The Leaders of Knowledge Initiatives:
Qualifications, Roles and Responsibilities
by Alex Bennet, Dr. Robert Neilson
1U. S. Department of Navy Deputy Chief Information Officer
1Co-Chair, Government-Wide Knowledge Management Working Group
2National Defense University, Chief Knowledge Officer
2Institute for National Strategic Studies Faculty Research Fellow
Sponsored by the cross-government Knowledge Management Working Group, working sessions were held through the
year 2000 and continuing into 2001 to build an understanding of the concepts, roles, and importance of Knowledge
Management. Participants from these sessions came from government, industry and academia. The “stories” of the
processes used, and results of the sessions are detailed below. Results from these sessions have been used to define the
roles of Chief Knowledge Officers in government, and are building blocks for certification programs emerging in the
public and private sectors.
Keywords: Certification, Chief Knowledge Officer, Limits, Knowledge Manager, Knowledge Worker roles and
Over the last several years, organizational leaders have become increasingly aware of the rise of focused
knowledge roles in both government and industry. As Chief Knowledge Officers, Knowledge Managers,
and a myriad of other titles and roles have entered management literature, a collective understanding has
emerged regarding what those roles entail, and how they contribute to the overall mission of the
organization. Defining roles, responsibilities, competencies and skills helps embed a rising discipline into
the organizational infrastructure. It also helps to redefine how we work. By their very essence, definitions
impose limits, bounding and focusing, and providing the opportunities to build and share understanding,
and stimulate new growth.
The concept of “limits” has a bad rap in the American language. Limits are often perceived in a negative
connotation, but they can also facilitate positive growth. When referring to ideas, each of us lives in a field
of possibilities. The limits imposed by defining ideas within a framework encourages deeper understanding
and spurs the emergence of new ideas, with the potential for those ideas to go far beyond the defining
framework of their birth. In other words, setting limits provides focus that can lead to new thought. A
dramatic example of the value of limits can be found in the use of information technology. By placing
limits such as open standards and protocols on enterprise systems, there is the opportunity for broader
interoperability among and across organizational elements, giving more people data and information and
creating the opportunity for greater efficiencies, effectiveness and innovation.
The U.S. government-wide Knowledge Management Working Group, sponsored by the Federal Chief
Information Officers Council, held two government-industry-academia workshops at the Information
Resources Management College, National Defense University, to define the roles and responsibilities of a
Chief Knowledge Officer. These workshops focused on the breadth of knowledge and skills needed by
knowledge managers. Along the way, these efforts surfaced current thinking on the importance of
Knowledge Management. In a subsequent workshop, through identifying areas of competency, the Federal
KM Working Group started to build an understanding of what those things are that make up the discipline
of Knowledge Management. The stories (written in a story form) of how these workshops evolved
introduce Sections 2 and 4 below.
1 The Importance of KM
1.1 The Process Story
Once upon a time, there was a group of three government employees, a professor at the National Defense
University and executives from the General Services Administration and Department of the Navy, that
recognized an opportunity. Now, in the course of doing a job, opportunities come along fairly often, but
how many times do opportunities come along to help define a new emerging discipline? This was one of
Some few years ago, the group of three began a dialogue on whether there was any substance to the
concept of knowledge management as a contributor to agency missions. As time and space began to pass,
they had a continuing interest in learning more about why certain organizations paid attention to this thing
called “intellectual capital” as a key factor of production. Organizational learning and intellectual capital
literature pointed to a confluence of events occurring in the world. The systems thinking and learning
organization work propagated by Peter Senge (Senge, 1990), coupled with the seminal work of Leif
Edvinsson at Skandia regarding “intellectual capital” (Edvinsson, 1997) as a key determinant of
organizational success, seemed to make sense. Additionally, everyone was touting the benefits of
collaborative technologies as the next best thing since sliced bread, and Tom Stewart was writing about
intellectual capital as the new wealth of organizations and conferences proliferated.
Concurrently, the U.S Federal Government passed the Information Technology Management Reform Act
(1996) establishing Chief Information Officers (CIO) in federal agencies. Federal CIO’s were primarily
concerned with acquiring computer equipment and keeping networks up and running and secure, paying
little attention to the data and information produced by the plethora of systems. Chief Knowledge Officers
(CKOs) arrived on the scene in the private sector touting the importance of tacit knowledge and
communities of practice as critical drivers of success. Michael Earl’s article “What is a Chief Knowledge
Officer?" (Earl, 1999) piqued the group’s interest. With all these disparate concepts and activities rattling
around their respective heads, it seemed an opportune time to engage in some collective creative thinking to
determine what roles CKOs play in public sector organizations.
