Originally published on June 14, 2016

This is my 100th LinkedIn post and includes the introduction to my book, Implementing a Successful KM Program, which I wrote ten years ago. This post includes links to all previous posts organized by category, providing all of the book’s content, which has been updated. Subsequent posts provide details on all 50 knowledge management components, other insights included in the book, and additional thoughts on the key issues facing those of us in the profession.


This is my 20th year in field of knowledge management. In 1996, I was asked by the senior vice president of my business unit to start a knowledge management program after we visited Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Knowledge in Cleveland, Ohio. When he heard that Ernst & Young had a Chief Knowledge Officer, he turned to me and said, “I want you to be our CKO.” This made it sound simple, but it turned out that a lot of time and effort were needed to get our KM program off the ground.

Along the way, I had to endure many ups and downs, enlist allies in the cause to join my virtual team, get executive sponsorship from a succession of leaders, increase investment and commitment to the program, deal with constant organizational change, adjust to changing technology, migrate from and integrate with legacy software, exercise diplomacy with many other groups, and cope with two large-scale corporate mergers.

Much of knowledge management has stayed the same during the past twenty years. The fundamental goals have not changed, the challenges are much the same, and the basic categories of people, process, and technology still apply. What has changed is the technology, the acceptance of KM as a strategic initiative, and the willingness of organizations to assign people to the roles of knowledge manager and knowledge assistant.

We still struggle to get people to spend time sharing and reusing knowledge, it can still be hard to find information at the time of need, and expense budgets are still tight. But there are more people practicing KM today, there are more ways for practitioners to share their thinking (e.g., blogs), and there are building blocks (e.g., communities, team spaces, taxonomies) that are now in widespread use. Social tools and techniques (e.g., enterprise social networks, wikis, social network analysis, tagging) have become part of KM programs to better address existing requirements and to enable new capabilities.

The future challenges for knowledge management include creating new knowledge to stimulate innovation, expanding and better exploiting people networks, incorporating emerging technologies such as cognitive computing, and making it easier to find informationwhen it is needed for better decision making. Knowledge management is here to stay, and by applying its fundamental concepts of learning from the past, reusing good ideas, and avoiding past mistakes, KM practitioners can ensure that their initiatives will succeed.

What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge Management is “the art of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value for an organization’s clients and its people” (from Ellen Knapp, former Chief Knowledge Officer of Pricewaterhouse Coopers). Knowledge management fosters the reuse of intellectual capital, enables better decision making, and creates the conditions for innovation. This is done by providing people, processes, and technology to help knowledge flow so that people can act more efficiently, effectively, and creatively. For more, see:

Why should we spend any time trying to manage knowledge? We are all busy enough as it is without adding the burdens of searching for and contributing knowledge.

If we don’t spend time on knowledge management activities, we run the risk of wasting even more time on unnecessary effort that could have been avoided. We might repeat mistakes that others have already made, costing time, money, and even lives. And the results of our work will not be as valuable as they could have been if they had been influenced by the experience and expertise of others.

Here are five key knowledge management activities and the associated benefits.

1. Share what you have learned, created, and proved to allow others to learn from your experience and reuse what you have already done. This provides a supply of knowledge. For more, see:

2. Innovate to be more creative, inventive, and imaginative, resulting in breakthroughs from bold new ways of thinking and doing. This creates new knowledge. For more, see:

3. Reuse what others have already learned, created, and proved to save time and money, minimize risk, and be more effective. This creates demand for knowledge. For more, see:

4. Collaborate with others to yield better results, benefit from diverse perspectives, and tap the experience and expertise of many other people. This allows knowledge to flow at the time of need, creates communities, and takes advantage of the strength in numbers. For more, see:

5. Learn by doing, from others, and from existing information so you can perform better, solve and avoid problems, and make good decisions. Learning is the origin of knowledge. For more, see:

Reasons for starting a KM program

Why do organizations undertake a knowledge management initiative? Here are 5 Reasons for Starting a KM or ESN Program.

