A place to share ideas, thoughts,
best practices, and questions about KM in
a government environment
Federal Govt definition for Knowledge Management
August 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm #78421
DoD definitions of Knowledge Mangement are scattered around and vary. It is not in the DoD Dictionary which is part of the problem.
Do any cabinet level federal agencies have Knowledge Management defined and institutionalized from an authoritative source to standardize what is expected across their respective enterprise? I do like the approach of this group to relate it to processes first and foremost.
What would be the authoritative source to standardize the definition across the Federal Gov't? Would it be easier to consider the Executive Branch first?
August 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm #78475
Have you checked out KM.gov? I would assume that the Federal Knowledge Management Working Group would be the authoritative source.
August 23, 2009 at 11:26 pm #78473
I did. Nothing specific that I could find. They launch into using the term without defining it - as far as I can tell. For now, the meaning is left to individual interpretation or organizational interpretation. I like definitions that emphasize process. And many definitions discuss technology and information sharing. Few definitions mention information requirements. If there is no improvement or change, then KM probably isn't doing much for the organization's mission, so process improvement and change management should also be included in the definition along with decision-support. I do not, however, think of myself as the authoritative source.
August 23, 2009 at 11:28 pm #78471
Dept of Navy definition of KM
DoN Knowledge Management Strategy, 20 Oct 2005
Knowledge Management is defined as the integration of people and processes, enabled by technology, to facilitate the exchange of operationally relevant information and expertise to increase organizational performance.
KM is the cornerstone of decision superiority, knowledge dominance and information superiority.
August 24, 2009 at 12:54 am #78469
I'm with John on that I'd guess it would be KM.gov. But my sense is that KM is in a little of a mid-life crisis and is reinventing itself so it may be time for a new defininition or branding. Especially as KM ties in real well with a lot of Web 2.0 technology which is focused on collaboration and information sharing.
August 24, 2009 at 12:14 pm #78467
From a Canadian perspective, I'm not aware of any standardized definition across our federal government. However, within the Canadian Department of National Defence, the Defence Terminology Bank offers the following:
Knowledge Management: An integrated systematic approach which when applied to an organization enables the optimal use of timely, accurate and relevant information; it also facilitates knowledge discovery and innovation, fosters the development of a learning organization and enhances understanding by integrating all sources of information, as well as individual and collective knowledge and experience.
August 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm #78465
Great question - thanks for raising it. I'll offer up in this discussion thread the following sources from OPM if they have not already been mentioned, if so, please excuse the duplication.
OPM's Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework (HCAAF) defines knowledge management at:
and then in terms of leadership and succession planning at:
August 24, 2009 at 1:57 pm #78463
Christina, thanks for sharing. So far, we have that KM is either an: integration (huh?), approach, or systematic knowledge sharing (if I synopsized accurately).
When I think about what KM is, it seems an "approach" or "framework" fit how I think of KM. I like the information/content attributes of timely, accurate, and relevant. I would throw in complete since incomplete information degrades the value of it.
This convinces me that we need to work on a standardized definition so we can have similar expectations for a Knowledge Manager, regardless of the organization.
August 24, 2009 at 2:11 pm #78461
Sunny, thanks for the input. Do you think this is a definition of successful KM or of the different success factors from the KM perspective? I am not exactly sure what the Office of Personnel Management, Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework Resource Center is defining. In my mind's definition, I think knowledge sharing is certainly part of it, but it should also include the information consumer that is trying to make a decision. And that extends to something as simple as whether or not a staff member should send an email and who should receive it. Does that staff member understand the organizational priorities and information requirements sufficiently to know whether or not to share that information?
Knowledge Management Critical Success Factor
Definition: The organization systematically provides resources, programs, and tools for knowledge sharing across the organization in support of its mission accomplishment.
When the key elements of the critical success factor Knowledge Management are effectively implemented, agencies will realize the following results:
August 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm #78459
I've been trying to figure out how to establish a Knowledge sharing network for awhile now. since I've started, what I've found is; most definitions are related to the accumulation and storage of new and existing information, and little to do with the retrieval of stored information. The Navy CIO definition is one of the better definitions.
I also agree one of the key elements needed for retrieval is the relationship between the information and the process or processes that would find it useful. That leads me to think a wiki-like accumulation method is going to work best, one where users and seekers can add, edit and tag information.
August 24, 2009 at 2:28 pm #78457
At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the following definition of KM was developed during a senior management meeting in the fall of 2006: Knowledge Management is a continuous, disciplined, and timely process of identifying, collecting, and using information to better accomplish the job.
August 24, 2009 at 4:59 pm #78455
While I like some elements of that (continuous, disciplined, and timely), overall, I find it a bit narrow. With the focus on "information", it risks missing the bottom of the iceberg: the whole area of tacit knowledge.
