There was a time when we through that the three enablers for Knowledge Management were People, Process and technology. we now (if presentations at KM world are an indication) realise that there is a fourth enabler. But what is it?
At Knoco, we have been advocating four enablers for a while now (see "the 4 legs on the KM table"), and many presentations at KM world also showed a fourth enabler - a fourth circle on the diagram.
In quite a few cases, the fourth circle was "Content".
I think the addition of Content is a mistake, for the following reasons.
- Content is a form of knowledge, and knowledge is what is being managed. Effective management of content requires roles, processes and accountabilities, but content cannot be managed using content. Roles, processes and technologies are enablers - they are input factors. Content is an output. Adding content to the list of enablers is like saying "the components for making babies are a man, a woman, a procreative process, and a baby". A baby is in fact the outcome of the man, the woman and the procreative process, just as content is the output of roles, processes and technology.
- If content is added as the fourth circle, then the assumption is made from the outset that KM equates to content management. However we know that KM is about tacit as well as explicit, and about conversation as well as content. To add content as the fourth circle dooms you to focusing on the explicit content, and ignoring the conversations by which tacit knowledge is created and shared.
Some of the people I have spoken to on this matter say that "by content, we mean the rules and regulations around content - the taxonomy, metadata and so on". However this is not content itself, it is the governance you place on content.
Which brings me to the second approach to that fourth circle.
In the second approach, that fourth circle is represented by governance
This includes the governance around content, but also the governance around behaviours and conversations, and the governance elements of expectations, incentives, performance management and support.
At Knoco, this is also how we see the fourth circle. Governance is an enabler to knowledge flow - an enabler of conversations and content - and is the weakest element in many KM programs. Governance is the way that behaviours are embedded and supported, will evolve as KM implementation progresses, and can be described in 5 letters.
Adding governance as the fourth circle prompts you to focus no this often-missing element, which may be the difference between success and failure of your KM program, whether you focus on content alone, or on all types of knowledge.