Originally published on September 15, 2018

This is the 30th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Patrick Lambe is a globally-recognized knowledge management practitioner. He is a consultant and researcher in KM and e-learning, with a special interest in the “soft systems” — how and why people and social groups use, consume and produce knowledge. Patrick specializes in taxonomy development, knowledge audit and knowledge maps, expertise transfer, and knowledge management strategy development.

I have been citing and quoting Patrick ever since I started blogging in 2006. He presented on the SIKM Leaders Community call that I hosted in September, 2007. I first met him in person at KMWorld 2009, and we have been friends ever since.


  1. Journal of Knowledge Management
  2. Knowledge Management For Development Journal
  3. Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Innovation
  • His 2011 paper on the history of knowledge management “The Unacknowledged Parentage of Knowledge Management” won a Highly Commended Award in the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2012


  1. Personal
  2. Straits Knowledge


  1. Personal
  2. Straits Knowledge


1. SlideShare

2. Better Than the Black Box: An Empirical Approach to Taxonomy Development

3. How to Build a Taxonomy

4. SIKM Leaders Community

  1. Videos
  2. Recording
  1. Recording
  2. Slides

5. KMWorld

  • KMWorld 2017
  1. Knowledge Café — Mentoring Morning
  2. W4: Getting Good Evidence for a KM Plan
  • KMWorld 2016
  1. W17: Knowledge Mapping: Identifying & Mitigating Knowledge RisksSlides
  2. Keynote Panel: Hacking KM
  3. Knowledge Café: Mentoring Morning
  • KMWorld 2015
  1. W13: Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Implementing KM
  2. Cafe: Knowledge Cafe: Mentoring Morning
  • KMWorld 2014
  1. W18: Conducting Knowledge Audits
  • KMWorld 2012
  1. W9: Conducting Knowledge Audits
  2. Keynote: KM Saves Lives
  • KMWorld 2011
  1. W1: Participatory KM Diagnostics & Planning
  2. Keynote: KM for the Future: Pioneers’ Perspectives
  • KMWorld 2009
  1. W11: Leveraging & Valuing Expertise in Your Organization
  2. A202: Knowledge Continuity: Managing ExpertiseSlides

6. Taxonomy Boot Camp

7. Taxonomy Bootcamp London

  • Taxonomy Boot Camp London 2017
  1. Scoping your taxonomy project for success (half day — morning)
  2. Developing your career as a taxonomist
  3. Doing taxonomy right: advice from two experts
  • Taxonomy Boot Camp London 2016
  1. Keynote: Gathering evidence for a taxonomy — knowledge mapping or content modellingSlides
  2. The nuts and bolts of taxonomies


1. Synaptica Interview

2. TC World Interview

3. Taxonomies and Knowledge Management by Don Hawkins

4. Developing a KM maturity assessment that supports action planning

5. What makes a good taxonomist? — “There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip” is an ancient proverb, attributed by some to the time of Homer. Increasingly, this is true of how taxonomies are implemented. Good designs, poor results. The difference between a competent taxonomist and a great taxonomist is increasingly coming to be about a social, technical and practical knowledge of the various technologies through which the work of enabling discovery and access gets done, including search, text analytics, semantic technologies, and data visualisation. It’s not enough to be a great winemaker any more. Our role is to help people drink.

6. Knowledge Management is older than you think

The unacknowledged parentage of knowledge management

  • Abstract
  1. Purpose — This paper aims to argue that the current malaise and fragmentation within knowledge management are at least partially caused by a lack of awareness of its own historical roots.
  2. Design/methodology/approach — A comprehensive literature review shows that very explicit knowledge management concepts and practices were in circulation 50 years ago and that current knowledge management literature has very little historical depth.
  3. Findings — The current canonical knowledge management literature almost universally ignores significant antecedents to knowledge management thinking and practice dating back to the 1960s.
  4. Practical implications — There are three practical implications: for knowledge management education to recover its historical antecedents; for KM theorists and practitioners to connect KM theory and practice to historically-related work in economics, sociology and information management, from which it is currently isolated; through an understanding of its roots to help knowledge management theorists build a meaningful and coherent agenda for the discipline.
  5. Originality/value — This is the most extensive exploration to date of the historical origins of knowledge management, with significant implications for recovering a productive agenda for the discipline.
  • Contents
  1. The new kid on the block
  2. Antecedents of knowledge management in economics and sociology
  3. The forgotten history of knowledge management
  4. Knowledge management as a child of data management
  5. Forgetfulness in knowledge management
  6. The implications of forgetfulness in knowledge management
  7. References
  • Callouts
  1. It is generally accepted that knowledge management emerged as a discipline in the early 1990s, fueled by a confluence of computing availability, propagation through consulting firms, and conference promotion.
  2. The great classics of knowledge management literature appeared in a golden period of five short years.
  3. We can characterize the 1960s and 1970s then as a period in which the explicit idea of knowledge management was struggling towards birth and self-definition.
  4. Knowledge management has ended up very much like the English language, borrowing vocabularies, concepts, models and approaches from other disciplines.