Learning about the field

Before starting a knowledge management initiative, you should learn more about the field. To start, read books, periodicals, web sites, and blogs; attend training and conferences; and participate in professional communities to deepen your understanding of the field of knowledge management. This is practicing what you preach, and will allow you to learn from the experience of others, reuse the best ideas, and avoid the usual pitfalls.

Here are ten detailed lists of available resources:

  1. Blogs
  2. Books
  3. Communities
  4. Conferences
  5. Consultants
  6. Periodicals
  7. Sites
  8. Thought Leaders
  9. Training
  10. Tweeters

It’s a good idea to attend a KM conference before starting a KM program. After that, try to attend one every year, choosing a different one as much as possible.

Some conferences feature training before, during, or after the event. Take advantage of this whenever possible.

When attending conferences and training courses, make every effort to get to know the other attendees. Seek them out during meals, breaks, and social events. Ask them questions, share your thoughts, and exchange contact information. Try to schedule visits with the most energetic colleagues to learn more about their KM programs.

If you have the funds to engage an outside consultant, you can benefit from their knowledge and experience. If not, you can still learn from visiting their web sites and reading their literature and publications. Here are 200 KM Thought Leaders and 100 KM Consultants.

For KM communities, start by reading any discussions, and then post questions. If events are held, try to attend, especially face-to-face events.

Here are single recommendations for each type of resource to get you started.

  1. Blog: Knoco stories by Nick Milton
  2. Book: Working Knowledge by Thomas Davenport and Laurence Prusak
  3. Community: SIKM Leaders Community
  4. Conference: KMWorld
  5. Consultant: Susan Hanley
  6. Periodical: K Street Directions by Chris Riemer
  7. Site: Gurteen Knowledge Website by David Gurteen
  8. Thought Leader: Nancy Dixon
  9. Training: Working Knowledge CSP by Bill Kaplan
  10. Tweeter: Arthur Shelley

Learning about the field of KM is an ongoing responsibility. There is a great amount of content to digest, and new material is published every day. Start with a simple goal such as reading one book or attending one conference, accomplish it, and then set your next goal. As you learn more, it will become easier to tackle each successive step.

See also:

  1. 100 KM Resources
  2. Tips for starting a KM program
  3. 10 Ways to Build Expertise in Knowledge Management
  4. Communicate authentically, act boldly, learn by doing, and lead by example

The priorities for implementing a KM Program

Here are 10 Priorities for a Knowledge Management Program, and here are three sets of examples to show the kinds of goals you can establish:

1. Software Company

  • Learn by posting questions in a community of practice
  • Share by publishing white papers, submitting software code to a repository, or documenting proven practices
  • Collaborate by using a team space as part of a project team

2. Research & Development Firm

  • Learn by searching for previous projects similar to new ones and contacting the project teams for their advice
  • Collaborate by answering questions in a community of practice or ask the expert program
  • Innovate by submitting a patent application

3. Consulting Firm

  • Share by submitting a lessons learned document to a repository for each project
  • Reuse documents, code modules, or methodologies on new projects
  • Share, innovate, reuse, collaborate, and learn by actively participating in a community of practice

Here are three keys to the success of a KM program.

  1. Set three simple goals and stick with them for the long term. Communicate them regularly. Incorporate the goals and metrics into as many parts of the organization as possible (e.g., employee goals, incentive and rewards programs, and newsletters).
  2. Keep the people, process, and technology components of the KM program in balance. Don’t allow one element (e.g., technology) to dominate the other two.
  3. Lead by example. Model the collaboration and knowledge sharing behaviors you want the organization to adopt in how you run the KM program.

