Development Cooperation Handbook/Learning and Knowledge Management/What is Knowledge management?

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What Is Knowledge Management?  Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of an organization’s information assets. These assets include structured databases, textual information such as policy and procedure documents, and most importantly, the tacit knowledge and expertise resident in the heads of individual employees.

KM is not the implementation of a technology; rather, it is a multidisciplined approach that integrates project/program strategy, cultural values and work processes. KM programs perform best when enabled with sophisticated and elegant technology, but an emphasis on technology alone will achieve very little progress toward KM; conversely, even the strongest KM culture that is not supported with adequate technology also will falter. Knowledge - the insights, understandings, and practical know-how that we all possess—is the fundamental resource and scope of all our activities. How can organizations take into account all the knowledge possessed by its employees and manage it for the benefit and survival of all organizational stakeholders – internal and external? Knowledge Management is the key. Knowledge Management ('KM') comprises a range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning. Knowledge Management programs are typically tied to organisational objectives and are intended to achieve specific outcomes, such as shared intelligence, improved performance, effective advantage, or higher levels of innovation. One aspect of Knowledge Management, knowledge transfer, has always existed in one form or another. Examples include on-the-job peer discussions, formal apprenticeship, corporate libraries, professional training and mentoring programs. However, with computers becoming more widespread in the second half of the 20th century, specific adaptations of technology such as knowledge bases, expert systems, and knowledge repositories have been introduced to further simplify the process. The three fundamental changes that drive KM are the increasing value of highly capable people, rising job complexity, and the universal availability of information. Increasing Value of Highly Capable People, (Knowledge Workers) Job Complexity: Jobs have evolved from management-directed, specific assignments with documented tasks, to self-directed, flexible assignments that involve generating new ideas, simplifying complexity into feasible processes, and synthesizing masses of information into informed decisions and actions. Universal Availability of, and Desire for, Knowledge: Technology advances and popularization of the Internet have stimulated human intellect and the desire for knowledge by making digitally stored information almost universally available. However, two issues persist. First, the volume of digital information is massive, and to render it useful enterprises must identify and separate the high-value, high-utility data from the low-value data. Second, the higher-value information (i.e., the intellectual knowledge of people and undefined job activities) is largely uncaptured and exists only in the minds of the experts. Enterprises must create a culture and a technical environment where knowledge is convertible to digital form. See Knowledge Workers and Learning Organizations ; Recruitment: How to Attract Knowledge Workers  

The Knowledge Spiral as described by Nonaka & Takeuchi.

Knowledge Asset Management Most traditional organization policies and controls focus on the tangible assets of the organization and leave unmanaged their important knowledge assets. Advanced organizations are realizing how important it is to ``know what they know and be able to make maximum use of the knowledge. This is their "organizational knowledge asset". All too often one part of an organization repeats work of another part simply because it is impossible to keep track of, and make use of, knowledge in other parts. Organizations need to know what their organizational knowledge assets are, and how to manage and make use of these assets to get maximum return. Knowledge assets must be nurtured, preserved, and used to the largest extent possible by both individuals and organizations. Organizations need to have an organization-wide vocabulary to ensure that the knowledge is correctly understood, to be able to identify, model and explicitly represent their knowledge, and to share and re-use their knowledge among differing applications for various types of users.

The project/programme purpose perspective of KM The project/programme purpose perspective focuses on why, where, and to what extent the organization must invest in or exploit knowledge. It looks at which strategies, products and services, alliances, acquisitions, or divestments should be considered from knowledge-related points of view. The management perspective focuses on determining, organizing, directing, and monitoring knowledge-related activities required to achieve the desired project/programme purpose strategies and objectives. The operational perspective focuses on applying the expertise to conduct explicit knowledge-related work and tasks.  

Principles of Knowledge Management There are seven fundamental principles, which require attention if this new framework is to be developed. All are derived from consideration of the changing conditions, which the knowledge economy brings. They are the principles of openness, uncertainty, complexity, relationships, reflection, reforming, and restoration. See guidelines: The seven principles of Knowledge Management  For a KM process to be effective, it must also have a focus on learning. Without a focus on learning, knowledge management is really only information management or management of potential knowledge. In order to be true knowledge management, the learning segment of the process must take place. The Training and Development function is uniquely qualified to coordinate the KM process with the subject matter experts and the information systems people.

