Knowledge Management is the explicit and systematic management of vital knowledge - and its associated processes of creation, organization, diffusion, use and exploitation - in pursuit of business objectives.

There are many definitions of knowledge management. We have developed this one since it identifies some critical aspects of any successful knowledge management programme:

  • Explicit - Surfacing assumptions; codifying that which is known
  • Systematic - Leaving things to serendipity will not achieve the benefits
  • Vital Knowledge - You need to focus; you don't have unlimited resources
  • Processes - Knowledge management is a set of activities with its own tools and techniques

It is important to note that knowledge encompasses both tacit knowledge (in people's heads) and explicit knowledge (codified and expressed as information in databases, documents etc.). A good knowledge programme will address the processes of knowledge development and transfer for both these basic forms.

The last phrase in the definition is important. If you cannot link the activities to the achievement of business goals, then it is not real knowledge management.

Some Other Definitions

Some simpler definitions are:

"Ensuring that workers can carry out their tasks effectively, by providing
the right knowledge
at the right place
at the right time."

And this one is from former colleague, Nick Willard:

"Knowledge management is the management of
and people

which to mind mind, neatly summarises the dual aspect of managing explicit knowledge (information) and tacit knowledge (in people's heads).

Not sure about the difference between explicit and tacit knowledge? Check out our glossary of KM terms.

Last updated: 19th February 2011


"Good knowledge management is common sense but not common practice."
(Leif Edvinsson, former VP of Intellectual Capital, Skandia)

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