Key Pitfalls to Avoid

In addition to spelling out the keys to success, it is also important to warn about the common traps into which KM practitioners fall. Here are posts with cautionary advice:

  1. 5 Pitfalls to Avoid in Knowledge Management
  2. 16 Knowledge Management Myths Debunked
  3. Busted! Knowledge Management Myths Revisited
  4. Yet Another Myth: The DIKW Pyramid Scheme
  5. Knowledge Management Maturity Models
  6. Are you certifiable in knowledge management?
  7. Be agile, not fragile
  8. KM’s not dead, but talking about its ROI should be
  9. 20 knowledge-sharing bad habits — and how to break them
  10. 5-Star Ratings and Automatic Archiving for Content: Just Say No
  11. Dave Snowden’s 12 Shibboleths of Christmas
  12. Knowledge Management Sins, Pitfalls, Mistakes, and Causes of Failure

Steps to follow

The steps to follow to start a knowledge management program are:

  1. Create a Top 3 Objectives List of challenges and opportunities which your KM program will address. These objectives align business direction with program goals.
  2. Provide 9 Answers to questions about people, process, and technology. This information defines who will participate, which processes will be required, and how tools will support the people and processes.
  3. Define the KM Strategy. These are specific actions which will be taken to implement the program.
  4. Gain the sponsorship of your senior executive through The 10 Commitments. These commitments from the leader of your organization will enable the KM strategy to be implemented.
  5. Create and execute the Implementation Plan. This plan spells out the details of implementing the initiative. Contained in the Implementation Plan are program governance; desired modes of knowledge flow; people, process, and technology component selection; and implementation plans for some of the components, such as training, communications, and change management. Each one of these needs to be followed as part of implementing the overall plan.

See also What are the steps for building knowledge management in an organization?


Knowledge management enables, sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning to help an organization meet its objectives. By following the following guidance, you will be able to plan, implement, and manage a KM program to help your organization succeed.

1. Understand the Basics

2. Identify the Top 3 Objectives

3. Provide 9 Answers

4. Define the KM Strategy

5. Obtain the 10 Commitments

6. Create and Execute the Implementation Plan

7. People Components

1. culture and values

2. knowledge managers

3. user surveys

  1. KM Opportunities Survey
  2. KM Resource Survey
  3. KM Employee Satisfaction Survey
  4. Community Managers Survey

4. social networks

5. communities

6. training

7. documentation

8. communications

9. user assistance and knowledge help desk

10. goals and measurements

11. incentives and rewards

8. Process Components

12. methodologies

13. creation

14. capture

15. reuse

16. lessons learned

17. proven practices

18. collaboration

19. content management

20. classification

21. metrics and reporting

22. management of change

23. workflow

24. valuation

25. social network analysis

26. appreciative inquiry and positive deviance

27. storytelling

9. Technology Components

28. user interface

29. intranet

30. team spaces

31. virtual meeting rooms, web/video/audio conferencing, and telepresence

32. portals

33. repositories

34. threaded discussions and Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs)

35. expertise locators and ask the expert

36. metadata and tags

37. search engines

38. archiving

39. blogs

40. wikis

41. podcasts and videos

42. syndication, aggregation, and subscription management systems

43. social software and social media

44. external access

45. workflow applications

46. process automation

47. gamification applications

48. e-learning

49. analytics and business intelligence

50. cognitive computing and artificial intelligence

10. Communities of Practice

11. Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs)

12. KM Maxims

13. KM Resources

  1. Knowledge Management Blogs
  2. My blogs
  1. My Books
  2. My Reviews
  3. 100 Recommended Books and 25 Reading Lists
  4. Implementing a Successful KM Program
  5. Gaining Buy-In for KM
  6. New report on Organizational Innovation
  7. New Report on Knowledge Leadership
  8. Collaborative Knowledge Networks
  9. Measuring the ROI of KM
  10. Proven Practices for Promoting a Knowledge Management Program
  1. A dozen community management communities
  1. 200 KM Thought Leaders and 100 KM Consultants
  2. Thought-provoking Speakers
  3. For your consideration: Awards for knowledge management
  1. Knowledge Management on Twitter
  2. My tweets

14. Communications, Grammar, and English usage

15. Leadership

16. Behavior and psychology

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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