Cited and Quoted in My Blog

1. Certification

2. Is KM Dead?

3. Sins and Pitfalls

  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

4. Maturity Models

Just a couple of thoughts on the limitations of maturity models — when the organisational landscape is heterogeneous, a maturity model tends to gloss over/average out significant differences in portions of the landscape, removing them from visibility and opportunity for action. It also tends to ignore unique but salient factors of the environment being assessed.

Also, when used as a guiding mechanism promoting idealised frameworks, it tends to start getting gamed. If at all, maturity models are much better used as part of a diagnostic/planning mechanism along with a lot of independently gathered data and in focused, homogeneous contexts. There’s a blog post here.

Now it may be your context is sufficiently focused in both domain and community scope for my concerns to be dismissed. But it will sit within a bigger context, so a health warning is always in order.

I do think by the way there’s a bit of confusion here between a KM framework and a maturity model. A framework is essentially two dimensional until it gets a strategy to give it meaning and direction (conversely a strategy needs a framework to give it actualisation). The strategy forces the framework to “get real”.

A maturity model postulates somewhat idealised statements about lifecycle stages and their indicators, and I find it can actually exist quite independently of reality on the ground. I’ve seen maturity descriptors that look fine on the report card while the organisation actually flounders in practice. A typical indicator is “senior management appreciate the significance of a knowledge-based approach and support KM”. I’ve seen KM initiatives that do well without senior management noticing or bothering, and I’ve seen KM initiatives that failed because KM was given too much support (everything new was labelled KM and loaded on the KM team until they died of exhaustion).

5. Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Deviance

Appreciative Inquiry is an interview/dialogue technique which expresses perfectly the positive deviance principle stating that it’s better to look for what is working rather than what is going wrong. It goes a little further than that by also trying to define the aspirations of the actors in a given situation — i.e., what the desirable outcomes will be.

Identification and transfer of “best practices” fulfills a classic positive deviance goal, though they might be more appropriately be named “better” or “more successful” practices. Moreover, the adding of a positive deviance frame to “better practice” identification and transfer, gives a greater sensitivity to the context in which the practice is developed and in which it works, and it emphasizes the importance of local origination and ownership of the practice. Not all practices travel well from their native context, and it is this indiscriminate, context-insensitive lifting and re-application that has given best practices in KM their bad name, not to mention the lack of ownership of practice that it instills.

6. Metrics and ROI

  1. improving productivity
  2. improving quality
  3. leveraging human capital
  4. reducing risk
  5. remaining in the marketplace
  6. accessing new markets

So when we put up our e-business investment proposals, our e-learning proposals, and our knowledge management proposals, the CEO wants to see an ROI analysis, and the CFO will be doing a surreptitious EVA. All very objective, terribly easy to decide. The trouble is, when you look at them very closely, very few aspects of real-world enterprise actually run on numbers, and ROIs tell you surprisingly little about whether you really should invest — especially once you move outside the ambit of simply buying something.

The passion for ROIs, which is often justified in the service of a simple purchase that has attributable profits, becomes positively dangerous when it is used in the service of complex investments, business innovation, capability development, or infrastructure investment — as it happens, all characteristics of e-business, e-learning and knowledge management initiatives.

I’ve always been wary of KPIs in knowledge management, because they appeal to a tangible measurement mindset that is easily distracted from the intangible and hard-to-pin down outcomes of KM efforts. I can’t tell you how may implementations I’ve seen where the measurements are diligently gathered and presented as tokens of success (number of documents, number of contributions, number of sharing sessions) when behind the metrics facade, the KM culture and rich sharing habits are as dead as a doornail.

But KPIs, used intelligently alongside “softer” evaluation techniques, do enable you to monitor progress and health in relation to your expectations as you move along your KM journey. And changes or spikes in activity or output trends can signal a need to investigate deeper. So if you take the KPIs with a big pinch of salt and remember you always have to interpret them, they can be a perfectly legitimate tool. So I sat down and wrote this guide to using KPIs.

The paper is in three sections: the first sets out some guidelines for how to use KPIs smartly. The second section gives ideas for sample sets of KPIs covering KM activities and tools as diverse as communities of practice, KM roles, and use of wikis and blogs. The third section is a template for drawing up your own sets of KPIs.

7. What Would a Knowledge Sharing Policy Look Like? — The contents of this document cover all the main principles and guidelines for effective sharing (I think), but I’m hoping you, the readers will give feedback and point out any factors I’ve missed.