In an attempt to put some boundaries and limits on the subject of KM as a useful concept in the U.S.
Federal Government, a series of government and industry brainstorming sessions were held in May and
June 2000. Participants in the first session included CKOs or equivalents from the federal government.
The second session included CKOs or equivalents from the private sector, primarily from information
technology and consulting businesses. Each group focused on the importance of KM, the role of a CKO in
a public sector organization, the competencies that make a CKO successful, and the most important
personal attributes CKOs must bring to the job. An overall result was a deeper understanding of the
importance of Knowledge Management to organizations as seen through the eyes of both public and private
sector Chief Knowledge Officers.
[The results of these sessions, as discussed below, can also be viewed and downloaded from the Web at:
http://www.ndu.edu/ndu/irmc/km-cio_role/km-cio-role.htm. Additionally, this material was used by the
Department of the Navy to develop a career path for knowledge workers. See http://www.don-
2.2 Results: What is the importance of KM to organizations?
Responses to this question can be grouped in loose areas dealing with: eGovernment, productivity, best
practices/processes, leadership and decision making, customer satisfaction, competitive advantage/market
differentiation, innovation, collaboration, learning, social capital, human capital and structural capital.
While organization into these categories is certainly an artificial construct influenced by the authors, it
provides a useful way of thinking about and understanding the results to the question: What is the
importance of KM to your organization?
Figure 1, Importance of KM to Your Organization, graphically displays the combined findings of both
brainstorming sessions in a hub and spoke diagram. The central question is located in the center of the
diagram with enabling verbs located in oval shapes located on the spokes. The main idea or activities are
located in rectangular boxes at the end of the spokes. Detailed information for each main idea or activity is
located at the periphery of the diagram.
There are clear patterns that emerge from this material. For example, the responses focus on people and
processes, with information technology clearly seen as an enabler. One of the key findings of this exercise
was that the respondents anchored their responses into strategic organizational functions that drive mission
or business goals. While there is little tactical information in these responses that would lead one to assume
that KM is a strategic business enabler, the comments grouped under competitive advantage/market
differentiation connect KM to business/mission goals.
Figure 1: Why is KM important to your organization?
2 Chief Knowledge Officer
1.2 Results: What is the role of a CKO in a public sector organization?
Responses to this question show that Chief Knowledge Officers in the public sector play a markedly
different role than that of a Chief Information Officer. While CIOs focus much of their activity on physical
computer and network assets, CKOs focus their efforts on an integrated set of activities that address
organizational behaviors, processes, and technologies. These activities loosely fall in the areas of:
leadership and strategy, outcomes, best practices/processes, knowledge-sharing culture, communities of
practice, incentives and rewards, tools and technology, education, taxonomy, and resources (see Figure 2).
Analyzing the content for each activity indicates that a CKO’s role involves leveraging the “soft stuff” in
organizations. Creating a knowledge-sharing culture, championing communities of practice, providing
leadership and strategy, and using incentives and rewards, are activities that are the province of the CKO,
but are tough to measure using traditional and generally accepted business metrics. These activities mirror
the activities of successful Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). Michael Earl remarks that CKOs are
visionaries, able to see the big picture a CEO has in mind (Earl, 1999). Also, they are entrepreneurs within
the organization, getting things done.
CKOs must also possess a working knowledge of the tools and technologies to leverage the extant
intellectual base in organizations, though they are not necessarily technologists by training. In sum, their
role is to create and maintain an environment and atmosphere within which all workers deliver value to the
organization using existing and unexploited explicit and tacit knowledge sources. Frequently, CKOs fulfill
this role by experimenting and partnering with business units. Additionally, they are charged with the task
of charting clear processes, classification schemes, and tools to access and use existing data, information,
and explicit and tacit knowledge in a manner that promotes sharing across time, space, and boundaries.
Figure 2: What is the role of a CKO in a public sector organization?
