Knowledge Management has appeared as a line item in the Quality Standard ISO 9001:2015. But is it time for a KM Standard?I think it is.
It's not as simple as that though
There are various KM standards already. I was involved with the British Standard Institute Guide for KM, published in 2001; there is an Australian standard for KM published in 2005, and an Israeli standard, published more recently in 2013.
The British and Australian standards have been more “best practice” guides than standards, representing the immaturity of the topic at the time. Since then two things have happened
a) There has been a longer time for KM to establish itself, and so to allow us to look at the common factors for long term KM success in organizations,
b) The new clause in the ISO 9001 standard at least makes the point that knowledge must be considered as a resource and managed as such, if an organisation is to achieve the 9001 quality standard.The value a certification standard can add to the market is to provide a minimum definition of what “managed as such” in the previous sentence entails. There is some guidance on this in the new 9001 standard, but not enough.
There are other renewed standards efforts under way.
- There is a committee set up to develop a new British Standard. I am on that committee for my sins.
- The American Institute of Information Management is working on a KM standard.
- A working group has been set up to develop an ISO standard for KM, as part of the family of HR standards. I know that HR is not the ideal home for KM, but there is no ideal home for KM in the ISO stable. I am on that working group, for my sins.
Is a certification standard an option at all?
You can guess, from my membership of the working groups and committees, that I believe it is. When I talk with others who have been working KM for a long time, I already see a convergence of views at a principle level. I believe that a common model for KM principles is emergent but not yet synthesised.
I would suggest we know enough now to be able to define – not a standard set of practices – but a standard set of principles for the good management of knowledge. The challenge will be making this generic enough to apply to all scales of organisation and to all industries (Industrial, Legal, public sector, development sector etc etc), but I think this challenge can be met.
By “standard set of principles” I would include things like
- the need to consider Roles, Processes, Technology, and Governance ,
- the need to cover Connect and Collect,
- Tacit and Explicit,
- Pull and Push,
- the need to link KM with organisational strategy, objectives and/or issues
- and so on.
I am not so sure that we can provide a certification standard for KM implementation, and I would personally steer clear of descriptive maturity models, but in terms of creating a standard set of principles which define effective KM and which every organisation can aim for – I believe we know enough now to do this.