Re: Article: Knowledge Management - An Industry Without Focus and Direction #state-of-KM

Frank Guerino

Hi Stephen,

Regarding your definitions of Knowledge, Knowledge Management, and Knowledge Systems…  I did not use them because they are not consistent, standard, or widely accepted.  It’s not that I don’t agree with your definitions.  It’s just that, with all due respect, you alone do not define the industry (nor do I).

Regarding your view that a filing cabinet is not a Knowledge System.  I would disagree with you and there are many others who would.  For example, read the works of Cabitza and Locoro, just as a starting point.  In fact there is a very large community of KM researchers who believe that any and all human-generated structures are, in fact, knowledge structures and represent communicable knowledge. [I happen to agree with this assessment and interpretation.]  This also goes back to the reality that there are many others in the KM industry doing work that is not aligned with your thinking, definitions, etc.

Regarding your statement that “The systems engineering discipline has little to no training in how to define, design, or intervene in complex adaptive systems.”  If you truly believe this then I would have to respectfully suggest that you have no real understanding of engineering.  All forms of engineering are absolutely taught to deal with many different complex systems… adaptive systems included.

You say that I argue with a straw man but there is nothing (absolutely zero) that the has come from the KM industry that is considered transformative.  There is nothing in the KM industry that provides indisputable evidence that supports any KM definitions.  There is nothing being done in the KM industry, today, that hasn’t been done by others in other industries for generations.  I can point to endless significant solutions from other industries and you cannot point to one significant solution for KM.  It is not me trying to debate myself out of a hole, here.

My apologies if the above sounds short but I’m dealing with a lot of work, today, so I can’t really dig deeper into much of this for a while.

My Best,

Frank Guerino, Managing Partner
The International Foundation for Information Technology (IF4IT)
1.908.294.5191 (M)

From: Stephen Bounds <km@...>
Reply-To: "ActKM Discussion List <actkm@...>" <actkm@...>
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 11:46 PM
To: "ActKM Discussion List <actkm@...>" <actkm@...>, "ActKM Discussion List <actkm@...>" <actkm@...>
Subject: Re: [Actkm] [sikmleaders] Article: Knowledge Management - An Industry Without Focus and Direction

Hi Frank,

your definition of a KS is vague and axiomatically true because all systems in an enterprise are "Knowledge Systems (KSs).

Not axiomatically true, no. A filing cabinet isn't a knowledge system, nor is a computer system in and of itself. It is only by encompassing the people who operate technology an arrangement of static components becomes a knowledge system. There's nothing vague about it, just a matter of determining where coherent boundaries lie.

most people do not point to something and say “that is a Knowledge System and it requires a Knowledge Manager.”  Instead, they say something like: "This is our Manufacturing System/Process and we need a Manufacturing specialist or a generalist like a Systems Engineer or Enterprise Architect who we know to have the skills to dive in and help solve our problems/challenges."
And that is our challenge as a profession, to make our work something people think to ask for when they come across system-level problems that are not getting solved. People never used to think they needed a psychiatrist either. Things change.

With the utmost respect, please understand that what you believe to be your definitions of a KS and a K Mgr and what the world believes about them are not in line.  Again, this is where the job boards help support the statements.  Virtually no one writes a job requisition asking for a Knowledge Manager to solve their Sales process/system problems, their Support process/system problems, etc.  And, I’m going to bet there are almost zero requisitions, globally, that ask for someone to deal with their Knowledge System.  Broad “systems" problems are handled by roles like Systems Engineers, Enterprise/Solutions Architects, Analysts, etc… not Knowledge Managers.

And, while such statements represent an assessment of the industry and not an attack on it, I believe they all further strengthen the argument that for the KM industry to gain credibility and correct its direction it must stop pretending it represents or operates in spaces that already have formal/specific labels, titles and roles.  The KM industry will have to find its own unique space of operations with its own unique set of solutions.  After many decades, there appear to be none left.
See, I really struggle with this. Look at the successful knowledge management consulting firms out there -- to a lesser or greater extent, what they do really does align with the definition I give you. I have told you this definition multiple times, yet you refuse to reference it in your articles or discussions on KM and instead are content to say, "Look! here's a list of other things that aren't KM. So therefore KM is not real."

Forgive me for failing to be impressed when you choose to argue with a straw man.

If you want to have a discussion about the overlap between knowledge management and system engineering, enterprise/solution architecture and analysts, great! Let's do that.

The systems engineering discipline has little to no training in how to define, design, or intervene in complex adaptive systems. There is enterprise systems engineering but that itself is immature and struggling for recognition. To the extent that ESE and KM do overlap, I see no reason that we need to exist in conflict. Long term I suspect (hope!) we will converge on theory, but sometimes people need a field surgeon, sometimes they need the full operating theatre. I don't personally care what the job title is called, just that someone is doing the job.

Enterprise/solution architecture and analysts similarly could occupy a space similar to KM, but they mostly don't at the moment. I would be extremely happy to see a greater evolution in thought by the majority of EAs/SAs to include KM principles. As a rule, most analysts seem to work from intuition rather than research into complex systems behaviour, and I think it's led to some very damaging results over time.

For me, this is not zero-sum. If a job title that isn't "KM" gains widespread acceptance and respect, and it's doing what I think needs to be done in organisations, I will happily re-brand.
Until then, I will keep fighting for recognition of the benefits of the work that I do -- and will continue calling it "KM" unless a better fit comes along.

-- Stephen.

Stephen Bounds
Director & Principal Consultant
knowquestion Pty Ltd
E: sb@...
M: 0401 829 096

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