1.3 Results: What competencies and skills make a CKO successful?
This question attempts to probe beyond some of the existing literature addressing "what CKOs do" and
determine what competencies help make CKOs successful, i.e., “How would you recognize a third degree
black belt CKO if you bumped into one in the hallway?” Responses can be organized into six major
competency areas that CKOs, or aspiring CKOs, should possess. These are: leadership and management,
communications, strategic thinking, tools and technologies, personal behaviors, and personal knowledge
and cognitive capability. See Figure 3 for a graphical representation of these responses.
Both public and private sector CKOs felt that successful CKOs must think holistically and strategically
and must be able to convincingly communicate the value of KM to skeptical audiences. CKOs need to
move beyond what Tom Davenport calls “serious anecdote management” (Davenport and Prusak, 1998)
and translate qualitative benefits of KM projects into quantitative benefits to win the hearts and minds of
Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and CEOs. Otherwise, many KM projects will fall into the management
In addition to the requisite leadership and management capabilities, and a working knowledge of tools
and technologies, existing and aspiring CKOs need to possess an a priori personal knowledge base and
cognitive capability set. Without a personal knowledge base and demonstrated personal behaviors, newly
appointed CKOs lack credibility and have difficulty “selling” KM concepts to senior management.
Figure 3: What competencies and skills make a CKO successful?
1.4 Results: What are the most important personal attributes CKOs must bring to the job?
As Earl notes, CKOs come from diverse academic backgrounds and with cross-functional experience in
areas including finance, human resources, marketing and academe, to name a few (Earl, 1999).
Consequently the question: “What are the most important personal attributes that you as CKOs must bring
to the job?” was posed to the participants of the brainstorming sessions to ascertain if there was a consistent
list of attributes. Responses to this question included the following attributes: passion, patience,
persistence, sensitivity, organizational savvy, smart, wise, life-long learner, “thick skinned,” integrator, and
depth and breadth of knowledge. With the exception of life-long learner, most of these personal attributes
do not discriminate between a CKO and other senior leaders. Good chief executive officers, chief
operating officers, and chief financial officers certainly possess the majority of the personal attributes in
this list. Upon reflection, the question should have addressed what unique personal attributes CKOs should
possess in addition to those attributes associated with senior leadership positions.
3 Learning Objectives for Knowledge Manager Certification
1.5 The Process Story
In the course of history, and as the world moved into a new era of global connectivity, it came to pass that
the United States Government focused on the importance of intellectual capital, and the opportunity offered
by knowledge management to help achieve eGovernment. As used here, eGovernment is government of
the people, by the people and for the people in a virtual world, a collaborative government where
technology meets human creativity, and where government manages and shares its vast stores of
knowledge with, and for the benefit of, the citizen.
Out of the growing chaos engendered by the Internet and the nearly exponential increase in data and
information, emerged a government-wide Knowledge Management Working Group dedicated to fostering
interagency collaboration, interagency communities of practice, and the sharing of knowledge throughout
the government. This group, starting from small beginnings, began to grow as more and more government
agencies and organizations realized the potential KM holds. But even though each member realized and
agreed on this potential, they all had different ways of defining KM, and different ideas about what it could
do for their organizations.
At first this appeared confusing, but finally it began to dawn upon this learning community that the true
value of KM was both what it held for each of their organizations and that it was bringing them together to
build a connected and sharing government. Still, there was the realization that if KM was defined as
everything, KM would, of course, fall short. Nothing can be everything. So the government-wide KM
group devised a plan. They would partner with not only each other, but also with academia and industry
associations, to figure out what those things were in KM that made sense for government knowledge
workers – like Knowledge Managers and Chief Knowledge Officers – to know.
Now a great cry went up throughout the land to find those partners who already offered KM certification
programs, those partners who had knowledge of and an interest in what a government KM certification
program might look like. And lo and behold, they were found, and they agreed to participate in this
important endeavor. Together, government, industry associations and academic organizations began to
define a conceptual framework for KM through developing criteria for accredited government certification
programs. The result was a draft set of learning objectives for government employees attending
certification courses. And this end was the beginning.
1.6 Knowledge and Understanding
The learning objectives developed by the government-wide KM Working Group cover the breadth of what
is needed to implement knowledge management successfully in the federal sector. The depth of knowledge
and ability needed in each area is highly dependent on the specific job that needs to be done. Half of the
learning objectives identified through the above process are concerned with the specific knowledge an
individual needs in order to work effectively in the area of Knowledge Management. These are discussed
in this subsection.