Computer based Knowledge Management and People Current technology allows for almost any kind of tangible content to be wrought into a digital form and loosely distributed, albeit manually, far and wide at a reasonable expense. But some of the most valuable knowledge in organizations does not lend itself to capture quite as easily. How much skill and creativity embodied in a modern workforce can be rendered into some digital form, catalogued, and shared via knowledge management? The answer is that the crown jewels of many organizations reside as "wetware"—between the ears of skilled workers and in the finely honed talents and movements of their bodies. No level of technology is likely to change that for some time. Apprenticeships can be called knowledge management from such a perspective. Yet these long-term mentoring practices and sharing of knowledge seem to have vanished in most modern organizations, even though skills of a highly personal nature are in high demand. Whether it's a geologist who has an instinct for where to drill for oil, or a programmer whose particularly gifted at smoothing out code, the need to capture and pass along such hard-to-quantify skills is as acute as ever. Moreover, our culture of compensation in many ways creates distrust between the skilled worker and the organization: To safeguard against downsizing or layoffs, workers hoard, rather than share, their knowledge. Many cultures are so steeped in the primacy of the individual that many organizations lack even a simple way beyond the telephone directory to identify who in an organization possesses the most any, let alone, the most precious skills in particular areas.

Knowledge Management Content Strategic use of information that is distributed and managed on organization networks is shaping up as the dominant currency of intranets. The right information to and from the right people at the right time is enormously powerful. However, the more content gets jammed out on a network, the more urgent it is to manage it, to automate its routing – and perhaps even blend it with applications that allow people to work more productively. The information that is tangible often comes from two sources: structured, such as from a database, and unstructured, such as e-mail, faxes, voice mail, PowerPoint presentations, and many file-based documents. Often, the structured information was initially stored in a proprietary format, so access to that data is limited to few people. Knowledge management entails gathering information (this can be done using products from scanners to Web crawlers), organizing information (the emerging Web standard extensible markup language—XML, is being touted as playing a huge role here by creating tags to better organize and access data), distributing and disseminating information (through wide access to organizational, and public networks as well as data mining, search engines), collaborating on the results (there are many types of groupware available), and refining of information. The current tools of the trade—search engines and manual methods of categorizing content – can both enhance or erode productivity. organizations that manage their knowledge well could have a huge leg up on their competition. The knowledge management payoff usually comes only when both technology and culture shift to align in a common direction.


Waste that may be used[edit]

What are the links between knowledge management, learning and institutional development? Capitalize and utilize knowledge derived from the lessons learned evaluating the projects Knowledge derived from the implementation and evaluation of a program that can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses of program design and implementation. This information is likely to be helpful in modifying and improving program functions in the future. Monitoring and Evaluation constitute a separate activity in each programme/project and must be planned well. In order to make corrective measures, it is important that the information emerging from monitoring is analysed at the end of each project year. This exercise of analysing monitoring information is called monitoring review. The objective of monitoring review is to empower staff in delivering programmes effectively. The learning that emerges from a monitoring review must be integrated into current programme implementation. In order that the learning become integrated into new programming, the information must be shared, among the wider programme team, during country learning reviews usually held every alternate year. 

Empowering human resources means: managing learning in the organization, generating a healthy Communication climate  building up a Team spirit amongst employees at various levels. On the basis of the Lessons learned output of the  M&E actions  we can  the  programme teams and partners by increasing their knowledge and understanding on programme quality, impact, accountability and learning and assisting them in developing and prioritising work plans and processes to this end.