August 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm #78453
Within the US Forest Service our focus has largely been on knowledge capturing and sharing - basically a reaction to the fact much of our knowledge is walking out the door (retirements). Our Manual Directives recognize there are literally hundreds of definitions for Knowledge Management. A few key definitions include: a conscious strategy for getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time...helping people share and...helping people put information into action to improve organizational performance; a discipline dedicated to a more deliberate means of people creating and sharing knowledge and understanding in a social context - to make the right decisions and take the right actions; and, a business strategy that creates methods and tools to enable relevant knowledge to be easily created, preserved, and shared for better informed decisions, guided actions, and desirable outcomes. KM involves organizational culture, processes, technology and other tools, and communication to achieve the best performance results.
Although I am delighted we have moved this far in a short period of time and have something in our Directives, I'm hopeful we will take a broader perspective such as the definition Christine provided from the Canadian Department of National Defence.
August 27, 2009 at 3:23 am #78451
Tony, I have been in search for this elusive definition for the past five years in DoD, Navy in particular. I don't know why we have these long and drawn out definitions for such a complex type of management. In essence, KM is managing the flow of knowledge from those who know to those who need it. All other reasons, techniques, intent and disciplines for managing knowledge flow are encompassed by this definition. I will say that some in my community have dismissed this definition as too simplistic, but I counter it with the fact that of all definitions of KM out there today, NONE, have successfully articulated an enduring sense of mission and strategic alignment as the definition I have been using. This definition resonates well across all levels of my organization.
I'm new to this group, but not new to knowledge management. I will be blogging further about this subject on my page.
August 27, 2009 at 3:28 am #78449
I counter that the flow of information also needs a corresponding flow of knowledge. One can be bombarded with a lot of good, valuable and reliable information, but if you lack the experience to use it, you won't be as effective as more experienced people. Knowledge Management needs to see to it that the knowledge of the more experienced flows to the lesser. A key aspect of Management level people is identifying the 'clumps' of knowledge (read as experience) and implementing specific actions to remove the clump and induce the flow.
August 27, 2009 at 6:59 pm #78447
So does NAVSPECWARDEVGRU have a documented definition? I think the piece that needs to be addressed in your model is which knowledge? It would seem that you are looking at it from a sustained organizational capability as people come and go. I am not sure that applies (as well) to decision support. I would not say the commander or director is inexperienced, but does require knowledge they do not have for decision-support.
What I find comical in this thread is that we are all using the term, and everyone seems to have their own definition/idea of what it is.
August 27, 2009 at 7:29 pm #78445
David, it appears you and Mario have the same perspective of KM. Sounds like a gov't version of intellectual property, licensing, and copywrights to keep knowledge that comes with experience inside the lifelines of the organization/enterprise for sustained, continuous operations.
I have always viewed it more from a decision-support perspective, but both of you are causing me to expand my view. Thanks for sharing.
August 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm #78443
Knowledge management is way too close to philosophy for comfort, and folks far more knowledgable than I have written lengthy academic thesis to prove it. As a professor in my KM classes reminded us on so many occasions, we each are describing the piece of the elephant we are comfortable with. It usually is the piece we are most experienced with. I prefer a definition that says we are learning from our mistakes. Unfortunately, when casting it into the language for a formal document, the learning part is lost because no organization in its right mind wants to acknolwedge for the record that it ever makes a mistake.
August 28, 2009 at 7:48 pm #78441
In my experience too much churn is spent attempting to define and pontificate on the philosophy of Knowledge Management (KM) instead of actually the practicing KM principles.
We, NCTAMS PAC Command have defined KM as putting the right information in front of the right people at the right time or basically “Learning Smarter”. In line with the previous DoN CIO KM definition and principles mentioned and documented on the DoN CIO website we are now implementing policies and tools to make that happen.
I would suggest that the actual definition of KM is well understood now and that what is really needed is discussion on how it is being accomplished and case studies demonstrating such. I welcome any successes and case studies in KM to learn from and model after in KM and hope this group will evolve into a group of practitioners of KM. Do we have a list, page of links to successful KM case studies?
September 1, 2009 at 6:55 pm #78439
Mark S. PatrickParticipant
Useful discussion. Coming to you from the Joint Staff (having chatted with you on DCO Jabber, Tony), I agree with the need to get down to brass tacks. How you do it.
My perspective is decision support (workflow), compliance, archiving, declassification, and FOIA but I also participate on our KM Board. That's my "piece of the elephant," but I believe that every knowledge worker would benefit from a holistic understanding of how it's done in their organization.
