Knowledge Management -- If Only You Knew What You Knew
Butler, Yvonne, The Australian Library Journal
A paper given at STRAIT to the future, 8th Asia-Pacific Specials, Health and Law Librarians Conference, Hobart, 22-26 August 1999
Knowledge management (KM) is becoming a hot topic for many organisations in the public and private sector in Australia, yet there is no generally accepted industry-wide definition, making it a difficult concept to grasp. Knowledge comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be stored in databases, printed on paper, integrated into an organisation's policies, procedures and reports, or contained within an employee's memory. Generally, knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, managing and sharing all of an organisation's information assets, regardless of how or where they are located. It is strategic in nature and involves the careful interaction of people, process and technology. This paper examines the nature of knowledge management and provides a framework for definition, using client examples to illustrate the issues.
The drivers that have led to its increasingly rapid adoption are discussed, specifically addressing the three key issues: environmental (globalisation of business and the mobility of our workforce), organisational (the result of downsizing) and technical (the convergence of technologies). The process of developing a knowledge management strategy is then examined in detail, outlining the nature of the knowledge audit, the identification of information and knowledge hot spots and the identification of `quick wins' as part of the knowledge road map. The paper then addresses the very difficult issue of measuring the return on investment of a KM strategy and outlines the short- and long-term strategies for assessing knowledge management. Finally, the critical role that information professionals can play in knowledge management is outlined, and the paper concludes by encouraging special librarians to play a much more active role in this area or else run the risk of being marginalised.
What is knowledge management?
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IS A MAJOR BUSINESS STRATEGY that many organisations in the public and private sector in Australia are adopting. It is viewed by many as something new, and this is far from the truth. There are as many different definitions of knowledge management as there are people on this earth. As with any evolving issue, theorists tend to get caught up designing definitions and labels which invariably take people away from the practical issues at hand. However, for those who need a definition, one of the better is:
Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, managing and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These information assets may include databases, documents, policies and procedures as well as previously unarticulated expertise and experience resident in individual workers. Knowledge management issues include developing, implementing and maintaining the appropriate technical and organisational infrastructures to enable knowledge sharing ... (Gartner Group)
The concept of knowledge is certainly not new. For centuries, master craftsmen have painstakingly taught their trade to apprentices, owners of family businesses have passed their wisdom onto their children and workers have exchanged ideas and know-how on the job.
From Bacon to Drucker, quotes about knowledge abound:
`Knowledge is power' Sir Francis Bacon, 1597 `Every knowledge worker in the modern organisation is an `executive', if by virtue of his possession of knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organisation to perform and to obtain results' Peter Drucker The Effective Executive  `The most powerful individuals will be those who do the best job of transferring knowledge to others.' Bob Buckman, CEO -- …
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Publication information: Article title: Knowledge Management -- If Only You Knew What You Knew. Contributors: Butler, Yvonne - Author. Journal title: The Australian Library Journal. Volume: 49. Issue: 1 Publication date: February 2000. Page number: 31. © 2008 Australian Library and Information Association. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.