1.6.1 Have knowledge of the value added by Knowledge Management to the business proposition,
including the return on investment, performance measures, and the ability to develop a business
Though Knowledge Management is capitalized in this sentence, we often speak to knowledge management
as having a small “k” and a small “m.” The intent is that knowledge management is not an initiative in and
of itself, but supports the mission and business objectives of the organization. This objective positions KM
as a strategic enabler at the enterprise level. Fundamental in this objective is tie-in to strategic business
planning such as is accomplished with the Balanced Scorecard process. KM is an extremely broad
discipline and using metrics brings solid management practices to the forefront of decision makers, thereby
enabling choices. As KM matches corresponding effort with metrics in other domains of the firm, it will
be recognized as a viable management practice.
Performance measures are the essence of good management practices. The progress of KM initiatives
needs to be continually monitored to ensure progress toward their objectives. Given the complex and
dynamic nature of modern organizations, KM – or any other organizational initiative – cannot guarantee
that plans and strategies will succeed. Well-designed performance measures provide indications of the
efficiency and effectiveness of people, processes, and programs, which in turn help managers understand
and adapt their organizations. Indeed, performance measures are so integral to organizational success that
the Federal Government has passed several pieces of legislation that specifically call for formal metrics.
Legislation during the last ten years includes the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of
1993, the Government Management Reform Act of 1994, and the Information Technology Management
Reform Act of 1996.
1.6.2 Have knowledge of the strategies and processes to transfer explicit and tacit knowledge across
time, space and organizational boundaries, including retrieval of critical archived information
enabling ideas to build upon ideas.
Since Nonaka and Takeuchi first explored the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge in The
Knowledge-Creating Company, there has been a steady growth of interest on the capture of tacit
knowledge. Aging workforce issues in the public sector have served as a catalyst for the development of
processes and systems that facilitate understanding the role and importance of context in decision-making.
But this objective goes even farther. Transfer is the focus, not just understanding the nature of tacit and
explicit knowledge. Increasing the dynamics of transfer by itself moves knowledge through the
organization at an increased rate. The more knowledge is being transferred, the more it is available to the
organization as a resource.
Understanding the relationship between tacit and explicit knowledge and its impact on the organization
leads to informed decisions on an organization’s knowledge management approach. A high ratio of tacit
knowledge (knowledge held by the individual in his/her head) leads to a strong dependence on the
individual and reliance on the connectivity between individuals for knowledge flow. The loss of that
individual and his/her knowledge can have a serious effect on the organization. A high ratio of explicit
knowledge requires an investment in the transfer of knowledge from tacit to explicit and may present issues
regarding context, currency, and authoritative source. However, a high ratio of explicit knowledge leads to
less dependence on the individual, and explicit knowledge can be stored and easily moved around.
1.6.3 Have knowledge of state-of-the-art and evolving technology solutions that promote KM, including
portals and collaborative and distributed learning technologies.
We live in a world of technology. The exponential increase in data and information is both driven and
enabled by information technology. We have the ability to reach further and further within domains and
across domains for ideas and solutions. Knowledge repositories, automated libraries, computer services,
databases, etc. offer the capability for not only storing large amounts of data and information, but also
efficient and intelligent retrieval and assemblage capability. Powerful search algorithms, intelligent agents
and semantic interpreters allow employees to rapidly retrieve information needed for problem solving and
decision-making. Knowledge managers need to be aware of these capabilities, how they are used and how
to integrate their operation with people to ensure knowledge availability and application.
In many organizations, portals are the principle delivery mechanism for an enterprise’s knowledge
sharing. Collaborative systems range from intranets to video teleconferencing to whiteboards. Their
purpose is to aid groups of individuals, either co-located or dispersed, to work more effectively together to
foster innovations, solve problems and make decisions. For example, distributed learning uses information
technology to facilitate learning without having the instructor co-located. Individuals at different locations,
using their own PCs, can learn via the Internet or computer-based training. The increasing rate of change
necessitates the need for faster learning, forcing us to change our traditional concepts. Classroom-based
learning may be supplemented or complemented with new virtual capabilities.
