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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For the reader whose organisation is already 'smart' about knowledge management, several chapters provide usable examples for becoming even smarter.  There is much to be learned through recognising and exploring the opportunities offered by experiences gained in corollary settings as well as from emerging technologies that support the growth and sustainability of KM and thereby foster successful outcomes (e.g. better customer relationship management, selling client engagements and getting up to speed more quickly, cutting down bench research time, cutting product to market time, etc.)  

Chapter 9 discusses why using an external consultant in some organisations can be beneficial.  Turning to an external third party for help framing a KM project and guiding it forward can be an opportunity for kick starting the initiative and also leveraging such an engagement.  As with the other chapters in the book this provides several transferable examples of how to craft a business case and evaluate the pros and cons of this approach including finding a pool of potential consultants and ensuring they understand what you expect of them.   The expertise such a consultant can bring to the table can enable all concerned to rise above the noise and see what needs to be done more clearly.     

Thankfully, a caveat relating to technology as a KM tool is covered in the book as well.  The lesson of 'just because you can doesn’t mean you should' in terms of chasing new technologies is emphasised, and actual less than successful experiences are discussed, and suggests that plans to use a new technology must be tempered with the reality of business needs and available budget as well as with the input of other stakeholders such as IT.  That there is an entire chapter devoted to 'Tools for Talking' reminds us that sometimes the simplest KM tools, those that open a dialogue, should not be rejected because they lack the allure of a technology solution.

The value of the experiences shared throughout this book on how to become a knowledge management thought leader in your organisation - the 'watch outs' and important considerations - can not be overemphasised.

If the book has any weakness, and it is a small one indeed, I am not a fan of the two column layout of its pages, especially when read as an eBook.    


This book is highly recommended for those who want (and need) to understand how and why knowledge management is integral to an organisation’s success and what a commitment to KM requires.  Readers at all levels, including non-IS/KM managers, will certainly benefit from the practical, pragmatic, and highly adaptable guidance the authors provide.  This is more than a one-time read.  It is the kind of book we keep on the shelf next to our desk that is reserved for the sources we refer to often.

LIS and business students will find this book of great benefit.  The nitty-gritty varied insider experiences, supplemented by extensive and up-to-date literature reviews, are not typically part of the standard MLS or business curriculum. Regardless of the type of setting in which the student hopes to work, understanding the realities and value of knowledge management and how it could contribute to the mission of a prospective employer will significantly enhance their skill set.

You may not qualify as a KM expert by the time you finish this read, but you will have become someone who can intelligently discuss, participate in, contribute to, and even lead the evaluation and planning of knowledge management policies and activities.  You will also thoroughly understand the challenges involved and the breadth and depth of your own and the organisation’s commitment required to be successful. 

In the Postscript and Summary, the authors and a range of leaders in the IS/KM field share what they believe are the most important soft as well as hard skills one needs to be successful at KM and why a holistic approach is key.  This plain talk and pragmatic advice sums up the greatest strength of this book; the sharing of hands on experience by those who have been in the trenches, reinforced by a thorough knowledge of the literature.  The road map could not be more succinctly laid out; now it is up to the reader to make the journey their own.

Knowledge Management practice in organisations: the view from inside by Ulla de Stricker et al is published by IGI Global.

Dr. Toby Pearlstein is retired Global Director, Information Services, Bain & Company, Inc. a strategic management consulting firm and co-author with Jim Matarazzo of Special Libraries: A Survival Guide (Libraries Unlimited, April 2013).   Her expertise is in the area of globalisation of corporate information services and vendor portfolio management.  She has served as Chair of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Business & Finance Division and the Transportation Division, as well as holding various other positions on SLA Committees.  She has published articles in Online Searcher Magazine, Library Journal, Information Outlook, and Portal among others.  She holds a doctorate from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science and is an SLA Fellow and an inductee into the SLA Hall of Fame.

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