KM on a dollar a day

Musing on knowledge management, aid and development with limited resources

Organizational barriers to Knowledge Management

with 9 comments

Linda Raftree just put up an excellent post on her blog entitled  “Organizational Barriers to ICT4D“. In it she highlights a number of ways in which organizational rules and practices make it difficult for them to carry out ICT4D work (Information and Communication Technology for Development).

Many of the problems she highlights apply equally to Knowledge Management work too, and there are also some other specific ones, so here is my KM related version of her list – and I’m not just talking about my own experience but that of most people I encounter trying to do KM work in the public/not for profit sector :

1. There often isn’t a sufficient incentive for staff to make use of knowledge in their work due to other work pressures (see creating a demand for knowledge)

2. There is often a reluctance to share valuable knowledge externally (see sharing: it’s good enough for me but not good enough to you)

3. We have a reluctance to admit and thus learn from failure – in part because of the need to compete for funds (see failure without borders)

4. Our IT systems, policies and tools are often not geared towards knowledge management. Although I’ve not come across the outright blocking of social media sites too often in the not-for profit sector (compared to the corporate sector where it seems commonplace), it’s still often the case that organizations lack adequate guidelines and training in use of social media, and that there is a reluctance to allow staff to use external non IT- supported tools for knowledge sharing (of which there are very many – see a few examples here), at the same time as a lack of budget/expertise/priority to set up the kind of tools that are needed for in house use that offer the same type of functionality.

5. We need to prove the “value” of what we do before we have even gotten started. It’s notoriously hard to measure the impact of KM work, and the actual value will vary a lot on organizational context and the level of support from senior management, which is hard to get without being able to prove results in the first place (Catch-22 anyone?).

Part of the reason I took up blogging was to write about some of these problems, and to share and discuss ideas to overcome them. There are a number of practical ways to deal with some of these on an operational level – but at the same time I think organizations need to ask themselves –  if they want  to become knowledge organizations, with knowledge workers, that use knowledge as an asset then they need to take a look at how some of their existing ways of working are hampering their ability to achieve their goals – and to take a leap of faith in the value of knowledge in their work and do something about them.

Bonus: David Gurteen has a nice short list on organizational barriers to knowledge sharing here.


Written by Ian Thorpe

May 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm

9 Responses

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  1. Nice one Ian!
    Here are seven more to add to your collection…

    …and four of them on video:



    May 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    • Thanks Chris – great stuff. Have added these to the internal version of this blog post.

      Ian Thorpe

      May 17, 2011 at 9:09 am

  2. Getting buy-in at African NGO level is extremely challenging. The organisation where I work now is the first to be open to my social media and other internet efforts — everyone else just sees it as something that is ‘not accessible to most’ in the region. I am so glad also to have stats about growing internet use in Africa to support my contention that this is changing…

    Rebecca M.E. Pointer

    May 17, 2011 at 9:52 am

  3. Hi, Ian.

    Here is a related article:

    Why People Don’t Share Their Knowledge


    Stan Garfield

    May 17, 2011 at 11:47 am

  4. […] this post on KM on a Dollar a Day, a quick list of 5 reasons typical organizational rules and practices make […]

  5. […] 13, 2011 VN:F [1.9.12_1141]Please, rate this post:please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)In this post on KM on a Dollar a Day, a quick list of 5 reasons typical organizational rules and practices make […]

  6. […] Organizational barriers to Knowledge Management « KM on a dollar …May 16, 2011 … Linda Raftree just put up an excellent post on her blog entitled ”Organizational Barriers to ICT4D“. In it she highlights a number of ways in which … […]

  7. […] to support the use of tacit learning in our work (a much larger issue that I’ve discussed previously on this blog), and because our tendency to present everything as a success and as an advocacy […]

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