Originally posted November 15, 2018

This is the 35th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Nick Milton is a KM consultant, author, speaker, and instructor based in the UK. He helped develop the ISO standard for Knowledge Management (ISO 30401). Nick is a prolific blogger, and I have quoted him extensively in my blog for years. I first met him at KMWorld 2015.

Nick tries to make knowledge management simple, practical, and focused on value delivery. Through his company, Knoco, the international knowledge management consultants, he helps a wide range of clients to develop and apply knowledge management for business benefit.

Nick advises and supports companies with the effective implementation, embedding and application of KM, helping them deliver tangible business value through better utilization of corporate knowledge. His services include Knowledge Management Assessment, Knowledge Management Strategy, Knowledge Management Frameworks, Knowledge Management Implementation, KM governance, project-based KM, and Lesson Learning. He specializes in capturing and synthesizing knowledge, and managing major knowledge capture programs for big projects.

Before founding Knoco, Nick spent two years at the center of the team than made BP one of the leading knowledge management companies in the world, acting as the team’s Knowledge Manager, developing and implementing BP’s knowledge of how to manage knowledge, and coordinating the BP Knowledge Management community of practice. Prior to that, he worked for five years as Knowledge Manager for BP Norway.

Nick holds a PhD in Geology/Earth Science from the University of Wales, and an MA in Natural Sciences (1st Class) from the University of Cambridge.


  1. Knoco
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Facebook
  4. KM4Dev
  5. Project Management.com
  6. Gurteen


  1. Blog
  2. Twitter
  3. Web Site
  4. News, Newsletters, White Papers, Books & Articles
  6. KM Survey Results
  7. KM FAQ, Models, Processes, Roles & Structures, Technologies, and Governance

1. Knowledge Management Maturity Models

2. Knowledge Management: What’s in a name?

  • How is Knowledge Management Defined? — ‘Knowledge sharing and reuse’ is better than ‘Knowledge sharing,’ but you need to add Knowledge Creation to the list as well, and probably Knowledge Synthesis, and definitely Knowledge Seeking, so by the time you say ‘Knowledge creation and seeking and sharing and synthesis and reuse’ you might as well say ‘Knowledge management.’ Knowledge Management does not imply the management of pieces of knowledge, any more than Time Management means the management of pieces of time. As Etienne Wenger said, ‘If by manage we mean to care for, grow, steward, make more useful, then the term knowledge management is rather apt.’

3. Knowledge Reuse Process

4. Proven Practices Process: Don’t call it “best practice”

5. Busted! Knowledge Management Myths Revisited

  1. A wiki will heighten motivation and spark contributions
  2. Employees will know how to contribute
  3. Wikis will always surface the information you need
  • Other myths
  1. The myth of “trial and error”
  2. The “No time for KM” myth
  3. The Millennials myth

6. Decision and Action: Data — Information — Knowledge — Understanding — Decision — Action

7. Is KM Dead?

8. The Knowledge Management career path

9. Proven practices for lessons learned — and lessons learned about proven practices

10. KM Metrics and Reporting Process

11. Expertise Locators and Ask the Expert

12. The push/pull gap in Knowledge Transfer

13. Analytics and Business Intelligence

  • Knowledge Management and business intelligence — Business intelligence is the gathering and supply of business related data and information which can then be used for either supporting decisions, forecasting future events or discovering trends within a set of information. Knowledge management is about the development of the know-how that allows people to make decisions, based on these (and other) data. It’s what enables an organization to know what to do with the intelligence.
  • Big Data and KM — different but complementary — Data in itself does not lead to action, without the knowledge being applied. You manage the data itself through data management techniques, and you manage the knowledge itself through knowledge management techniques, and the two together give massively powerful actionable results. Big Data and KM should work hand in hand, but not be treated as the same thing.
  • Big Data, Knowledge, and Hurricanes — Walmart are winning on three counts. They have plenty of data, they analyze this data to derive information, and they have knowledge (based on experience and codified in best practice) that allows them to take the correct actions. It is that knowledge that allows them to know what to do with the information they receive.

14. Content Management Process

15. Don’t wait for knowledge to be volunteered — go ask

Waiting passively for voluntary contributions is the wrong way to populate a KM repository. Knowledge can’t be conscripted, it can only be volunteered, and often it won’t be volunteered until you ask.

This is an outcome of the problem of the unknown knowns. Often people don’t don’t realize they have learned something, until they are asked about it, or have the chance to discuss it.

Sometimes you find organizations who have set up a system whereby people are required to identify lessons or new knowledge themselves, and then to add them into a knowledge repository. I am not a huge fan of volunteer systems like this; I don’t even like them for collecting innovation suggestions. I think you capture only a small proportion of the lessons this way, because people are not aware that they have learned anything, and if they are aware, they often discount the learning as “not important”. Also, self-written knowledge is often superficial, because there hasn’t been the depth of dialogue and questioning to get to the lesson.

