Reflective Journal Will the real KM managers please standup?

Many times we went to seminars where companies keep talking about their KM efforts, their achievements, how they contribute to the companies, etc. Everybody talks about KM, and seems everyone succeeded. So, is it real?  Our good friend Andreas Sher leads kmp2p and our members to the KM field with his insights and reflections. No matter you love it or not, this is real.


Andreas is one of the few MscKM graduates who actually works in the KM field, he has been serving at MTR’s Project Division for innovation management and lately he was the KM Director at Pico, an exhibition and event management company. Both companies spent huge amount of effort on KM but works towards totally different directions.


     The spectrum


                       Procedural                                                                   Collaboration & Sharing






Quality management                   

Knowledge management

KM strategy





At one end of the spectrum there is procedural focus, which is in Andreas’s point of view, a ISO 9000 like quality management approach. On the other end of the spectrum there is collaboration and sharing focus, which tends to be more like a typical knowledge management approach with respect to procedural focus. I add KM strategy as an additional row cause I think it is a spectrum between codification and personalization.


According to Tiwana (2002), for any KM initiative to be successful, both approaches must be present. Personalization strategy is more focused on connecting knowledge workers through networks and codification strategy is more focused on technology that enables storage, indexing, retrieval, and resue. It’s foolish to try using both approaches to the same degree. It is equally unsound to use only one.1)


My favor quote from Andreas for this section: What you do for “KM” really affected by what your boss means!

We talked about KM framework


According to Andreas, KM framework

  • Aligns with business needs
  • Is the interplay between people, process, technology
  • Supports collect & connect
  • Allows push and pull (supply and demand)
  • Should proactively managed
  • Is part of the day-to-day work


What is KM framework? Part 5 of EU Guide to good practice in KM gives below definition.

KM Framework (17 of CWA 14924-5:2004)2)

Describes the most essential factors (assets, people, processes, tools) influencing the success or failure of a KM initiative, and their interdependent relationships. Typically, a framework is built up into a pictorial representation which serves as an aide-memoire for implementing KM within an organization, helping users to position individual KM initiatives with within a wider context (see also booklet 1 of this CEN guide).


APQC suggested a KM framework like this:

Figure 1 APQC’s Knowledge Management Program Framework3)


APQC’s Knowledge Management Program Framework (Figure 1) provides a detailed road map to help these organizations design, implement, and sustain their KM programs. “It gives organizations an entire life cycle of how to think about KM and how to make it stick,” explains Jim Lee, APQC KM senior advisor. “Otherwise, they don’t even know where to begin.” APQC knows that the framework works because it is the result of 20 years spent observing and researching how organizations develop successful KM programs.4)


Interestingly, we found the APCQ’s framework very similar to KMP2P’s research in KM supported innovation5).



Where KM strategy is formulated from company vision, required to execute with specialized tactics (change management and culture changes), and reasonable measurement must be in place for further adjustment or literate. We believe both frameworks talk about similar things and has no conflict with each other, they should be a good foundation for implementing KM, although they are describing KM in different aspects. Organizations should adapt the framework that suits their particular needs. 



We also talked about KM System


According to Andreas, KMS

  • Has no standard
  • Is culture dependent
  • Has many different forms, depends on industry and management understanding (what you do for KM really affected by what your boss means!)
  • Readiness for KM must be assessed


Below is the KMS we learn from ISE543 and also revisited on MOOC ISE101x, Knowledge Management & Big Data in Business6)

This diagram emphasises KMS supported by IT infrastructure but has not mention the culture issue and the organization form. But before we go deeper, what exactly a KMS is?


“You keep using that word, and I don’t think it means what you think it means.”


As there is common understanding on QMS due to ISO 9000 series, I made some research on QMS and existing KM standards/best practices to see if it is possible to make a convincing definition for KMS. First, let’s visit some well defined terms from various sources.  






Knowledge (1.3.4 of AS 5037)7)

A body of understanding and skills that is constructed by people and increased through interaction with other people and with information.

The literature is replete with many contested definitions of knowledge. There is no single agree definition of knowledge or one unifying theory of knowledge management.

Knowledge has many facets:

  • it can be highly personal and subconsciously understood. knowledge resides in person’s mind and may include aspects of culture or ‘ways of doing things’ (often referred to as tacit knowledge)
  • it can be recorded as information in a document, image, film clip or some other medium.
  • it can be considered as a component of an organization’s asset base.


Knowledge management (1.3.7 of AS 5037)7)

A trans-disciplinary approach to improving organizational outcomes and learning, through maximising the use of knowledge. It involves the design, implementation and review of social and technological activities and processes to improve the creating, sharing, and applying or using of knowledge.