The centrality of the “knowledge worker” in the “learning organization” approach to programme cycle management. As organizations are increasingly asked to operate in a competitive environment they tend to focus on “outcome centred” management approaches. This implies the capacity to move from centralized bureaucratic structures to interrelated but self-governing programme/projects teams. A consequence of this shift of managerial focus is that managers need to foster an organizational process so that the employees learn from the programme/project results and can contribute to sharing the information required to better plan future actions. A further consequence is the growing need of staff, within the organization, able to access and use organizational knowledge and to contribute to further capitalization and sharing of new knowledge. In knowledge-based organizations, learning is no longer restricted to the initial start up phase of new workers, but becomes a continuous process that moves along the implementation of tasks assigned in programme/project implementation. On the other hand, computers and Internet make possible new ways of capitalizing and sharing such knowledge. So the two factors of change reinforce each other, and their combined influence is rapidly changing work and learning environments. Learning organizations are those that have in place IT supported systems, mechanisms and processes, that are used to continually enhance their capabilities and those who work with it or for it, to achieve sustainable objectives - for themselves and the communities in which they participate.

The Knowledge Spiral as described by Nonaka & Takeuchi.

Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice.


Organisations need to give more importance and emphasis to collecting, compiling, organising and sharing knowledge, experiences and Good Practices. Developed training curricula, manuals, and learning materials need to be widely disseminated and shared with relevant government and other departments to encourage their mainstreaming. This activity could include, among others, codifying and demonstrating the efficacy of specific methodological approaches and providing clues and advice to prevent the repetition of unsuccessful practices. What are the links between knowledge management, learning and institutional development? Capitalize and utilize knowledge derived from the lessons learned evaluating the projects Knowledge derived from the implementation and evaluation of a program that can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses of program design and implementation. This information is likely to be helpful in modifying and improving program functions in the future. Monitoring and Evaluation constitute a separate activity in each programme/project and must be planned well. In order to make corrective measures, it is important that the information emerging from monitoring is analysed at the end of each project year. This exercise of analysing monitoring information is called monitoring review. The objective of monitoring review is to empower staff in delivering programmes effectively. The learning that emerges from a monitoring review must be integrated into current programme implementation. In order that the learning become integrated into new programming, the information must be shared, among the wider programme team, during country learning reviews usually held every alternate year. 

Empowering human resources means:

  • managing learning in the organization,
  • generating a healthy Communication climate 
  • building up a Team spirit amongst employees at various levels.

On the basis of the Lessons learned output of the  M&E actions  we can  the  programme teams and partners by increasing their knowledge and understanding on programme quality, impact, accountability and learning and assisting them in developing and prioritising work plans and processes to this end.

The centrality of the “knowledge worker” in the “learning organization” approach to programme cycle management. As organizations are increasingly asked to operate in a competitive environment they tend to focus on “outcome centred” management approaches. This implies the capacity to move from centralized bureaucratic structures to interrelated but self-governing programme/projects teams. A consequence of this shift of managerial focus is that managers need to foster an organizational process so that the employees learn from the programme/project results and can contribute to sharing the information required to better plan future actions. A further consequence is the growing need of staff, within the organization, able to access and use organizational knowledge and to contribute to further capitalization and sharing of new knowledge. In knowledge-based organizations, learning is no longer restricted to the initial start up phase of new workers, but becomes a continuous process that moves along the implementation of tasks assigned in programme/project implementation. On the other hand, computers and Internet make possible new ways of capitalizing and sharing such knowledge. So the two factors of change reinforce each other, and their combined influence is rapidly changing work and learning environments. Learning organizations are those that have in place IT supported systems, mechanisms and processes, that are used to continually enhance their capabilities and those who work with it or for it, to achieve sustainable objectives - for themselves and the communities in which they participate.


Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice.


Knowledge management can be viewed from two perspectives:

  • Knowledge can be viewed as "Knowledge = Object" which relies upon concepts from "Information Theory" in the understanding of knowledge. These researchers and practitioners are normally involved in the construction of information management systems, AI, reengineering, etc. This group builds knowledge systems, while the next group changes the way we use knowledge, which ultimately changes human behavior.
  • Knowledge can be viewed as "Knowledge = Process" which relies upon the concepts from philosophy, psychology, and sociology. These researchers and practitioners are normally involved in education, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc. and are primarily involved in assessing, changing and improving human individual skills and behavior.