Kristen Summers

Kristen Summers works as a Grants Manager at Saint Luke's Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. She is interested in Knowledge Management in order to further her career in philanthropy. In her spare time she enjoys hiking with her husband and two dogs.

You know the saying in the field of grantmaking, “If you've met one foundation, then you know one foundation”? It means that foundations all have different priority areas in what they fund, their geographies differ, the way they accept applications and make decisions can vary greatly. The same is true for a foundation's Knowledge Management (KM) needs and the solutions that would be most appropriate to address those needs—there are a lot of different options out there so it is very important to spend time researching what the most fitting solutions would be for that organization.

Fortunately, Becerra-Fernandez and Sabherwal (2015) give us this seven step methodology for identifying appropriate KM solutions (p. 279), and I will give a basic overview here:

  1. Assess the contingency factors—This step requires you to examine the organization's environment in terms of contingency factors (characterizing tasks, knowledge, environment and organization) and how they contribute to uncertainty (p. 279).
  2. Identify the KM processes based on each contingency factor—When you have identified the contingency factors that are relevant to your organization, you then have to discover which KM process corresponds to that (p. 281). For example, if environmental uncertainty is high, then you would use combination or socialization for knowledge discovery, but socialization for knowledge sharing would not work as well (p. 282).
  3. Prioritize needed KM processes—Once you've identified the needed processes in the previous step, then you need to prioritize them. To help with that, you can assign scores based on appropriateness and then rank the processes (p. 281).
  4. Identify existing KM processes—This is where you will need to survey the employees of the organization to assess which KM processes are being used and to what extent (p. 281).
  5. Identify additional KM processes needed—Based on what you discovered in the previous steps, this is where you can recommend which other processes would be appropriate based on the priorities (p. 283).
  6. Assess the KM infrastructure and identify the sequential ordering of the KM processes—It is important to consider the current infrastructure to support these solutions, including the organization structure and culture, as well as the physical environment and IT infrastructure (p. 283).
  7. Develop additional needed KM systems, mechanisms, and technologies—This is where all the previous work comes into play and changes are actually made. This means creating KM systems, mechanisms, and technologies to support the KM processes, through teams or by buying or building systems (p. 283).

As I stated earlier, this is a very basic overview of the methodology, but I hope you can see all the work it would take to find the appropriate solutions. However, this work performed in order to determine the best solutions is far more efficient and cost-effective than if you were to do trial-and-error with various KM solutions that are not appropriate for your organization. Moreover, implementing the wrong solution and seeing it fail might make senior leadership gun shy about deploying any further KM solutions. So, it is better to follow this methodology and figure out what is best for your organization.

Reference List

Becerra-Fernandez, I., & Sabherwal, R. (2015). Knowledge management: Systems and processes. New York: Routledge.

Edwin K. Morris ​

Pioneer Knowledge Services

Knowledge management is a contemporary business practice and organizational capacity builder that is recognized Army Def.pngand used by governments, military systems, industries, corporations, foundations, and academia.

The World Health Organization considers "KM to be the dual challenge of, first, managing information and processes and, second, managing people and their environment so that knowledge is created, shared and applied more systematically and effectively." (World Health Organization, 2005, p. 8)

Effective knowledge management economizes and creates opportunities for learning across at an enterprise level. This effort enables better and faster decision-making and reduces resource mismanagement by creating a learning and knowing culture. A culture that shares and provides the opportunity for reflection then learning becomes foundational in the organizational culture. The result is an organization that gains strength and agility as the system continually builds and leverages the deliberately designed institutional wisdom. The ingredients in this KM Recipe is People, Processes, Tools equate and include in the equation the Organization.

As KM, has evolved so has the meaning and definition of knowledge management. To this end in 2015 Girard & Girard authored a research paper to distill and find the essence of the various definitions of knowledge management. From 100 definitions, they analyzed the words and distilled the essence of them to state KM is, "Knowledge Management is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization." (Girard & Girard, 2015, p. 14) They concluded the following describing the trek of KM and its definition.

From a humble beginning about three decades ago, knowledge management has developed from a premature concept into a mainstream organizational necessity. Over the course of time the exact nature of the term has evolved. In the past decade the responsibility for establishing a precise applied meaning of the domain has passed from academics to practitioners. The latter have massaged the early academic definitions to meet the wants and needs of their particular constituents. This project is an early attempt to record the applied definitions that have progressed to ensure they are available to academics and practitioners alike. (Girard & Girard, 2015)

Just as knowledge management is used in business and industry as a key ingredient for innovation, sustainment, and growth, it can serve the same purpose for regions, communities and society.

For example, the World Bank produced a Knowledge Economy Index that represents a country's overall preparedness to compete in a knowledge economy. In a knowledge economy, "…knowledge assets are deliberately accorded more importance than capital and labor assets, and where the quantity and sophistication pervading economic and societal activities reaches very high levels." (Institute, 2007, p. 13) In the World Bank's 2012 index, the U.S. ranked in 12th place. This was a drop by 8 since the year 2000. Sweden is in first place and regarded as the most advanced knowledge economy. The relevance and importance of developing knowledge resources is highlighted further below:

…whatever their level of development, countries should consider embarking on a knowledge- and innovation-based development process. In these times of accelerated globalization, "grey matter" is a country's main durable resource. Its exploitation for economic and social well-being is increasingly at the center of development strategies. (Institute, 2007, p. xiii)While the vision promoted by The World Bank is much larger in scope and depth than what this pilot could possibly aim to accomplish, we can point to incremental steps under way in our state government that are necessary to enable the prioritization and development of a true knowledge economy. For example, Denise Bedford reflects that, "The nature of the shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy – in organizational culture, in collaboration, in technologies and simple operations – is a radical transformation." (Bedford, 2012)

An indication of knowledge importance in society is exampled by searching the New York State Assembly Bill Search. Searching the keyword "data" produces 125 bills. A search of the keyword "database" results in 38 and the term "knowledge" produces 13 bills. (State, 2016)

Given the magnitude of activity at the public policy level, we suggest also that paying attention to the data policy agenda must also be a priority.

Consider the realm of leadership and how it effects the organization culture. APQC in 2013 conducted a survey that produced the below infographic. They polled 547 respondents from various industries. They were asked about leadership in their organizations. Listed as the top leadership deficiencies knowledge sharing is number three. (APQC, n.d.)

So where are we know? KM as an organizational asset continues to grow in every domain of business. In my judgement the need for 21st century digital skills in people is the same in what is expected in organizations. How well they adapt and adopt addresses the question to how successful the culture integrates into the knowledge ecosystem. The Knowledge Management era will innovate how work gets done.


APQC. (n.d.). The Leadership Deficit: Survey Results Report. Retrieved Feb 9, 2016, from APQC:

Bedford, D. (2012, December). The Role Of Knowledge Management In Creating Transformational Organizations And Transformational Leaders. Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, Vol. 13, none. Retrieved Feb 2016, from

Girard, J., & Girard, J. (2015). Defining knowledge management: Toward an applied compendium . Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management, 3(1), 15. Retrieved Feb 8, 2016, from

Institute, T. W. (2007). Building Knowledge Economies: Advanced Strategies for Development. Washington: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Retrieved Feb 2016, from

Sabherwal, R., & Becerra-Fernandez, I. (2015). Knowledge management : systems and processes . New York: Routledge.

State, N. Y. (2016, Feb 8). New York State Bill Search. Retrieved from The New York State Assembly:

World Health Organization. (2005). Knowledge Management Strategy. Geneva: World Health Organization.