posted 1 Nov 2002 in Volume 6 Issue 3
Steve Hales reviews Knowledge Management – A Blueprint for Delivery by Tom Knight and Trevor Howes
Title: Knowledge Management – A Blueprint for Delivery
Authors: Tom Knight & Trevor Howes
Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann, 2002
Knowledge Management – A Blueprint for Delivery is an important first book from two experienced consultants and is based on their time in knowledge management practice in the UK. It presents a comprehensive and practical approach to delivering an organisational change programme, with a focus on knowledge and in pursuit of increased business value.
The authors introduce a five-stage framework for knowledge mobilisation:
- Understand the pressures to change;
- Define the organisation’s response;
- Design the new reality;
- Implement the new reality;
- Never rest: realise the benefits.
The book works step by step through this framework, looking first at methods for knowledge auditing based on business strategy, and then at building a detailed business case to support the knowledge vision. The main part of the book deals with stage three, designing the new reality, which gives a well balanced overview of KM techniques and methodologies under the headings of the five levers and enablers of change: leadership, people, process, content and technology. The emphasis throughout is on managing knowledge mobilisation as a change programme and the approach is always grounded in what has worked in practice for the authors.
Many examples are given throughout the book and basic knowledge concepts, such as the organisational learning spiral, are introduced in appropriate places. The tables of questions and checklists for use in the early stages of the framework are an indispensable resource for use or modification by the reader. The authors enrich the knowledge-mobilisation approach with many ‘non-KM’, but nevertheless well known, business methodologies, such as balanced scorecard, change management and focus on leadership.
The authors have provided us with a detailed and valuable summary of their clearly extensive experience in knowledge mobilisation consulting. Their previous involvement in, and knowledge of, many of the pre-KM phases of consulting gives a foundation and roundedness to their observations. The authors’ comments on which of the current fads within knowledge management actually work best offer important insights for the practitioner. The book provides a balanced view of alternative approaches and gives practical examples to help the reader to choose between them. While none of the material or approaches presented is new, rarely have they been brought together in such a useful form. The writing style is easy to follow and relatively unchallenging.
The authors assume a basic knowledge of KM, but even with this novices may miss some of the book’s key insights, as these are not always emphasised and are easily overlooked in the rich flow of the text. My only real complaint, though, is with the layout of the book. The chapter and framework numbers are not synchronised, and in one case do not even coincide (framework point two starts five pages before the end of chapter two, and then continues on as chapter three). A book that will be consulted for specific information needs a better structure with stronger emphasis on key points, full chapter contents lists and perhaps improved summaries at the start and end of each stage/chapter.
Knowledge Management – A Blueprint for Delivery will be useful to anyone who has a basic understanding of knowledge management and believes it is important, but is uncertain of how to implement a programme for themselves. However, this book is mainly targeted at more experienced practitioners – internal and external consultants in particular – who would fully appreciate the richness of the observations and the implications of the advice. For them, this book will fill many gaps and provide a valuable route-map and checklist for implementation. Particularly useful are the practical gems – based on experience – that will help readers avoid many common pitfalls.
This book is well written and easy to read. It is a rich, comprehensive and practical blueprint for knowledge mobilisation, let down slightly by its layout. Although the book focuses on major knowledge-mobilisation programmes, it would be quite easy to scale the approach down for smaller knowledge-change initiatives. If more practitioners were to follow the authors’ guidance and advice, particularly in focusing on leadership commitment, the business case, change methodologies and the measurement of results, a far higher proportion of knowledge mobilisation projects than we currently see are likely to be successful.
Steve Hales is managing partner of Insighting. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org