Knowledge management is concerned with innovation and sharing behaviours, managing complexity and ambiguity through knowledge networks and connections, exploring smart processes, and deploying people-centric technologies.


Management System (Appendix 2, 3.4 of ISO Supplement 2015)8)

Set of interrelated or interacting elements of an organization (3.1) to establish policies (3.7) and objectives (3.8) and processes (3.12) to achieve those objectives


Organization (1.3.8 of AS 5037)7)

A group, team, business unit, department, community, government, charity, sports club, or any other for-profit or not-for-profit collective or network that may take part in knowledge management. An organization exists so that a human system can achieve, collectively, more complicated tasks and knowledge-based activities.



Policy (Appendix 2, 3.7 of ISO Supplement 2015)8)

Intentions and direction of an organization (3.1), as formally expressed by its top management (3.5)


Objective (Appendix 2, 3.8 of ISO Supplement 2015)8)

Result to be achieved


KM Strategy (Definitions, 3 of CWA 14924-5:2004)2)

A declaration of how the organization will use KM methods, tools, processes, and practices to achieve business objectives by leveraging its content, people and processes and how KM will support the organization’s overall strategy.


Process (Appendix 2, 3.12 of ISO Supplement 2015)8)

set of interrelated or interacting activities which transforms inputs into outputs


Knowledge processes (APO KM Framework)9)

Refers to the knowledge development and conversion processes. There are five steps in the knowledge processes identified in the APO KM Framework: identify, create, store, share, and apply.


Let’s see if it works to summarize the above to make a definition for KMS:


Knowledge Management System

Set of interrelated or interacting social activities, technological activities, and knowledge processes of an organization to establish knowledge strategy, knowledge management framework, and expected organizational outcome through maximising the use of knowledge and/or application of intellectual capitals to achieve those outcomes.






A graphic presentation of QMS10) looks like this and hopefully kmp2p can come up with a graphic presentation for KMS in 2016:

We may come up with a standard similar to ISO 9000 series for KM if we are lucky.



New definition of leader for KM

According to Andreas, it is a misconception to call leader for KM as KM manager. The title itself is already an over Type A behaviour. By nature we should call this role KM Gardener, and by nature a gardener

  • water,
  • fertilize,
  • tend, and
  • prune

A gardener cannot force the plant to grow but facilitate the plant to grow naturally. A gardener is here to help, not here to drive or to do. A gardener understands the environment of the garden as well as the plants in the garden. We can keep on counting what a gardener is and isn’t, but let’s stop here and conclude that a the role of leader for KM is not a typical management job. Thanks for the lesson learn from Andreas and we should remember that.




Some final tips for KM gardener

  • conduct safe-to-fail experiments (not fail safe!), see what works (William: maybe we should explore this area with design thinking, which I think is a potential area to extend action space of KM)
  • expectation management (William: can the “expected organizational outcome” in definition of KMS answer that?)
  • put system/process in place to enable knowledge work (William: environment created by the gardener)
  • staff must be engaged & take responsibility (William: it depends on the plant itself after all)


Thanks for your time for reading, I hope you find this article relevant and interesting.



8 Nov 2015


PS. I would be more than happy to get your feedback and comment via, cheers!


KMP2P (Knowledge Management from Practitioners to Professionals) is initiated and currently operated by MScKM graduates. We encourage interaction among members under an open and fair environment with no discrimination: sharing updated news in the area of KM, offering opportunities for KM practices, creating chances to meet with like-minded KM graduates and promoting KM in the society. Last but not least, we provide platform to practice KM and groom for professionals. MScKM undergraduates and graduates’ participation are entirely optional. Even though we might gain support from PolyU, which will not be liable to any responsibilities nor obligations in this community.








List of references


1) Amrit Tiwana (2002). The Knowledge Management Toolkit. Orchestrating IT, Srategy, and Knowledge Platforms (pp 98 – 101). NJ: Prentice Hall.


2) CEN Workshop Agreement CWA 14924-5 - European Guide to good Practice in Knowledge Management - Part 5: KM Terminology


3) APQC’s Knowledge Management Program Framework


4) APQC’s Knowledge Management Program Framework – A road map for your KM journey


5) RJ on Making Innovation work (member login required)


6) Edx MOOC ISE101x, Knowledge Management & Big Data in Business.


7) AS 5037 - Knowledge Management - a guide


8) ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1 - Consolidated ISO Supplement - Procedures specific to ISO


9) Knowledge Management: Facilitators’ Guide (2009) Asian Productivity Organization


10) Moving from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015 Transition Guide

Expiry Date: 


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