KM Disappointments


It is disappointing to still hear the near-religious advocacy of process, standards and certification for knowledge management (KM).

Ironically, KM people, often charged with change management and innovation, are so inelastic they simply reject contemporary, effective and proven KM practices.

Even when their sacred cows of KM standards, certification and process engineering lead them to consistent, well-document failure, they hold on. Clearly the linear, mechanical, order-systems of KM account for the widely reported 70-80% of KM projects being challenged or outright failures.

Furthermore, it common for people holding these problematic opinions and outlooks to shoot-the-messenger.

Look at the soaring farce of KM Certification and KM Standards. On one, week-long, ‘KM Certification’ agenda we saw no mention of complexity science, systems thinking or distributed phronesis. There was a scant half-hour devoted to social networks.

Colabria Bad Penny

KM Standards = Bad Penny

Bad Penny = (idiom) A person or thing which is unpleasant, disreputable, or otherwise unwanted, especially one which repeatedly appears at inopportune times.Wikitionary.

Meanwhile, the perennial parlor game of KM Standards has risen from the dead yet again. The ridiculous sham of KM Standards will only serve to divide the KM community as always. They always drive authentic KM underground. A more harmful and wasteful effort is hard to find. However, U.S. Pat. No. 7,127,440, entitled, “Knowledge Management System and Method,” comes close. Wonder if these self-serving KM Standards people realize they may be trespassing on prior art and patents? 

The charlatans perpetuating this fraud know little or nothing about authentic knowledge-based activities. If you dare to challenge the KM snake-oil profiteers, prepare for a fight. These people have duped many, mostly corporate bureaucrats and naive enterprise administrators, and will defend their KM charade for their selfish ends. 

Fortunately, other respected and responsible voices are finally speaking up. Hopefully the multi-modal messages concerning the broad-based failure of process-oriented KM, certification and standards will create critical-mass. It’s necessary to defeat the process inertia in the KM field. Here is a good manifesto.

Why Do Great KM Programs Fail?

This help and guidance is provided hopefully and authentically to give KM some much needed uplift. It is important to rise up, up and out of the late 20th Century Taylorism and Fordist process thinking and practice, that is so painfully obvious in KM. The simple goal is to raise the level of KM discourse to at least accepted 2014 practices.

KM is about connection not collection. Or to paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the network, stupid.”

The KM barrier seems to be the struggle to accept that modern productivity and innovation are social, complex and holistic. KM must focus on the future. This key KM leadership behavior is scarce and precious. We’ve learned over decades that KM leadership is not for everybody.

The most glaring example is the Newtonian archetype of KM’s beloved analytic reductionism and BPR. They have failed completely for KM. Take away process mental models from KM practitioners and you are left with nothing. The prospect of these defective, vacant KM practices, methods and models becoming institutionalized by sanctimonious bureaucrats armed with KM Standards is chilling indeed.

Responsible KM leadership has adopted social networks, complexity science and whole-system comprehension. Thing is you cannot evolve from legitimate, honorable and essential disciplines of document management or library science or process engineering to KM.

Rather, you must wall-off these processes and fully embrace networks, complexity and enterprise ecologies. Most people and organizations do not make the transformation deliberately. Rather, they slowly, steadily and sometimes covertly reveal themselves. This is often in spite of the specious organizational structure and corrupt managers.

Again, they most profound and prosperous KM network structures are manifest in the organization’s kinetic relationships with its environment and with itself. For innovation to flourish, it naturally casts off useless artifacts like standards, boundaries, hierarchy and the bogus processes that KM defends so dearly.

The success of complex adaptive systems like KM is predicated on relentless and unrestricted interaction with its surrounding environment. In fact, this is the only way the properties of complex systems like KM reveal and express themselves. Successful KM specifically reject the bureaucratic structures, standards and certifications in favor of open, pervasive and organic networks.

It is important to take some time to reconsider all the process engineering, standards and certification happy talk that hurts and destroys so much, everything in KM, innovation and productivity.


Colabria Action Research

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