Holistic: KM Definition Evaluation

Last modification: 2008/07/20 23:55

Ray Sims has done a sterling job in assembling many different published definitions of Knowledge Management.

As most people who have worked in the area know, one of KM's commonly quoted flaws is that there isn't one "gospel" definition of KM.

I thought it would be interesting to work through the definitions and summarize how these definitions talk about KM. I've also made a judgment call on whether they really are talking about KM or not.

You'll need to read the original post if you want to know the original wording of each definition.

(Enough already - take me straight to the summary!)

Def Author Key Points Evaluation
1 Alavi & Leidner (2001) Process based definition. Includes creation ("knowledge creation"), codification ("knowledge storage and retrieval"), learning ("knowledge transfer"), and improved execution ("knowledge application"). Doesn't distinguish between organisational knowledge, individual knowledge, and knowledge assets. KM, codification bias
2 ASTD Learning System Management/process hybrid. Focuses on exploitation of knowledge assets. Includes creation, harvesting, classification, codification, and improved execution KM, codification bias
3 Blair Process based, highlighting continuous improvement, creation and learning KM, but doesn't really explain how to do KM
4 BPTrends N/A Not KM. Information Management if anything
5 Bridgefield Group Management based, highlighting creation, codification, distribution, and learning Heavy information systems bias. Suspect that 'knowledge' and 'information' are being used interchangeably here
6 Brooking (1999) Process based, highlighting retention, creation, codification and knowledge assets This is a mish-mash of HR and IM
7 Business Resources Online Management based, highlighting collaboration, creation, harvesting, classification, distribution and knowledge assets Old fashioned KM definition, doesn't include the concept of organisational learning
8 CIO Magazine Process based, highlighting codification, distribution, improved execution and knowledge assets Generating value is important, but relying on codification has proven to be insufficient for effective KM
10 Cura Consortium Management based to exploit knowledge assets Given that the exact nature of tacit and explicit knowledge are themselves open to debate, this definition adds little of use
11 eLiteral Process based definition, highlighting learning, collaboration and distribution Quite a complex definition
12 Firestone (2008) Management based, highlighting continuous improvement, improved processing, learning Joe's definition is important but quite distinct from most other KM definitions since it requires improved processing of knowledge
13 Frappaolo (2006) Management based, highlighting improved execution and creation If we substitute 'organisational knowledge' for 'collective wisdom' it's basically a sound definition but very short on detail
14 Gartner Group (1996) Management based, highlighting discovery, distribution and codification This definition makes the assumption that knowledge can't be 'managed' until it is codified
15 Groff & Jones (2003) Process based, highlighting retention, learning, classification, creation, and distribution This definition wouldn't require 'codification' but it's not clear how you can classify business expertise without codifying it
16 Gurteen Process based, highlighting creation, distribution and improved execution Again, notice how this definition of KM as actual processes rather than a management effort directed at these processes
17 Gurteen Process based, highlighting distribution and improved execution Quite sound, treats knowledge as an individual asset
18 Holsapple & Joshi (2004) Management based, highlighting creation, cultural change and improved execution OK, has a lot of fluff in there
19 Hresko (2003) Process based, highlighting distribution and creation Seems based solely on the codification of organisational knowledge
20 Information Alchemy KM as individual skill, highlighting improved execution Strange definition - "this can't be taught!"
21 Jennex (2005) KM as individual skill, highlighting improved execution Again sees KM as as a skill
22 KM-Experts Management based, highlighting distribution, improved execution, creation and learning Quite sound, but light on substance
23 Knapp, E Management based, focusing on exploitation of knowledge assets Seems like a "magic incantation" definition (requiring consultants??)
24 Knowledge Based Solutions Process based, highlighting distribution, improved execution Doesn't explore how these "knowledge systems" get created in the first place and why this shouldn't be part of KM
25a Knowledge Praxis Management based, essentially saying 'a manager gets appointed to look after KM, whatever KM is' By providing two definitions for KM, Knowledge Praxis tries to have its cake and eat it too, with fairly unconvincing results
25b Knowledge Praxis Process based, highlighting improved execution by using knowledge assets (see above)
26 Uni of South Queensland (non-authoritative) Management based, highlighting improved execution Generic definition of KM
27 Mahle Management based highlighting resource assignment Interesting definition since it implies the idea of assigning resources based on the knowledge they hold
28 Malhotra (2005) Process based, highlighting learning, improved execution, and creation Heavy information systems bias
29 MIT Sloan Process based, highlighting codification, classification and distribution A literal reading would give a definition of IM, not KM, but this is being generous
30 Mountain Quest Institute Management based, highlighting knowledge assets, improved execution A long-winded way of saying very little
31 NSW Government Management based definition highlighting improved execution Generic definition
32 O'Dell, Elliott and Hubert (2000) Management based highlighting improved execution, learning and distribution A bit vague, but otherwise OK
33 O'Dell and Grayson (1998) Management based highlighting distribution and improved execution Doesn't include any concept of learning
34 PHRED Solutions Process based highlighting codification and distribution Focuses on sharing rather than learning
35 Qualis Health N/A Not a KM definition!
36 Rumizen (2002) Management based, highlighting creation, codification, distribution and improved execution Again very generic
37 SearchDomino.com Management based, highlighting harvesting, classification, distribution, learning Although the codification of knowledge is only implied, it is clear that this focuses heavily on the requirement to codify knowledge
38 David Skyrme Associates Management/process hybrid, highlighting classification, creation, distribution, and improved execution Concept of 'vital knowledge' is treated as "classification" (without classifying knowledge, how will you know if it is vital?)
39 TranslationDirectory.com N/A Not KM
40 UniSA Planning and Assurance Services Management based, highlighting improved execution and knowledge assets Carefully doesn't talk about 'knowledge stores' as being explicit information repositories
41 Weik/Blair Process based, highlighting distribution, cultural change, collaboration and learning Interestingly, doesn't highlight improved execution
42 Wikipedia Process based, highlighting discovery, creation, codification and distribution Doesn't specify why these activities are being done
43 WorldWideLearn Process based, highlighting harvesting, classification, creation and distribution Open to interpretation - could just mean extensive codification into a KB or something far more interesting
44 Vivian (2005) Process based, highlighting improved execution and learning An early definition by Kaye
45 Vivian (2006) Process based, highlighting collaboration, harvesting, creation and distribution A bit too tech-heavy for my liking
46 Tsoukas and Vladimirou KM as skill, highlighting codification and learning A strange one, in that the individual's KM skills appears to rely upon their codification of existing knowledge and teaching this to others
47 Unknown N/A Not KM - using IM and 'hoping' for new K as a result
48 Sveiby Management based, highlighting improved execution and knowledge assets pithy but again very broad
49 Stuart Management based, highlighting retention, creation, classification and distribution almost but not quite an IM pitch
50 Beijerse Management based, highlighting learning doesn't mention collaboration as being important at all!
51 Amidon Process based, highlighting creation, knowledge assets, distribution, improved execution very heavy on the idea of converting Intellectual Capital into $$$
52 Grey Management based, highlighting collaboration, creation, harvesting, classification, distribution, improved execution and knowledge assets hits a lot of buzzwords
53 Hoyt Consulting Process based, highlighting collaboration, distribution and improved execution Pretty good for an explanation of why; doesn't really cover how
54 Vivian Same as above Same as above

Summary results