1.6.4 Have knowledge of and the ability to facilitate knowledge creation, sharing and reuse including
developing partnerships and alliances, designing creative knowledge spaces, and using incentive
Knowledge creation, sharing and reuse are the heart of Knowledge Management programs, and indeed
these behaviors are intricately tied to each other. As people share knowledge within an organization, and
others use it and find new ways to improve on it and innovate, the value of that knowledge increases for the
entire organization. This process also provides the opportunity to identify integrators (knowledge leaders
who connect people and ideas together) and subject matter experts (who provide a depth of thinking in
specific areas). In turn, those involved in exchanges benefit from the exchange through a more complete
understanding of the area addressed, thereby becoming a more valuable resource to the organization.
Three examples of facilitating knowledge creation, sharing and reuse are included in this objective to
facilitate an understanding of the eclectic nature of KM. Partnerships and Alliances are means by which
organizations can share information and knowledge while working together toward mutual goals.
Knowledge spaces build on the concept of “open space,” providing space and time for people to mentally
explore events or thoughts and formulate ways in which to proceed. Open space, whether physical or
virtual, provides a place to brainstorm and be creative. It comes in many forms: online chat rooms,
threaded e-mail discussions, weekly in-person discussion forums, communities, discussion groups, coffee
rooms, and water cooler encounters. Here knowledge workers can sort out complexities and receive
feedback from others, hopefully resulting in new ideas and improved decision-making capabilities.
Senior leaders and managers may need to revamp incentive and reward structures and performance
measures to help promote the creation, sharing and reuse of knowledge. Some organizations provide
bonuses and other rewards to individuals who go out of their way to share knowledge with others. Event
intermediations such as Knowledge Fairs have been successfully held in such organizations as The World
Bank and the Department of the Navy.
1.6.5 Have knowledge of learning styles and behaviors, strive for continuous improvement and be
actively engaged in exploring new ideas and concepts.
People learn differently. Some learn through reading, others through lectures or visual or graphic
representations while still others learn by doing. Effective transfer of information requires understanding
different learning styles and how people learn. Adults learn best from direct experience with real-world
problems. How can this be extrapolated across a virtual environment? As learning becomes the mutual
responsibility of leaders and workers, knowledge professionals must be constant learners, seeking new
information and exhibiting behavior for others to model by continuously striving to improve the
organization’s use of information and knowledge.
This objective also sets the stage for capitalizing on new learning approaches including broadband web-
based multi-media. As new concepts unfold, models and theories for learning will evolve. A foundation in
this area will prepare Knowledge Managers for the future.
1.6.6 Have working knowledge of state-of-the-art research and implementation strategies for knowledge
management, information management, document and records management and data management.
This includes project management of knowledge initiatives and retrieval of critical archived
Knowledge leaders and workers need to understand the conceptual linkages between Knowledge
Management, Information Management and Data and Records Management. KM is part of a larger
movement enabled by information technology, a movement that has brought us into the Information Age
and is rapidly propelling us toward an age of increasing complexity where knowledge appears to be the
only thing that can deal with complexity. There are continuing advances in data management, document
and records management, and information management that will make information technology
infrastructures more effective in supporting knowledge workers as they strive to make their organization
more effective through the intelligent management of knowledge.
1.6.7 Have understanding of the global and economic importance of developing knowledge-based
organizations to meet the challenges of the knowledge era.
We live in an omni-linked world. Anyone in the world can talk to almost anyone else in the world real-
time. Technology has provided totally new ways of moving and transferring data, information and
knowledge among individuals, organizations and governments. The results of these interactions are
increased communication, and a corresponding increase in the flow of ideas and the making of decisions.
Organizations are forced to scan, select and quickly respond to the increased flow of web-based exchanges
and actions. Moreover, as the number of nodes in networks increase, the number of links increase, and as
the links and their consequent relationships increase, so does the complexity. Critical thinking, the
possession of deep knowledge and the ability to work collaboratively with others who think differently may
help address issues of increasing complexity. Knowledge-based organizations need to provide time and
space for critical thinking.
The second half of the KM learning objectives deals with abilities, or skills. These are discussed briefly
1.7.1 Have the ability to use systems thinking in implementing solutions.
KM addresses powerful activities throughout environments, organizations, cultures and economies. As one
considers the relevant issues and opportunities, Systems Thinking provides a means for looking at the “big”
picture while examining the component parts.
