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Hans Van Heghe

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12 lessons of knowledge management


Hans Van Heghe explains how businesses can benefit from change by communicating and sharing knowledge.

The following collection of lessons have been picked up from 12 years spent working on knowledge management and related topics. You’ll find more lessons-learned in the book “knowledge centric management”.

1 Accept chaos

I have to admit, being an engineer by education, that it took me four years to accept that there will always be chaos, even in organisations.  To structure everything and maintain it in a proper way is not achievable. The main practical reasons for this are:

  • People act differently.
  • Not all knowledge is worth managing.
  • Volumes of content are huge, internal and external.

2 Value defines the effort

From the previous point, it is clear that the value of an information or knowledge entity defines the effort an organisation will invest in capturing, structuring and maintaining it.

3 Securing versus securing

Securing has a double meaning in the context of knowledge management:

  • Securing as in protecting and limiting access to specific information and knowledge, and is always a difficult subject for management.
  • Securing as in capturing information and knowledge, saving it for later re-use, requires extra competencies of the knowledge worker.

4 Quality of information and knowledge

Low quality of information in an enterprise repository is a demotivator for knowledge and information Management. Finding outdated information drives users away.

5 People’s heads are different

On the outside. Nobody would argue with this. But people’s heads are different on the inside as well. Knowledge management programmes that do not respect this internal face of individuals are not doomed to fail, but the probability of success is much, much lower.

6 Sharing knowledge

I walk away when a manager tells me, “My people have to share their knowledge.” The objective of knowledge management is not sharing knowledge. Rather, it is a result thereof. 

7 Communicate personal benefit

The foundation of all improvements — hence, changes — for a user is his or her personal benefit. When users do not see a direct or indirect personal benefit, they will not be inclined to contribute to change or put in the extra effort. 

8 Much more than just ICT

Knowledge management is much more than an ICT initiative; it involves four different domains. In fact, each ICT initiative should be approached from those four domains:

  • Strategy - management.
  • Human users.
  • Information - "content" – knowledge.
  • ICT support.

9 Promote re-use

Instead of sending out the message to share knowledge, management should promote the re-use of each other’s valuable information and knowledge. In practice, it is the lack of re-use (and related respect) that limits the results of knowledge management, not the willingness to share knowledge.


In the last 10 years, JERI has almost become my second name. The challenge today is not to collect information; the current technological tools have made that fairly easy. The big challenge is JERI — Just Enough Relevant Information, when you need it’. Retrieving and delivering only that information which is relevant in the context of the moment is the aim.

11 Who is an expert?

Everybody and nobody. Everybody possesses knowledge, expertise and wisdom. The question and challenge is to identify, match and feed personal knowledge with the knowledge required by the organisation in order to be successful. Nobody is an expert as long as the personal knowledge is not used and applied for the sake of organisational results.

12 Management by example

As a parent, you are an example for your children. In much the same way, management (at each level) is an example for its team, department or organisation. So, make sure your words and actions point in the same direction. Many knowledge management initiatives fail because this obvious and simple rule was not respected.

Never forget the following saying by Confucius:  "I don’t understand what you say, because what you say and what you do is different."

Hans Van Heghe is the author of Knowledge centric management. Find out more at Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE


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