I am not arguing for forcing people to share knowledge, but I am suggesting that you don’t wait for the volunteers to come to you. Instead you give people scheduled facilitated conversation-based opportunities where they can become aware of what they know, and which provide a safe and encouraging environment for them to volunteer the knowledge when asked.

There are many advantages to the scheduled approach. Firstly, success and failure are components of every project, and if every project is reviewed, lessons may be identified which can avoid the big mistakes later on. Secondly, if lessons identification is scheduled, it becomes a clear expectation, and the company can monitor if the expectation is being met. This expectation is common in many organizations, though the rigor with which the expectation is met seems to vary. Finally, by scheduling and facilitating the learning dialogue, you can uncover the knowledge that nobody knows they know, until they start to discuss it.

Don’t rely on people volunteering their knowledge spontaneously. Instead, set up scheduled processes which provide a request and a context for volunteering.

16. Knowledge Capture Process

17. Knowledge Management Sins, Pitfalls, Mistakes, and Causes of Failure

  1. Continuing to operate a hierarchical organization
  2. Fear
  3. Placing a greater emphasis on technology than people
  4. Not communicating enough on the issues
  5. Not approaching Knowledge Management as a management issue
  6. Not identifying the departments most valuable holders of knowledge and key innovators
  7. Reluctance to distinguish between data or information on the one hand and knowledge on the other
  8. Emphasizing knowledge stock to the detriment of knowledge flow
  9. Viewing knowledge as existing predominantly outside the heads of individuals
  10. Not understanding that a shared context is fundamental to knowledge management
  11. Paying too little heed to the role and importance of tacit knowledge
  12. Disentangling knowledge from IT issues
  13. Downplaying thinking and reasoning
  14. Focusing on the past and the present but not the future
  15. Failing to recognize the importance of experimentation
  16. Substituting technological contact for human interface
  17. Seeking to develop direct measures of knowledge
  1. KM is not introduced with a business focus
  2. KM is never embedded in the business
  3. You fail to secure effective senior management support
  4. You don’t focus on high-value knowledge
  5. You fail to show measurable benefits
  6. The four enablers of KM are not given equal attention: roles, processes, technology, governance
  7. Only parts of the KM solution are implemented
  8. You make KM too difficult for people
  9. KM is not implemented as a change program
  10. The KM team preaches only to the converted
  11. The KM team fails to engage with key stakeholders
  12. The KM team has the wrong competence
  1. KM is not introduced as a change program
  2. The KM team does not have the right people to deliver change
  3. The KM team preach only to the choir
  4. Only parts of the KM solution are implemented
  5. KM is never embedded into the business
  6. There is no effective high-level sponsorship
  7. KM is not introduced with a business focus
  1. Internal reorganization
  2. Cultural barriers
  3. Lack of involvement from staff
  4. Technology did not deliver as expected
  5. KM did not deliver the expected benefits
  6. KM was taking too long to deliver
  7. Too much focus on technology platforms and not enough on incentives and cultural elements
  8. The Company was sold to government, which had no interest whatsoever
  9. No push or support from the Executive Committee
  10. No customer demand reported
  11. New Top Management — Not interested in KM

18. Knowledge Managers and KM Leaders

19. The 7 most important business drivers for Knowledge management

20. Top 7 tips for knowledge management success

21. 15 Example Knowledge Management visions

22. When does Learning and Development take over from KM?

23. Incentives

24, Wikis

25. Blogs and Blogging

So why is this question of validation so important? Partly because of the rise in blogging.

Blogging in organisations is still a minority sport. If we follow the 90:9:1 rule that applies to wikis, and apply it to blogs, then out of every 100 people in an organisation, one will actively and routinely blog. 9 might read the blog and comment, and maybe post some small items of their own, while 90 will never contribute. If we take blogs to be knowledge, we are only sampling one or two percent of the organisation, and what we find is mostly opinion, and can be a small minority opinion.

There are exceptions to this — subject matter experts or community leaders in an organisation may publish blogs where they share validated community knowledge, for example. I saw one organisation where the head of data security used a blog to share changes in procedures and new best practices, which really were validated knowledge and which the organisation was expected to follow. Apart from these exceptions, the majority of blogs (including this one) are individual opinion.

26. How email plays a key role in Knowledge Management

27. Drucker’s description of knowledge, and what’s wrong with it! — My assumption, for what it’s worth, is that Drucker meant something like this: “Information only becomes actionable in the hands of someone who knows what to do with it.” In other words, knowledge makes information actionable.