8. Getting Started on Your Intranet

9. Why Elearning Systems Will Never Rule the World

10. Stories

11. Wikis

12. Mapping the Culture of an Online Community

13. Blogs Can Calm the Raging SeaUsing Blogs in the Enterprise

14. KM Champion Guidelines with Edgar Tan

15. Records Management

16. Change Management

17. Social Network Analysis

18. Metadata and Tagging

19. A Typology of Search Behaviours

20. Taxonomy

There are three basic characteristics of a taxonomy for knowledge management, and to be any good at its job, it needs to fulfill all three functions:

  1. A taxonomy is a form of classification scheme
  2. Taxonomies are semantic
  3. A taxonomy is a kind of knowledge map
  • The Kingdom of Taxonomy on Video — A video presentation of “the Kingdom of Taxonomy” in two parts, looking at the roles that lists, trees, matrices, facets and folksonomies play in taxonomy design.
  1. Part One: Lists & Trees
  2. Part Two: Matrices, Facets And Folksonomies
  1. My Book Has a Webpage
  2. Supermarket 2.0
  3. My Taxonomy Book Finally Published
  4. What Makes Social Tagging Work
  5. The Kingdom of Taxonomy
  6. Taxonomy Development Needs A Human Touch
  7. Sunken Treasures
  8. Folksonomies and Rich Serendipity
  9. How to Kill a Knowledge Environment with a Taxonomy
  10. A Brief History of Arrangement
  11. Dilbert on Taxonomies
  12. Taskonomies and Information Neighbourhoods
  13. Building Information Neighbourhoods
  14. Taxonomies vs Tagging: High Context, Low Context
  15. Search, Ambiguity, and Autotagging
  16. Business Process Documentation with KM/IM Orientation
  17. Whose Language is it Anyway?
  18. KM and Christmas Don’t Mix
  19. KRIMinal Activities Afoot
  20. Defining “Taxonomy”
  21. What Shape is a Taxonomy?

80 Methods and Tools — from KM Method Cards

01 Knowledge & Information Management Policy

02 Better Practice Transfer

03 Positive Deviance

04 Change Management

05 KM Champions

06 Community of Interest

07 Community of Practice

08 Email Detox

09 Evaluation & Monitoring

10 Subject Matter Experts

11 Expertise Transfer

12 Knowledge Continuity

13 Information Architecture

14 KM Awareness

15 KM Governance

16 Knowledge & Information Literacy

17 Knowledge-Enabled Work

18 Learning Culture

19 Rewards & Recognition

20 Safe Fail vs Fail Safe

21 Work Group KM

22 Project KM

23 Stealth KM

24 Stakeholder Management

25 Enterprise 2.0

26 Interviews

27 Appreciative Inquiry

28 Critical Decision Method

29 Concept Mapping

30 Expertise Knowledge Audit

31 Fish Bowl

32 Mentoring & Coaching

33 Play of Life

34 After Action Review

35 Challenge Session

36 Strategic Conversation

37 World Cafe

38 Open Space Technology

39 Retrospect

40 Pre-Mortem

41 Peer Assist

42 Anecdote Circles

43 Speed Networking

44 Cultural Archetypes

45 Knowledge Audits & Maps

46 Business Process Mapping & Design

47 Before Action Review

48 Environmental Scanning

49 Future Backwards

50 Most Significant Change

51 Story Listening

52 Social Network Analysis

53 Value Network Analysis

54 Card Sorting

55 Decision Games

56 Rich Pictures

57 Graphic Facilitation

58 Information Neighbourhood

59 Podcasting & Vodcasting

60 Screencasting

61 Storytelling

62 Share Fair

63 Knowledge Fair

64 Knowledge Market

65 Blog

66 Bulletin Board

67 Taxonomy

68 Competency Framework

69 Instant Messaging

70 Knowledge-Friendly Environment

71 Social Bookmarking

72 Social Tagging

73 Wiki

74 Yellow Pages

75 Metadata

76 Enterprise Search

77 Intranet

78 Dashboard

79 Document Management System

80 RSS


1. KMWorld

3. YouTube

4. Vimeo

Book Reviews


1. Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organizational Effectiveness

Taxonomies are often thought to play a niche role within content-oriented knowledge management projects. They are thought to be ‘nice to have’, but not essential. In this groundbreaking book, Patrick Lambe shows how they play an integral role in helping organizations coordinate and communicate effectively. Through a series of case studies, he demonstrates the range of ways in which taxonomies can help organizations to leverage and articulate their knowledge. A step-by-step guide in the book to running a taxonomy project is full of practical advice for knowledge managers and business owners alike.

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

3. Knowledge Audits and Knowledge Mapping: A Practical Guide for Knowledge Managers

4. KM Approaches Methods and Tools — A Guidebook with Edgar Tan

5. People, Knowledge and Technology: What Have We Learnt So Far? Proceedings Of The First IKMS International Conference On Knowledge Management, 2004 with Bruno Trezzini

6. The Blind Tour Guide: Surviving and Prospering in the New Economy

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

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