Knowledge Management Success Factors

This article has been moved here…..

KM has changed over the years, it is understood much better today than ever before and yet we label and stereotype it. This is the one of the reasons why adoption of KM isnt as widespread as it could be.

An elementary success factor of Knowledge management is to have a common understanding of the terms. There have been a significant number of cases where KM has flourished in an organization that doesnt label the initiative “Knowledge Management” as it doesnt fit the culture of the place.

So what is KM? in a nutshell it is a set of strategies and approaches used to maxmize the use and re-use of knowledge asset within an organization. In other words methods of creating greater value for the enterprise. Now we get to the meat of the topic, success factors for KM. While there are a large number of factors that would lend weight towards establishing a successful KM initiative it has been widely percieved that all critical success factors can be grouped into the following categories.

  1. Leadership
  2. Culture
  3. Strucuture, Roles and Responsibilites
  4. IT infrastructure
  5. Measurements

In future posts i’ll list some points on how each of these categories are important to the success of any KM initiative.


4 Responses to Knowledge Management Success Factors

  1. […] but that describes it in a nutshell. KM Success factors, that we discussed at a broad level here describe what it takes to establish a successful KM […]

  2. esteban says:

    arjun , et all…

    Paradoxically, having a common understanding of terms can reflect sharing
    labels and stereotypes that hinder deeper understanding and realizations.
    Note how you said “There have been a significant number of cases where KM
    has flourished in an organization that doesnt label the initiative.. .” When
    one thinks one understands something one will rarely venture to validate
    it… and realy understand it … thats why whithout a label one must get
    into the core of the matter.

    I been told my spelling and grammar is terrible… which make one wonder
    about what I am saying … (some choose to reject the content by judging the
    form and some manage to get the content independent of the form)…

    The form (the label) shouldn’t get in the way of the content… though it
    often does… sometimes what looks great isn’t that great and what looks
    terrible turns out to be wonderfull.. . understanding what be going on can be
    counter intuitive… do you know what I mean?

    When one thinks one understands because one thinks one understands can be
    quite dangerous…

    Cheers esteban

  3. joe firestone says:

    Hi Arjun,

    Thanks for your posts introducing us to your blog. I was pleased to see
    that you had blogged on the nature of KM, but I also think your
    discussion could have indicated more about the complexity and continuing
    controversy surrounding the foundations of our discipline and the notion of
    KM. Let me comment in detail on your post.

    Perhaps you could say a little more about how “labeling” interferes
    with adoption.

    I’m not sure that having a common understanding of terms is so much a
    success factor as it is a sign of success, after the fact. Of course, we
    have to understand each other so we can evaluate what we do. But I can
    understand what you do even if my preferred vocabulary is different
    from yours and vice versa. I think that vocabulary and usage will tend to
    converge in KM as one or another approach becomes more successful; but
    premature agreement on frameworks and terminology could merely result
    in consensus around a false and unsuccessful paradigm and the failure of
    the label “KM” to signify a successful discipline.

    I do agree with you that there are many cases where KM has flourished
    without using the label. I’ve been involved in some of those efforts
    myself, long before the term KM was ever used.

    The definition of KM, whether in a nutshell or a couple of paragraphs,
    has been an area of controversy since the early days of KM. I’ve
    surveyed and critiqued some popular definitions here:

    And also included the analysis in Ch. 3 of Key Issues in the New
    Knowledge Management, my book co-authored with Mark McElroy.

    Mark and I have also given our view of KM here: and in many other
    places, especially in our books and in this downloadable award winning

    I won’t go into the details of our view here, but one implication of it
    is that it is part of the responsibility of line managers, rather than
    Knowledge Managers, “to maxmize the use and re-use of knowledge assets”
    including to develop strategies for such use and re-use. To see why
    this is implied by our view of KM, you have to understand the three-tier
    model, which is explained in the references provided above.

    In any case, my main point here is not that our view of KM differs from
    yours as well as from some other popular definitions, but rather that I
    think that posts like yours saying what KM is, should, at least also
    indicate that many others are in dsiagreement. Ideally, I think they
    should review some representative set of other definitions and provide some
    reasons why the definition they offer has fewer dsiadvantages or can
    better survive criticism. To apply my own advice to the comparison
    between your definition and the one I offer, I think the disadvantage of
    yours is that it’s far too broad and makes KM an imperialistic discipline,
    since I think line managers can’t very well be responsible for the
    performance of their subordinates if they don’t also have responsibility
    for supervising whether, to what extent, and how well they use previously
    existing knowledge. In fact, since behavior is just knowledge used in
    action, it’s hard for me to see how Knowledge Managers could be made
    responsible for knowledge use without usurping or undermining the
    authority of other managers.

    I know you think you’ve said something important in providing the above
    list, and I certainly couldn’t agree more that factors in each of these
    categories are important, but can you name any other categories apart
    from those above that are both (1) broadly social or human in character
    and (2) don’t contain critical KM success factors? Also, aren’t these
    critical success categories also critical failure categories?

    For myself, I’d like to emphasize that measurement is a very important
    critical success/failure factor in KM. And also, that I think KM’s
    failure to measure aspects of knowledge processing and KM well is much more
    responsible for the present unsatisfactory progress of KM than is the
    lack of consensus on key terms. Without good measurement we can’t test
    our claims about KM impact and without such testing there’s no proof of
    value and no accountability.

    Please do that. the listing of specific success factors will be much
    more interesting than the listing of these major categories. Also, when
    you do provide such a list, I hope you’ll also provide models that
    explain why you think that the factors you name are critical ones.



  4. Esteban says:

    Excellent response… to further the dialogue… I hold its ‘dangerously
    optimistic’ for someone to claim to understand what ‘I’ do when their
    prefered vocabulary differs from mine and vice versa, the certanty measures
    are extremely volatile and misperceptions hightly probable in such
    interactions. In order to perceive certain things one has to hold certain
    distictions that enable one to acertain and perceive certain things.

    BTW the responsibility “to maxmize the use and re-use of knowledge assets”
    resides in the knowledge user, line managers, and knowledge ‘executives’
    merely provide incentives.

    FWIIW, providing some reasons (proof) why some definition is more
    advantageous and betters survives criticism stems from the structural belief
    language you (and many) prefer to mantain and use. A knowledge claim validty
    hardly stems from being able to prove the knowledge claim validty, it stems
    from the knowledge claim validty itself. Equating behavior to ‘knowledge
    used in action’, can be usefull as well as misleading; for some behaviours
    simply replicate behaviours without much knowledge involvement.

    Understaning is an important and critical success factor in knowledge

    Do note that ‘measurements’ stem from the distinctions one holds. “In order
    to perceive certain things one has to hold certain distictions that enable
    one to acertain and perceive certain things”.

    Claims about KM impact can be extremely difficult to acertain and prove
    their value and the accountabiltiy involved, and may well be quite
    irrelevant when considering results, though might be quite usefull for story
    telling, story selling.

    Cheers Esteban

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