KMEF 2011 Resolution and Endorsement StatementBackground and Context for KMEF 2011The increased focus on the knowledge economy has heightened interest in knowledge management as a profession, an occupation and its essential competencies. Many believe that it is time to acknowledge that Knowledge Management is a professional area of practice and to begin a formal discussion of the educational foundation needed to support this area of professional practice. While there is a wealth of published and informal literature, thought derived from practice, and dialog on these topics, a consensus on what constitutes the core elements of knowledge management competencies and knowledge management education is lacking.
A consensus on these issues is needed among those who currently provide training, teach knowledge management courses, support knowledge management programs and departments. We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of this young profession and this emerging domain. This consensus needs to be informed and supported by knowledge professionals who are currently working in knowledge roles today. Deriving a consensus on these issues for such a broad and dynamic field is not an easy task. A consensus will not be achieved in one month or six months, only over time and as the profession evolves.
In addition, as with all professional domains, the knowledge management domain needs to be continuously reviewed and refreshed by professional educators and working professionals.

Opening the dialog

The goal of the KM Education Forum is to create an environment in which this consensus can evolve. In 2011 the Knowledge Management Education Forum brought together current and past thought leaders in the field of knowledge management to discuss their work, and to open the dialog where others can contribute. From March 15 through April 26, Kent State University broadcast seven open webinars. On May 5-6, a two day series of panel discussions and community dialog was held at George Washington University.
The webinars and the on-site event focused on four questions which were identified by Kent State University and George Washington University, specifically:
  • Question 1: What strategic roles and responsibilities do knowledge professionals play in organizations today – across all sectors of the economy?
  • Question 2: What competencies do today’s knowledge professionals need to lead knowledge organizations in the 21st century?
  • Question 3: What are the core and elective elements of a knowledge management curriculum for the 21st century?
  • Question 4: How can we support these competencies in professional training, at the certificate level, at the Master’s and PhD. levels?
We heard answers to these questions in the webinars from seven thought leaders, including: Dr. Annie Green, Dr. Alex Bennet, Dr. David Bennet, Dr. Jay Liebowitz, Dr. Michael Stankosky, Dr. Suliman Hamadweh, Doug Weidner and Dr. Denise Bedford. In addition, an additional twenty-one thought leaders, practitioners and industry experts shared their ideas with approximately 100 community members at the on-site event in Washington DC. The full list of panelists is provided in Appendix A.


Summary of Consensus
The goal of KMEF 2011 was to find and build upon the common ground. In KMEF 2011 activities, so much work has been done to address these four questions. Now, it is imperative for the KMEF community to build upon this work as we move forward. In general, we all agreed that:
  • There are many different kinds of knowledge and they are all important to a knowledge economy
  • Knowledge management is an ongoing activity for a knowledge organization – it takes time to achieve and will likely look different for each organization
The general areas of consensus and common ground are summarized below.

Question 1. What strategic roles and responsibilities do knowledge professionals play in organizations?
There was a consensus among the community members that KM always aligned with business goals and objectives – that a single set of roles and responsibilities would not apply equally well to all organizations. Rather than to speak in terms of specific roles and responsibilities, the community suggested that we should address a common set of Knowledge Management functions that could be interpreted and adapted by an organization to align with its business goals and objectives. The consensus on this question was that we should rephrase the question to reflect this view - What are the KM functions that a Knowledge Organization should support?
The community reached a consensus on the need for four general types of Knowledge Management functions – strategic level functions, business-aligned functions, specialized knowledge management functions, and universal functions.
  • Strategic level functions are those functions with responsibilities for promoting a knowledge culture, for ensuring there are resources dedicated to knowledge management across the organization. While there was a consensus on the importance of these functions, there were differing views on where the functions are most effectively positioned. Some thought that placing it at the C level actually reduced its effectiveness and reach because of the traditional roles assigned to C level staff. Some thought the strategic roles were most effectively played at the director or vice presidential level in organizations. Again, the actual position likely will depend on the nature of the organization;
  • Business-aligned functions are those functions which embed knowledge management practices directly into business processes and operations – these functions are the essence of “working smarter, not harder”;
  • Specialized knowledge management functions are those functions which provide specialized services that promote the knowledge agenda such as community of practice support, Organizational Network Analysis, knowledge asset valuation and management, organizational learning, and so on. For this functional area, some community members stressed the need for individuals in these roles to rotate between business and knowledge specific roles over time – to retain their touch with the operational side. Specialized functions must always keep abreast of the business operations. Individuals in roles that support these function must ensure that their careers are well anchored in the business. Community members also stressed the need for individuals to have a broad skill set across the KM spectrum, and not to focus only on one KM area;
  • There was very strong agreement on universal knowledge management functions. A key area of consensus was the importance this community assigned to basic knowledge management competencies for all functions. This group adopted the more modern view of the knowledge worker as any worker within an organization. The group did not agree with the idea that a knowledge worker is limited to individuals who perform highly technical or highly analytical functions. There was abroad agreement that everyone in an organization should strive to become a knowledge worker = not just the college educated;
  • There was also strong agreement that the functions should not be read as having direct hierarchical relationships – knowledge management functions must be able to infiltrate and align with all aspects of the organization.
There was also a consensus that the titles of actual Knowledge Management positions were likely to vary from organization to organization. The community thought that the actual titles were of less importance than the knowledge management functions that were represented. There was also a consensus that the knowledge management functions in play at any time may be dependent upon an organization’s business goals, and its level of Knowledge Management Maturity.


