Knowledge Management Know-How

Luigi Benetton has published a nice article called “Knowledge Management Know-How” in the current edition of The Lawyers Weekly.

The article quotes me and fellow SLAW contributor Dominic Jaar, but what I like about the article are the viewpoints from others in the industry and the wide range of tips and advice on best practices.

What I find with knowledge management is that there is usually never a single approach or method and varies a fair bit depending on the type of organization, its culture and staffing.

In fact, there has been lots of discussion in the past several years as to whether knowledge management is dead or not.

I prefer to think it is alive, but evolving, with many in legal knowledge management increasingly getting involved with the other “management” aspects of law practice, including risk management, project management and client management.

With knowledge management, however, I have often wondered if it is perhaps time to describe knowledge management in better terms (particularly since it seems slightly oxymoronic to think about “managing” knowledge – can you manage knowledge?). At the SLA conference this year in Philadelphia colleague Katharine Thompson attended a workshop by Guy St. Claire and others of SMR-Knowledge.com where there was discussion on using the “Knowledge Services” as better describing what we do (especially since we are in a service industry). I find “Knowledge Services” to somehow seem fresher than “Knowledge Management.”

How important is the name or description of what we do?

In part because I came to knowledge management through law practice as a lawyer, researcher and law librarian, what I feel most strongly about in Luigi’s article is the notion of “integrated” services – that it is best to not distinguish between library, legal research, precedents, training and the other aspects of information and knowledge management. It truly should be a one-stop shop for information, whether from internal memos or precedents or from external databases or other sources.

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Comments

  1. In some ways the jargon we use may scare people off, so better to use a term that is understandable. However, KM as a discipline has become somewhat entrenched, so I am not sure if that term will go away in the industry too quickly.

    Thank you for sharing the link to Luigi Benetton’s article. I note he mentions your “Seven Faces of Legal Knowledge Management” paper, Ted. I went on a little hunting expedition to find it again, so thought I would share the link with everyone:

    http://www.slaw.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Tjaden-The-7-Faces-of-Legal-KM-LawTech-2009-November.pdf

    and I found some of your good related content that people should be reminded of:

    http://www.slaw.ca/2009/10/21/the-7-faces-of-legal-knowledge-management/

    http://www.slaw.ca/2009/11/18/are-the-7-faces-of-legal-km-simply-enterprise-content-management/

    http://www.slaw.ca/2010/08/04/legal-project-management/

    http://www.legalresearchandwriting.ca/images/KM-quad.PDF

    I am sure there is more, but that is a great start. Thank you for sharing so much of your thinking with us, Ted!

  2. I’ve been “down this road” quite a few times (in my nearly 20 years of doing KM) and have to say that I don’t agree with the whole notion of “knowledge services” as that has a definite connotation which then excludes a whole lot of what knowledge management is really about (collaboration, knowledge sharing and such).

    As for not being able to “manage” knowledge, while I get that argument and in fact often say the same thing, I’d like to play the devil’s advocate this time. You can manage knowledge – referring to the term “knowledge management” in the same manner that you can have “operations management” or “project management” or so on.

    You do not and cannot literally manage an operation or a project. Those are not “things” that can be managed and instead those “things” are actually comprised of other things. However, there are people and processes in play that you can manage — i.e., you manage your operations by managing the people and processes that comprise the operations. And you manage a project by managing the people and the processes. Same for KM. And it would be awkward and confusing to say you are doing “operations services” or “project services” for the same reasons.

    Regards,

    Dr. Dan Kirsch, CPC, CKM, CKEE, MKMP, CKMI
    Chief Operating Officer & Board Member
    Knowledge Management Professional Society, Inc.

  3. Thanks Connie and thanks Dan.

    Dan – you raise some good points and I don’t disagree with you. Part of the problem was likely that I didn’t articulate my position very well in what was a hasty post by me (but I don’t want to make excuses).

    I still remain fairly new to KM – despite being intensively involved for the last 5 years – and as you know – it can be a challenging (but rewarding) area to be working in.