28. Positive deviance in a business context — We can apply this approach in business, as part of our Knowledge Management program (perhaps as a KM pilot). It works this way:

29. Stories

30. The incrementalism fallacy in KM change

31. KM Processes

32. Lessons Learned Process

33. KM’s not dead, but talking about its ROI should be

Here are the four things that make this question into an opportunity:

  1. Top Management are talking to you. You have access to them, and they are listening to you. A conversation with senior management has opened up. As a KM salesman, make the most of this (see “selling KM on emotion”).
  2. You have the opportunity to show them some success stories which demonstrate a very high ROI. KM can deliver fantastic ROI — our October 2012 Newsletter (available here) gives many examples of KM ROI, and how it can be measured, and this blog has published an occasional series of quantified success stories, with 53 examples to date. There is plenty of evidence you can show them.
  3. You have the opportunity to make a deal with them. See here for how this deal might go. You promise them ROI, in return for their endorsement, example, steer, recognition and challenge.
  4. You have the opportunity to offer to use KM to solve some of their real problems. Don’t forget, KM works extremely well when applied at senior level — its not just for the frontline staff. Senior managers are knowledge workers too. If you can do this, they will be on your side forever (see taking the thorn from the lions paw).

34. Podcasts and Videos

35. Knowledge Valuation Process and Intellectual Capital

36. Knowledge Management and document management/ECM — Document management is a subset of information management. Document management covers the management of electronic documents, whether they are knowledge or not. Knowledge Management covers the management of knowledge, some of which may be codified within documents. There is an overlap between the two, as well as distinct separate areas.

My view on knowledge management is a very practical one. Since I started in this field in 1992 in Norway, my interest has been in increasing the performance of teams and individuals through the use of knowledge. The link between performance and knowledge is, to me, a crucial one. Knowledge is derived from performance; performance is fuelled by knowledge.

I was lucky to have been employed by the oil industry during the great performance leap of the 90s; indeed my previous employer BP embraced performance management more enthusiastically than any other organisation I have met. The Deming cycle of “Plan, Do, Measure, Learn” is a mantra in the oil industry, and KM provides the sustainable organisational learning component.

For me, KM is easiest to implement in an organisation that practices teamwork, that works in projects, and that measures and manages performance. In such organisations, KM finds an easy niche, and has been taken to levels of implementation and assurance, which compare well with the management of other assets. I think I am finding that even in other organisational cultures, where teamwork and performance management are absent, KM can add value, but perhaps will not reach the level of maturity and embedding that parts of the oil industry have achieved.

Our conversation on KM and performance management may also include a discussion of cultural blockers and enablers in developing a knowledge-driven environment.

  • Articles
  1. The Value of Knowledge Management
  2. Knowledge Enabled Performance
  • Discussion
  1. Start
  2. End

1. SlideShare

2. KMWorld

  1. W13: Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Implementing KM
  2. C203: The Knowledge Supply ChainSlides

3. SIKM Leaders Community


1. KA Connect

2. YouTube

3. Vimeo


1. Amazon Author Page

2. The Knowledge Manager’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Embedding Effective Knowledge Management in your Organization with Patrick Lambe

3. Designing a Successful KM Strategy: A Guide for the Knowledge Management Professional with Stephanie Barnes

4. The Lessons Learned Handbook: Practical Approaches to Learning from Experience

5. Knowledge Management for Sales and Marketing: A Practitioner’s Guide with Tom Young

6. Performance Through Learning: Knowledge Management in Practice with Carol Gorelick and Kurt April

7. Knowledge Management for Teams and Projects

8. Gaining buy-in for KM edited by Laura Slater

  • Chapter 1: Trends in KM with Tom Young
  1. It will have to be linked to business value
  2. It will have to be driven by business strategy
  3. It will need to evolve as the business context evolves
  4. It will need to consolidate, not polarize
  5. It will become a discipline
  6. We need to learn good KM

9. Measuring the ROI of Knowledge Management edited by Helen Roche

  • Chapter 2: Calculating return on investment from knowledge management pilot projects
  1. Steps for measuring KM
  2. Measuring ROI on Communities of Practice

10. Establishing a Successful Knowledge-Driven Culture edited by Fiona Prowting

  • Chapter 2: The ten dimensions of a learning culture
  1. Describing and measuring culture
  2. The ten dimensions
  3. Measuring the dimensions

11. A Guide to Global Best Practice and Standards in KM edited by Alex Davies

  • Foreword with Judy Payne and Ron Young
  • Chapter 1: The evolution of the KM Standard

12. Next Generation Knowledge Management, Volume 2 by Jerry Ash

  • Chapter 10: Increasing performance through knowledge

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

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