simple questions, how a CEO, a department head, a team leader, or, for that matter, any other employee (i.e. knowledge worker) answers is anything but. 

At its core, the aim of this excellent book is to provide a very practical and pragmatic road map to help figure out the answers.  Having helped you find the answers, however, the authors don’t just leave you to struggle with what to do next.  Rather they share their inside (read 'real world') experiences to help guide you further toward the destination of making your organisation both smarter and able to learn from past events.  After all, the competitive edge that any organisation seeks can only be found by getting smarter not dumber and recognising that the lessons of past successes (and failures) must not be wasted.  

One strength of this book, across its various authors, is the theme that one size does not fit all.  There is no one model of knowledge management (KM) that can simply be taken and implanted in your context with its unique challenges and be expected to succeed.   Another strength is the theme throughout that KM is not an easy proposition even with the greatest of upper management investment and commitment.  That is the ubiquitous value of the lessons shared here; KM is most beneficial and sustainable when it fits your situation (not some unrealistic ideal model) and works to contribute to the bottom line.  

One of the real advantages of Knowledge Management Practice is that a novice in the world of KM can begin at the beginning and follow a logical flow of chapters that build upon one another to help you move from the generalities of myriad real challenges in creating a knowledge management culture to a variety of workable ways in which to adapt the insights shared to any given organisation.  The bibliography, suggested readings, and glossary following each chapter and at the end enable the reader to delve further into each facet of KM while simultaneously mastering the lingo involved. 

For those building a business case for the introduction of KM or for expanding its reach, every chapter offers insights that can be modified into checklists for your particular setting and need (including some really useful graphics such as the chart in Chapter 6, 'Building Smarter Organisations...' that clearly and sometimes painfully highlights the differences between Traditional Leaders and Collaborative Leaders), even to the language you consider using.  A good example of this is Chapter 3’s 'Theory in Practice' segment describing the author’s decision about using the word 'audit' when proposing an information or knowledge audit.   One client was adamantly opposed to using the term because of its financial connotations and its associations with restriction or change.  A much more palatable moniker (for this firm at least) was Information/ Knowledge Resources Study.  Yet another client, who happened to be the Chief Financial Officer of this medical diagnostics company, loved the term 'audit' and wholeheartedly became the project’s champion. 

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