If you break the knowledge down into its basic components and implied subtasks, you can then identify the whole team of stakeholders which need to be involved for the cultural change to occur:
- Explicit (corporate memory in searchable archives): This includes records management (compliance/governance) as a subset of content management (corporate knowledge business archive/governance). Stakeholders are all folks involved with management and use of this information from the user, to the IT folks, to the records managers, to the security folks, training staff, up to senior leadership. On the Joint Staff we're transitioning to the Documentum ECM tool for our corporate info although we're working in enterprise spaces like Intelink, intellipedia, ICES SharePoint, DCO, etc. There we are producing tons of implicit information which is a challenge from the compliance perspective (even if available search tools make this implicit info relatively discoverable.)
- Implicit (stuff that could and should be in your searchable, managed archive but isn't yet for some reason): This "stuff" includes data in silo'd storage (shared drives and other non-enterprise wide discoverable storage), as well as information of business value that is being generated outside your organization's servers (like mentioned above). It's clear that for both compliance and business operational reasons, an organization needs to have a strategy/plan to move implicit knowledge into the explicit realm to maximize reuse and minimize legal risk. In the early stages, this may be a clunky process, but technical solutions should be developed over time. The coming "wave" working environment will pose a challenge here, but if you bake in compliance/archiving from the start, it can all work out.
- Tacit (stuff in people's heads, experience, know-how, networks): Everyone is a player with this type of knowledge, but there are systems/software that are required to meet info security requirements (IT and security folks) as well as policy/procedural requirements involving any process improvement folks, middle and senior leadership (to vet/approve knowledge transfer policy), strategic communications/training personnel who have specific roles to play. Here is where the cultural change is the most difficult. However, if you approach web 2.0 tools as simply process improvement devices and develop a system of strategic communications to demonstrate value to different stakeholders, it's doable. The key is to displace less efficient ways of working as opposed to adding another layer of work.
I agree with tony joyce about KM being a bit too close to philosophy, but if you break it down by the three types of knowledge and the tasks associated with each, it's possible to form a cohesive approach. Metrics can be developed which take out the mumbo-jumbo and help build a concrete business case for these tasks. A lot of the work here is grass roots, but if senior leadership is not engaged, understanding and supporting, it's likely there will not be enough momentum to tackle the whole elephant.
September 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm #78437
Mark, thanks for jumping in and providing a Joint Staff perspective for the DoD. I'm not sure how you would boil this down to a definition that would fit in a source such as the DoD dictionary, but I like how you provide actionable management of knowledge to share and make knowledge available.
From a decision-support perspective, I submit there also needs to be a way to identify and define future decisions. The information required to inform those decisions must then be more than available, but pushed to the decision-maker as a priority. Since the top-level decision-support has a trickle-down effect across the enterprise (in this case, Defense enterprise). this is an area where the organizational and functional stovepipes that do not allow sharing and access to knowledge mean decisions are often not fully informed.
September 22, 2009 at 11:00 pm #78435
Social networking has done more for KM than all the definitions. The short blurbs and exchanges help us transfer information efficiently across organizations and geography. We use the information to make improvements in our organizations and spread the best practices. Has anyone else noticed how the marketing folks have embraced KM and social networking?
September 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm #78433
Two things I see missing from all of these definitions are discovery and context. My "piece of the elephant definition" would be that knowledge management includes converting information (which itself is a useful aggregation of meaningful data) into knowledge by applying it in context to a specific domain and its processes. I then think I would launch into the type of analysis Mark Patrick did with explicit, implicit, and tacit with a focus on retrievability of that knowledge. (For clarity, the converting information is the discovery piece.)
The bottomline is that knowledge is an aggregation of information applied in a specific context that can be preferably retrieved for later use. Managing knowledge is making it usable by organizing and making it retrievable in repeated instances of the context. BTW, IMHO the context says how much sharing is or should be required.
What I am not sure is how Mark's comment on "compliance, archiving, declassification, and FOIA" apply. this sounds like a more pure information issue, not a knowledge issue.
October 5, 2009 at 1:15 pm #78431
October 5, 2009 at 1:15 pm #78429
The definition is short and to the point mentioning "knowledge sharing" 🙂
October 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm #78427
Over the last 6+ years I have seen many KM defintions. The KM defintion we have for our organization is: "the operational discipline focused on the cyclic sharing, creation, and validation of knowledge and information in support of decision makers at all levels to ensure unity of effort and maintain decision superiority."
The 3 KM pillars we have and what my basic KM elevator speach is that "KM is about a "culture" of knowledge sharing and "processes" used by members, and when needed, various use of various collaborative "technologies".
These are my defintions:
data - facts or observations
information - fused data
knowledge - information in context combined with the experence and judgement of the person learning
October 6, 2009 at 2:51 am #78425
Jack, thanks for sharing JFCOM JECC's definition. I would like to think we could broaden the enterprise to say JFCOM, Joint Forces, and DOD could all have the same definition so that when we use it in a sentence or introduce somebody as a Defense organization KMO, we have a common understanding of what that job entails.
January 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm #78423
For those in the DoD, time to get some resolution on the definition of KM for the Joint Publication 3 AO level review.
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