Systems Thinking assumes that almost everything is a system, made up of connecting elements. Systems
have boundaries and behaviors that are different from their individual elements. Systems Thinking
emphasizes the importance of relationships and structure within the organization and makes individuals
aware of the effects of their efforts on others in the organization, permitting them to understand and
perform their roles more effectively.
The Learning Organization work coming out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology includes a
systems thinking approach to improve decision-makers’ strategic thinking skills. Systems thinking helps
manage complexity by providing a tool for decision-makers to map and understand cause and effect
relationships among data, information and events in an organization. This is done through a process of
identifying patterns that repeat themselves over and over again in decision-making and organizational life.
This process forces decision-makers to consider the consequences of their actions and their impact on and
relationship to other organizational functions. Systems thinking not only helps increase an individual’s
critical thinking skills, but also enhances collaboration and serves as a basis for collective inquiry by
providing a common language and perspective for dialogue and understanding.
1.7.2 Have the ability to design, develop and sustain communities of interest and practice.
Communities are social constructs. In a primarily virtual world, communities provide a fundamental
capability for developing and sharing expertise throughout the workforce. Communities of practice share a
domain of practice, crossing operational, functional and organizational boundaries, and defining themselves
by knowledge areas, not tasks. In like manner, communities of interest share a domain of interest.
Communities are managed by establishing and developing connections between individuals and
organizations, and focusing on value added, mutual exchange and continuous learning. Communities have
an evolving agenda as participant knowledge builds and related areas of exchange emerge.
Collaboration, innovation, learning, and knowledge sharing are at the core of communities of practice
and interest. Communities increase information flows in order to maximize knowledge, and exploit
existing competencies to achieve maximum return. They also facilitate the transfer of best practices and
lessons learned between organizational content centers, thus creating efficiencies while improving
effectiveness. And Communities fill in the gaps where organizational knowledge falls short and where
enterprise information is under exploited. In short, sometimes we do not know what we do not know.
Communities encourage personnel to access key resources and build new knowledge to complete tasks
faster, better and easier.
1.7.3 Have the ability to create, develop and sustain the flow of knowledge. This includes
understanding the skills needed to leverage virtual teamwork and social networks.
The flow of data, information and knowledge moves around in the networks of systems and people. It is
shared through team interaction, communities and events, and is facilitated through knowledge repositories
and portals. This flow is both horizontal and vertical, including the continuous, rapid two-way
communication between key components of the organization and top-level decision-makers.
With increased connectivity, we reach further and further across organizations, communities, industries
and the globe to tap resources. Virtual teamwork requires new skills of leadership, management and
facilitation to create and maintain the trust, open communication and interdependencies needed for
physically separated individuals to collaborate effectively.
Many companies and organizations invest a considerable amount of money in restructuring
organizational charts and re-engineering business processes only to be disappointed with the results. That
is because much of the work happens outside the formal organizational structure. Often what needs
attention is the informal organization, the networks of relationships that employees form across functions
and divisions need to quickly accomplish tasks. These informal relationships can cut through formal
reporting procedures to jump-start stalled initiatives and meet extraordinary deadlines. However,
information networks can just as easily sabotage the best laid plans of companies by blocking
communication and fomenting opposition to change unless leaders know how to identify and direct them.
Learning how to map these social links can help harness the real power of organizations.
1.7.4 Have the ability to perform cultural and ethnographic analyses, develop knowledge taxonomies,
facilitate knowledge audits, and perform knowledge mapping and needs assessments.
As the amount of information and knowledge increases, tools such as taxonomies, audits and maps help
organize information for decision-making. While search engines and agents keep improving, the bottom
line is that the human brain is the final arbiter of effective relationships and patterns. Analytic techniques
such as cultural and ethnographic analyses help leaders understand organizational cultures and their
characteristics. Culture is often cited as one of the main barriers to successful implementation of KM.
A taxonomy is a framework for arranging or categorizing information and knowledge so that people can
find and use it effectively. This is applicable when designing a knowledge base, but also applies to the
wider knowledge system. For example, if knowledge is organized into groupings based upon a community
of interest (or practice) on a web-site or knowledge base, then mentoring programs, training and other
knowledge transfer processes should support these same groupings to facilitate knowledge flow. It is not
necessary to pick just one way of arranging information and knowledge, but it is important to evaluate the
many different ways before beginning any kind of knowledge base design.
