Knowledge Management: Linchpin of Change. Some Practical Guidelines

Rachel McLean‐Shirley (Sessional Lecturer, Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




McLean‐Shirley, R. (2000), "Knowledge Management: Linchpin of Change. Some Practical Guidelines", New Library World, Vol. 101 No. 3, pp. 141-143.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This short practical guide aims to “provide some practical guidelines for those interested in, or likely to be involved in, the implementation process and the subsequent knowledge management operation, whatever their current role”.

Webb begins with one of the most helpful definitions of the term “knowledge management” that I have encountered. She includes a textual example from everyday life; a person consults a train timetable (data), to obtain information that can be turned into knowledge, enabling a decision, and further action. This not only simplifies the term “knowledge management”, but also illustrates the difference between “knowledge” and “information”, a matter of frequent confusion.

The introduction continues with a short account of the development of the informal management of knowledge to the appearance and use of the term “knowledge management” first in the commercial world, then in other types of organisation. Webb states that “knowledge management” is now such a key function of so many types of organisation that many specialist journals devoted to the topic have emerged.

The next section “Key Management Considerations and Influences” examines how managers can create a culture that will be hospitable to the implementation of a knowledge management strategy. It focuses on managing change, particularly change in working practices. Two examples of self‐assessment checklists are included to aid managers in identifying corporate strengths and weaknesses – very useful in assessing how to proceed.

Chapter 3: “Getting Started: Initial Tasks” moves on to look at “shaping the policy”. Again there are two useful checklists of policy and operational issues to consider when introducing knowledge management. A “brief outline” of a knowledge audit followed by a bulleted list of the key points is included, and is most informative.

Chapter five: “Day‐To‐Day Operation: Management and Related Skills” is in keeping with the aim of this title – “to provide practical guidelines”. A list of key daily tasks, including activities such as collection of new material, inputting, and searching and retrieval, is followed by suggestions of how responsibilities may be allocated to staff. The bulleted list of skills that are required by those working in the field of knowledge and information management will greatly assist the practitioner in recruitment and selection of new staff and in planning training of new and existing staff. In fact, throughout this guide there is a focus on the human element, which is most refreshing, and invaluable on a practical level.

As the author points out, a discussion of systems and software (chapter six) has limited use in a publication of this nature. However, Webb makes some useful general comments for those involved in the implementation of a knowledge management system. Similarly, “Conclusions” (chapter 8) listing the “key components of a possible strategy” provides an invaluable checklist for the practitioner.

Three case studies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers and ICL show how the theory has been put into practice, ensuring that the reader will benefit from the experience of others.

The format and style of Knowledge Management: Linchpin of Change make it most accessible to information workers on all levels. We have come to expect invaluable practical information and value for money from The Aslib Know How Series. This title is no exception.

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