Wednesday 11 March 2009

Knowledge Management - in defence of the M word

There are many people who really don't like the term Knowledge Management.

They think it is an oxymoron, they don't think "knowledge can be managed", or maybe they just don't like coupling the funky, exciting term "Knowledge" with the boring, conventional and stuffy term "Management". So they become apologetic about using the term, or they avoid it completely. They start to use terms like "Knowledge Sharing" instead. "Knowledge Management" becomes a taboo term.

You won't be surprised to learn that I am completely unapologetic about the term. I don't think it is an oxymoron, because I don't think "Knowledge Management" means "Managing Knowledge" (see here and here). For me, "Management" means "creating and maintaining organisational structures, systems and processes to optimise the value of some area of focus". Then "Knowledge" represents the focus of this particular management system.

There is no need to apologise for this! This is what we should be doing! We should manage, with a focus on knowledge. What's the alternative? Knowledge-less management? Ignorant management? Not managing at all?

You know I don't like the term "knowledge sharing" as an alternative to "knowledge management", because it addresses only one side of a two-sided coin (see here). But beyond this, I really don't think we need to be shy of the M word. Management is what we do to make organisations work; to make them prosper and succeed. And if we don't manage with knowledge in mind, then they won't prosper and succeed to the same extent.

So don't apologise, don't be shy, stand up for the M word. Divorcing "management" from "knowledge"also means divorcing "knowledge" from "management". If you are talking to managers, then they need to understand that these two cannot and should not be divorced. They cannot manage properly, if they ignore knowledge.

And if they manage with due attention to the value and importance of knowledge, then this is Knowledge Management, and this is what they should be doing.

Picture from Flickr Creative Commons
, originally uploaded by Darren Sylvester

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