This is a comment I hear quite a lot - "We all work with knowledge, so surely knowledge management is everyone's job? Why do we need knowledge management roles? Or a KM team?"
We all work with knowledge, and have responsibility for sharing it, searching for it and applying it. However we also need knowledge managers as an assurance role, to make sure knowledge is managed. Think of knowledge as rather like safety. We all need to be safe, and safety is everyone's responsibility. However we still need HSE professionals to co-ordinate and assure HSE delivery. Its the same with knowledge; knowledge management will not happen without roles and accountabilities.
If you took away the HSE roles, would a safety culture survive? Not for long, I suspect.
If you took away the KM roles (listed and described here), I don't think a knowledge culture would last long either.
Here's something Tom Davenport said in his article for CIO magazine in 1997, "Common pitfalls of knowledge management", which I think puts it brilliantly.
"It should be everyone's job to create, share, and use knowledge-to some degree. But let's face reality here. Every engineer in your organization, for example, should be creating and using new product development knowledge. But not every engineer will (or can) do a good job writing down what he or she knows. Everyone should reflect on life, but not everyone should write poems or novels about his or her musings. Knowledge management will not succeed if there are no workers and managers whose primary duties involve gathering and editing knowledge from those who have it, paving the way for the operation of knowledge networks, and setting up and managing knowledge technology infrastructures.
The next time someone starts spouting the "it's everybody's job" rigmarole to me, I'm going to retort, "So I guess since it's everybody's job to monitor costs and enhance revenues, you've also eliminated the finance and accounting departments?"
Thanks Tom; nicely put!