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Knowledge management

APM volunteer research

In late 2014 the APM Knowledge SIG started a research project to find out how project-based organisations really manage knowledge – and to compare what we found with good knowledge management practice. The main researchers were Dr Judy Payne and Dr Nicholas Silburn. Read the blog:

The Knowledge SIG invites you to comment below, ask questions, disagree with us and pick holes in the arguments. Please post links to knowledge management materials, share your experiences and let us know what would help you get better at doing knowledge management.

Who is the intended audience?

Project organisations and project teams working within the organisation.

Why is it important?

Knowledge management is widely misunderstood in project management. Many people think knowledge management is a matter of capturing some ‘lessons’ at the end of a project; it isn’t. A lack of alignment between an organisation’s understanding of ‘knowledge’, its approach to knowledge management, and what it actually does to manage knowledge can lead to confusion, misunderstandings and poor focus.

Who took part in the research?

22 organisations from various sectors including engineering, consultancy, utilities, transportation, public sector and third sector. Over 200 individuals from the participating organisations completed a comprehensive online survey to provide data about their understanding of knowledge management, their approach to knowledge management and their knowledge management practices. The survey was based on established knowledge management thinking and frameworks and included a mixture of closed questions and opportunities for respondents to comment in their own words. Each organisation received a report containing a summary of the results and a number of suggested improvement actions.

What did you discover?

  • Most individuals understand that knowledge is deeper than information, and that knowledge can't be managed using a simple 'capture and disseminate' approach.
  • In a third of participating organisations, the approach to knowledge management doesn’t reflect this understanding of knowledge.
  • What organisations actually do to manage knowledge is often quite different from what they say their approach is – for various reasons. The most common reason is confusion with other knowledge and information.
  • Very few organisations have a working definition of knowledge management or a single name for knowledge management.
  • There is lots of evidence of different practices in different parts of organisations - often because knowledge management is left to individual teams to implement.
  • Many respondents commented that their lessons learned processes don’t work.
  • Knowledge management maturity varies a lot. A few organisations are excellent at knowledge management, some are self-acknowledged beginners and others are in between.
  • In many organisations, people share knowledge between projects only at the handover and closure stages.

Where can I read more?

Over the next few months, the Knowledge SIG is going to publish a series of articles on specific aspects of knowledge management: e.g. what is knowledge management and why does it matter; perspectives on knowledge; approaches to knowledge management; knowledge management practices; organisational structures for knowledge management; knowledge management maturity; and knowledge management and the project lifecycle. There will also be some questions to invite further discussion.