KM Cookbook – at last a truly practical guide to KM strategy and implementation

by | Aug 9, 2019 | Information Management, Reviews

Writing a book is so much easier than working out what to write and how to engage the reader. I’ve read many books over the years where the author has a ‘neat idea’ of how to make their book interesting, only to fail after the first couple of chapters when the metaphor has been pushed too far. One of the many remarkable aspects of the KM Cookbook is that three authors with immense experience but different backgrounds have combined to create a book that makes knowledge management immediately relevant to the reader.

The catalyst for the book was the publication in November 2018 of ISO 30401, which set out define a measurable framework to describe Knowledge Management from the perspective of a management system. The standard did not have a good press when it emerged but that is the case with so many standards. The KM consulting business is awash with frameworks, models and magic dust, so it is very timely that the authors have taken a highly innovative approach to explaining how KM principles can have a positive impact on an organisation, and how these principles can be integrated into good management practice.

In the Introduction the authors (Paul Corney, Chris Collison and Patricia Eng) comment that “for many people, [recipe books] are a source of inspiration to dip into for that perfect main course or hard-to-think-of dessert. For others, they spark new ideas for twists and variations on somebody else’s theme. For a few people, cooking through the entire book becomes a goal in its own right . . .”  The result is that this book can be used in multiple ways to meet specific organisational cultures, requirements and visions.

The core of the book is a set of  user case studies conducted in well-structured interviews that exemplify the approaches and challenges outlined in the initial set of nine chapters intriguing titles which include A new kitchen, What kind of restaurant?, The role of the restaurateur, The skilled chef, Getting some help – the staff, Understanding the ingredients, The restaurant critic – what to expect in an audit. Planning the menu – the KM Chef’s Canvas and finally The KM chef’s specials – taster menu. I hope that these chapter titles give a sense of the approach. I especially liked Chapter 4 which sets out eight different KM adoption approaches.

As with any good recipe book the approach is not pedantic but enables the reader to take one or more case studies and use it to create a recipe that will work for their own organisation. Perhaps it requires leaving something out or replacing one ingredient with another. Throughout the book the importance of ISO 30401 is there in the background but (thankfully) it is not presented as a definitive solution. 

Very few books (none of them on KM!) have made me smile as I read through them. Indeed, the authors are very close to being in Richard Feynman company for the way that they communicate often complex issues in a very practical way. I will readily admit to being a KM sceptic because I have seen so many organisations do it ‘by the book’. At last there is a book that guides but does not command, and is not afraid to highlight problems, challenges and issues as it goes along. As I came to the end of a second reading (in the space of a couple of days) I realized that this is a book that any information or knowledge manage will benefit from having on their bookcase. Quite brilliant in both concept and execution. Whether you are an experienced KM professional or just starting out on the journey the commitment of the authors to the benefits of KM will without doubt be a great inspiration to you. 

Martin White