Knowledge Management

… a core concept in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

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Concept description

Alan Frost of (reference below and to right) describes knowledge management as making the right knowledge available to the right people”:

“It is about making sure that an organization can learn, and that it will be able to retrieve and use its knowledge assets in current applications as they are needed. In the words of Peter Drucker it is “the coordination and exploitation of organizational knowledge resources, in order to create benefit and competitive advantage”

Why is knowledge management useful

Frost says:

“Knowledge management is responsible for understanding:

  • What your organization knows.
  • Where this knowledge is located, e.g. in the mind of a specific expert, a specific department, in old files, with a specific team, etc.
  • In what form this knowledge is stored e.g. the minds of experts, on paper, etc.
  • How to best transfer this knowledge to relevant people, so as to be able to take advantage of it or to ensure that it is not lost. E.g. setting up a mentoring relationship between experienced experts and new employees, implementing a document management system to provide access to key explicit knowledge.
  • The need to methodically assess the organization’s actual know-how vs the organization’s needs and to act accordingly, e.g. by hiring or firing, by promoting specific in-house knowledge creation, etc.

“So, why is knowledge management useful? It is useful because it places a focus on knowledge as an actual asset, rather than as something intangible. In so doing, it enables the firm to better protect and exploit what it knows, and to improve and focus its knowledge development efforts to match its needs.”

Knowledge management strategy – codification vs. personalization

Writing the Harvard Business Review (reference below), Hansen, Nohria, and Tierney, compare how consulting firms manage their knowledge and distinguish two quite different strategies, as set out in the chart below:

They describe the approaches as:

“Some large consulting companies, such as Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young, have pursued a codification strategy. Over the last five years, they have developed elaborate ways to codify, store, and reuse knowledge. Knowledge is codified using a “people-to-documents” approach: it is extracted from the person who developed it, made independent of that person, and reused for various purposes. Ralph Poole, director of Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Knowledge, describes it like this: “After removing client-sensitive information, we develop ‘knowledge objects’ by pulling key pieces of knowledge such as interview guides, work schedules, benchmark data, and market segmentation analyses out of documents and storing them in the electronic repository for people to use.” This approach allows many people to search for and retrieve codified knowledge without having to contact the person who originally developed it. That opens up the possibility of achieving scale in knowledge reuse and thus of growing the business. …

“By contrast, strategy consulting firms such as Bain, Boston Consulting Group, and McKinsey emphasize a personalization strategy. They focus on dialogue between individuals, not knowledge objects in a database. Knowledge that has not been codified – and probably couldn’t be – is transferred in brainstorming sessions and one-on-one conversations. Consultants collectively arrive at deeper insights by going back and forth on problems they need to solve. …

“When we initially looked at how consulting companies manage knowledge, we found that they all used both the codification and the personalization approaches. When we dug deeper, however, we found that effective firms excelled by focusing on one of the strategies and using the other in a supporting role. They did not try to use both approaches to an equal degree.”

Topic, subject and Atlas course

Promoting Learning (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107 Implementation and Delivery


Alan Frost, at,, and, accessed 19 October 2017.

Morten T. Hansen, Nitin Nohria, and Thomas J. Tierney (1999), What’s Your Strategy for Managing Knowledge? Harvard Business Review, March-April, at, accessed 19 October 2017.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 19 October 2017.

Image: at, accessed 19 October 2017.