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.
- Originally trained in Information and Library Science
- Arrived in KM via a second career in training and development
- Originally from the UK
- Based in Singapore for many years
- Author of Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organisation Effectiveness
- Co-author with Nick Milton of The Knowledge Manager’s Handbook
- Visiting Professor in the KIM PhD programme at Bangkok University
- President of the International Society for Knowledge Organization Singapore Chapter
- Member of the editorial advisory boards of:
- Journal of Knowledge Management
- Knowledge Management For Development Journal
- 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
4. SIKM Leaders Community
- September 2007 — The Kingdom of Taxonomy
- March 2019 — Knowledge Audits
- KMWorld 2017
- KMWorld 2016
- W17: Knowledge Mapping: Identifying & Mitigating Knowledge Risks — Slides
- Keynote Panel: Hacking KM
- Knowledge Café: Mentoring Morning
- KMWorld 2015
- KMWorld 2014
- KMWorld 2012
- KMWorld 2011
- KMWorld 2009
- W11: Leveraging & Valuing Expertise in Your Organization
- A202: Knowledge Continuity: Managing Expertise — Slides
- Taxonomy Boot Camp 2017 — Taxo Fail: Learning From Terribly Scoped Taxonomy Projects — Slides
- Taxonomy Boot Camp 2016 — Taxonomies & Facet Analysis for Beginners — Slides
- Taxonomy Boot Camp 2015 — Mapping & Modeling — Slides
- Taxonomy Boot Camp 2014 — Welcome & Keynote: From Cataloguers to Designers: A New Role for Taxonomists in Knowledge Graphs, Machine Classification, and Search Based Applications — Slides
- Taxonomy Boot Camp 2012 — Taxonomy Beyond the Enterprise: Knowledge Organization Systems, Semantic Web, Big Data & Next Gen Search
- Taxonomy Boot Camp 2011 — Empirical Approaches to Taxonomy Development — Slides
- Taxonomy Boot Camp 2009 — Taxonomists: Evolving or Extinct? — Slides
- Taxonomy Boot Camp London 2017
- Scoping your taxonomy project for success (half day — morning)
- Developing your career as a taxonomist
- Doing taxonomy right: advice from two experts
- Taxonomy Boot Camp London 2016
- Keynote: Gathering evidence for a taxonomy — knowledge mapping or content modelling — Slides
- The nuts and bolts of taxonomies
3. Taxonomies and Knowledge Management by Don Hawkins
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Findings — The current canonical knowledge management literature almost universally ignores significant antecedents to knowledge management thinking and practice dating back to the 1960s.
- 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.
- 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.
- The new kid on the block
- Antecedents of knowledge management in economics and sociology
- The forgotten history of knowledge management
- Knowledge management as a child of data management
- Forgetfulness in knowledge management
- The implications of forgetfulness in knowledge management
- 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.
- The great classics of knowledge management literature appeared in a golden period of five short years.
- 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.
- 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
2. Is KM Dead?
3. Sins and Pitfalls
- Vices and Virtues in Knowledge Management
- So you want to do Knowledge Management?
- Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Implementing KM
- KM is not introduced with a business focus
- KM is never embedded in the business
- You fail to secure effective senior management support
- You don’t focus on high-value knowledge
- You fail to show measurable benefits
- The four enablers of KM are not given equal attention: roles, processes, technology, governance
- Only parts of the KM solution are implemented
- You make KM too difficult for people
- KM is not implemented as a change program
- The KM team preaches only to the converted
- The KM team fails to engage with key stakeholders
- The KM team has the wrong competence
4. Maturity Models
- Against Bestness
- KM Maturity Model
- Why We Treat KM Maturity Models With Caution
- Developing a KM Maturity Assessment that Supports Action Planning
- Method, Diagnostic & Culture Cards
- actKM Discussion
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).
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
- Metrics, ROI, Monitoring and Evaluation Again
- An Alternative Way to Assess the ROI of e-Learning in Training Part 1 & Part 2 — How to assess ROI for e-learning with these six major business objectives in mind:
- improving productivity
- improving quality
- leveraging human capital
- reducing risk
- remaining in the marketplace
- 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.
- Storytelling and Ignorance
- Brains Respond to Stories as if They Are Real
- Building and Learning From Story Banks
- Storytelling Tips
- Narrative Unbound
- Stories, Spin and the Loss of Intellect
- Wiki Tricks
- Wiki Intranet 2.0
- Thinking About Wikis — and Wiki Raids
- How to Use Enterprise Wikis — Patterns and Anti-Patterns
14. KM Champion Guidelines with Edgar Tan
15. Records Management
- Electronic Records Management Lags Everywhere
- Information and Records Management Policy Development Guidelines with Marita Keenan — The requirements for a knowledge sharing system, including taxonomy and metadata requirements, will need to be balanced with the need to manage records according to legislative and regulatory requirements. Knowledge, information and records form a continuum that needs to be managed holistically, and an integrated policy framework helps to support this.
18. Metadata and Tagging
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:
- A taxonomy is a form of classification scheme
- Taxonomies are semantic
- 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.
- Part One: Lists & Trees
- Part Two: Matrices, Facets And Folksonomies
- Marti Heyman on ROI for Taxonomy Initiatives
- Other Green Chameleon blog entries on taxonomy (enter the titles below in the search box to find the posts)
- My Book Has a Webpage
- Supermarket 2.0
- My Taxonomy Book Finally Published
- What Makes Social Tagging Work
- The Kingdom of Taxonomy
- Taxonomy Development Needs A Human Touch
- Sunken Treasures
- Folksonomies and Rich Serendipity
- How to Kill a Knowledge Environment with a Taxonomy
- A Brief History of Arrangement
- Dilbert on Taxonomies
- Taskonomies and Information Neighbourhoods
- Building Information Neighbourhoods
- Taxonomies vs Tagging: High Context, Low Context
- Search, Ambiguity, and Autotagging
- Business Process Documentation with KM/IM Orientation
- Whose Language is it Anyway?
- KM and Christmas Don’t Mix
- KRIMinal Activities Afoot
- Defining “Taxonomy”
- 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
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
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
62 Share Fair
63 Knowledge Fair
64 Knowledge Market
66 Bulletin Board
68 Competency Framework
69 Instant Messaging
70 Knowledge-Friendly Environment
71 Social Bookmarking
72 Social Tagging
74 Yellow Pages
76 Enterprise Search
79 Document Management System
- Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande — posted to the actKM Discussion List: Gawande is a surgeon, an extremely insightful writer about his craft, very interested in how surgeons acquire and use their knowledge and is completely unencumbered by KM theory. Perhaps because of that, he illuminates basic human activities around knowledge in a very important way for KM. There’s also a good video lecture of him introducing some of the main themes of his book.
- Organising Knowledge — review by Heather Hedden
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.
4. KM Approaches Methods and Tools — A Guidebook with Edgar Tan