Conducting a "knowledge audit" to find out how information is collected, stored and reported, and how
the reports are used (if at all) can be beneficial in streamlining the information flow within an organization,
saving time and effort. A knowledge audit examines what information is available and whether it is used.
Simply put, the purpose of a knowledge audit is to help the organization "know what it knows" and then
measure the quantity and usefulness of that knowledge base.
1.7.5 Have the ability to capture, evaluate and use best-known practices, including the use of
storytelling to transfer these best practices.
The use of best practices across industry and government can provide efficiencies and increase
effectiveness, if they are indeed best practices for the organization implementing them. How is the
applicability of a best practice determined? How do you understand the context of the best practice, the
simple rules that made it successful in some organizations?
Storytelling, the construction of examples to illustrate a point, can be used to effectively transfer
knowledge, and best practices. An organizational story is a detailed narrative of management actions,
employee interactions, or other intra-organizational events that are communicated informally within the
organization. A variety of story forms exist and will arise naturally throughout organizations, including
scenarios and anecdotes. Scenarios are the articulation of possible future states, constructed within the
imaginative limits of the author. While scenarios provide an awareness of alternatives – of value in and of
itself – they are often used as planning tools for possible future situations. The plan becomes a vehicle to
respond to recognized key elements in each scenario. An anecdote is a brief sequence experienced in the
field or arising from a brainstorming session. To reinforce positive behavior, sensitive managers can seek
out and disseminate anecdotes that embody the value desired in the organization. The capture and
distribution of anecdotes across organizations carries high value. Dave Snowden, a consultant and author
in Great Britain who has investigated the use of storytelling in organizations for the past dozen years, has
discovered that once a critical number of anecdotes are captured from a community, the value set or rules
underlying the behavior of that community can be determined (Snowden, 1999). Understanding these
values allows the use of informal as well as formal aspects of the organization.
Conveying information in a story provides a rich context. Context remains in memory longer and creates
more memory traces than random information bites. Therefore, a story is more likely to be acted upon than
other means of communication. Storytelling connects people, develops creativity, and increases
confidence. The appeal of stories in organizations helps build descriptive capabilities, increase
organizational learning, convey complex meaning and communicate common values and rule sets.
1.7.6 Have the ability to manage change and complex knowledge projects.
Management concepts, whether old or new, are about change management. And in today’s world where
complexity is increasing, according to Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety there must be as many or more
ways to change a system as those things in a system that need to be changed.
Cultural change of any kind is a long, slow process. Accomplishing change requires daily support of
sharing knowledge openly throughout the entire organization. KM initiatives are particularly challenging
to change agents because of the uncertainty of outcome. Most managers like to change only one or two
things at a time to mitigate against unintended consequences. When many factors within the organization
are simultaneously changed, communicating, coordination and leadership become important in reducing
resistance to change and maintaining motivation.
1.7.7 Have the ability to identify customers and stakeholders and tie organizational goals to the needs
and requirements of those customers and stakeholders.
Total Quality Management brought to the forefront the tried and true values successful organizations have
used for years, a focus on customers and stakeholders. No matter what new approach or initiative is
popular, we must keep a focused eye on the needs of our constituents, and ensure all efforts underway
contribute to fulfilling their needs. This makes good business sense.
The learning objectives developed for government certification programs serve as a candidate list regarding
what should be included in educational programs and what is important in defining the boundaries of
knowledge management in both the public and private sectors. While the results of the brainstorming and
working sessions discussed above represent the views of participants, the sessions seem to confirm the
results of similar studies and much of the work included in this collection.
The challenge for future research is to advance the theoretical understanding of knowledge management
while at the same time applying practical KM concepts in organizations. The concept of praxis where
practice builds theory and theory builds practice may apply to further exploration of KM. Searching for a
single universal theory underpinning KM may well be a never-ending quest. But relying on a multiplicity
of theoretical bases may well serve the academics and practitioners in their continuing quest to define and
set boundaries on the field of knowledge management … those limits that will allow us to collectively
create new ideas and new directions for the organizations of the future.
Bennet, A. and D. Bennet, “Characterizing the Next Generation Knowledge Organization” in Knowledge
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