People‐Focused Knowledge Management: How Effective Decision Making Leads to Corporate Success

Michael D. Quinn (Principal, WorkPlace Cornerstone Group LLC, Colchester, CT, USA)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 1 August 2005



Quinn, M.D. (2005), "People‐Focused Knowledge Management: How Effective Decision Making Leads to Corporate Success", The Learning Organization, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 389-390.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

In his latest offering, Karl Wiig provides the reader with an appeal for – and a comprehensive review of – what is needed in the knowledge management domain for an enterprise to be effective in the global economy. He accomplishes both with a combination of research, models, tables, and most effectively, with case vignettes that capture the chapter points quite well – and makes them memorable.

“The business world,” Wiig says, “is realising that organizational effectiveness rests with people.” This concept is perhaps not as stark as the author states, however the human element has been obfuscated to a degree by a shift of focus to IT over the past 10‐15 years masquerading as knowledge management (KM). To this end, he goes well beyond the standard of providing five to six key points compressed into 250 pages. Organizations are more complex than a six point descriptive set, and he sets out to provide a “systems view” of the challenge, with offerings on how to address them as well.

Wiig sets the stage with an overview of the enterprise's performance as a function of many factors, non‐exhaustively including employee involvement, increasing complexity, adequacy of education and training, increasing rate of change, and (lagging) management practices. Continuing, he weaves the significance of KM with a systems thinking approach that envelopes employee treatment, motivation, commitment, their mental models, and implicitly, the need for leadership coaching in developing their employees to enable greater productivity at the micro‐ and nano‐levels.

Early on Wiig rhetorically asks, “what makes an effective enterprise?” He responds with a truly “on the mark” quote:

… an effective enterprise is one that acts intelligently in the present, and deals effectively with challenges of the future.

This quote frames the problem that Wiig proceeds to describe (i.e. diagnose) and then prescribes a systemic KM approach for the reader's consideration. Helping his quote along, Wiig provides the reader with success factors and behaviors for the effective enterprise, and details each to assure his context is transparent.

As the author works his way to the situational (application) models of the book, he presents a management effectiveness model, as well as a paradigm shift from the KM‐IT model of enterprise strategy to one where strategic intent enhances the ability of employees to act in the best interest of the enterprise. In support of this shift, he furthers the intellectual capital stewardship mentality that leadership needs to embrace.

Each chapter offers much to the reader, however none of these contribute as much as do Wiig's chapters on personal situation handling, enterprise situation handling, and people‐focused knowledge management in daily operations. Two of these chapters start off with a brief case that sets the stage for the author's analysis, insightful observations, and recommendations. In one chapter, Wiig provides over 12 case vignettes to provide context to enterprise situation handling, and to understand the characteristics of different problem‐solving paradigms.

A distinguishing feature of Wiig's book is that he makes the tie of KM to employee motivation and commitment as they (can) lead to greater organizational productivity and effectiveness. As well, he uses stories to facilitate learning, so each chapter starts off with a case vignette – and as the book evolves, so does the complexity of the micro‐cases to further his points.

Drawbacks are very few, if any, for academics, KM practitioners, and management consultants. For executives on the other hand, several sections of the book may bog down while providing a number of very insightful and helpful coaching suggestions. Some models are overly complex, while most are clearly presented and intuitive. In aggregate however, that's the beauty of Wiig's book – it presents a meal for academics, and plenty of food for thought for KM practitioners and management consultants.

Depending upon the lens through which the reader explores the author's offering, various observations are illuminated to whet the appetites of the KM researcher, the leader who sees opportunity in his or her organization, and the management consultant practitioners plying their trade. Karl Wiig is one of the most influential developers in the world of knowledge management, and his latest work is well worth the read.

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