Question 2: What competences do knowledge professionals need to lead knowledge organizations in the 21st century?
There was a rigorous discussion of the competencies aligned with these functional areas. However, the dialog to date did not produce a definitive list. General consensus suggests that:
  • Knowledge management is first and foremost an applied discipline – the goals of a knowledge organization are to become more effective, more efficient in achieving its goals and to build its intellectual capital assets;
  • Experiences and skills are essential competencies – it is important to “know about” knowledge management, but as important to know “how to do” knowledge management;
  • There is both an art and a science to knowledge management – competencies that support the art and design aspect of knowledge management are essential to adapting knowledge management methods and tools to individual organizations;
  • Successful knowledge management professionals are often those who can maintain a balance between the art and science of the discipline – the hard and soft sides of KM;
  • It is particularly important for those individuals who are in strategic knowledge management positions to have competencies in both the art and science of KM, as well as strong and varied types of “intelligence”;
This discussion is still very much in process and will be taken up by one of the Communities of Practice. The community looks forward to hearing more of the work and recommendations of this group of individuals.


Question 3: What are the core and elective elements of a knowledge management curriculum in the 21st century?
The community agreed that Knowledge Management is a multidisciplinary profession. This is expected for a professional that strives to improve the way that people, groups and organizations work in the new century. Some areas of consensus on this question included:
  • Knowledge management education is not limited to graduate school degree programs;
  • Knowledge management education includes routine enrichment and learning activities, certificates and degrees;
  • Knowledge management education is not a one-time activity – it requires continual refresh and renewal;
  • The curriculum which addressed Knowledge Management in 1996 is not sufficient for a KM curriculum in 2011; neither will a curriculum from 2011 be sufficient to prepare knowledge professionals in 2016;
  • Knowledge management career paths will be unique to individuals and to organizations – therefore when designing a knowledge management curriculum it is important to keep the “designer” aspect in mind;
  • We need to define what is core to a knowledge management curriculum and ensure that it is taught well. However, a rich selection of electives is likely to be the differentiator in the future;
  • External advisory boards are very important to ensuring that the knowledge management curriculum remains relevant to the needs of business, industry, the public sector and any other organization consuming KM graduates;
  • The knowledge management curriculum should include opportunities for students to learn about theory and practice – wherever possible both theory and practice should be blended in each course;
  • New approaches to teaching knowledge management are needed – traditional resource based teaching and learning methods need to be supplemented with other innovative approaches;
  • Knowledge workers include all age groups – it is important for us to design learning environments that are appropriate for all learning styles and preferences;
  • Any knowledge management curriculum should address the competencies required for all four types of functions – there is a dependency with Questions 1 and 2;
  • There is a wide variety of concepts, methods and models which all students must be aware of – it is the responsibility of those providing training or education to ensure that students are exposed to all models and methods;
  • We need to collaborate with other disciplines which are on the boundaries of knowledge management to ensure that they are aware of the overlaps and synergies – we do not need to own all of the “knowledge management” related courses;
  • There is a need for more institutions, rather than fewer, to provide training and education – it is important for us to collaborate rather than compete at this point in time. Once there is a robust field of offerings, we can compete on quality.
This discussion is evolving and will be taken up by one of the communities of practice in 2011.


Question 4. How can we support these competencies in professional training, at the certificate level, at the master’s level and the Ph.D. level?
This question has many dependencies with Questions 2 and 3. Some consensus was achieved, though, around general issues:
  • Knowledge management, like any professional domain, should have standards and objective criteria by which to judge the proficiency of its professionals;
  • We need to define what we are certifying and prepare standards and ways to test standards for each entity: people, groups, organizations, programs;
  • These standards do not exist today – this is related to competencies and curricula;
  • The standards model should include certificates, credentials, ongoing enrichment activities of all types;
  • The importance of working with a widely recognized national or international organization to administer the certification and credentialing;
  • The lack of a widely recognized knowledge management professional society to support this effort going forward.
As a general framework for considering these issues, the community focused on Doug Weidner’s progressive learning model. This model provides for a range of certifying and credentialing options.


Priority Research Questions
Two new questions surfaced. Both need further consensus building:
  1. Is KM a formal professional discipline? Most thought yes, but a few individuals thought not because it is so generic to how people live and work. This raises the question of KM Art and KM science. Expand on the art part of it.
  2. How to most effectively teach KM – maybe a topic for 2012
Continuing the Dialog
The Knowledge Management Education Forum is envisioned as an ongoing, annual dialog that will reflect the critical issues of this emerging profession. To sustain the dialog and to set the stage for dialogs in future years, KMEF will support communities of practice where members can address these key issues. KMEF 2011 represents the community’s first year and initial efforts. This year, four Communities of Practice are established to address the following four components of KM:
  • Knowledge Management Functions, Roles and Responsibilities
  • Knowledge Management Competencies
  • Knowledge Management Model Curricula and Courses
  • Knowledge Management Credentialing and Certification
Supporting Materials
The Knowledge Management Education Forum webinar archives and all materials from the on-site event at George Washington University can be found at:
Concluding Statements
The goal of the Knowledge Management Education Forum (KMEF) is to create an environment in which a consensus on Knowledge Management can evolve. In 2011 the KMEF brought together current and past thought leaders in the field of knowledge management to discuss their work, and to open the dialog where others can contribute. From March 15 through April 26, Kent State University broadcast seven open webinars. On May 5-6, a two day series of panel discussions and community dialog was held at George Washington University. These webinars and panel discussions began a dialog that will continue to grow through the existence of four communities of practice supported by the KMEF. This continued dialog over time will establish the emerging domain of Knowledge Management such that it will begin to add value to the 21st century knowledge economy.
Endorsements
As the KMEF communities evolve this young profession and this emerging domain of Knowledge Management, this consensus needs to be informed and supported by existing knowledge professionals in industry, government and academe. As the consensus grows and becomes prevalent as source for KM professionals, the KMEF seeks to secure testimonials in written or spoken statements endorsing the outputs and outcomes of this community.