I’ve been following a conversation coming in from the far side of the world on the state of KM these days. Patrick Lambe, who hosted the video "Is KM dead", captures the mood quite effectively in a recent post http://www.greenchameleon.com/gc/blog_detail/on_staying_grounded1/
There seems to be a nexus between the video and other reports from out of recent KM conference in Australia. A lot of pessimism to be sure, still Death is a strong metaphor. Perhaps the KM community has reached a fork in the road. Or maybe we are rounding a turning point and are heading back to our roots. The interest suggests that something has died; but what?
What is that smelly fish under the table? We may agree that KM is the management of something, but that begs further questions:
What is that 'thing'? And what are the 'somes'?
Is KM the management of knowledge work? Or is it the management of knowledge workers? Or is it managing knowledge itself? And if it is about knowledge, are our managers more interested in the products and artifacts, or the processes that produce them?
The artifacts and process views of knowledge may well be trips back to the future on the first and second generations of KM. If we are interested in managing people, we should be asking "Who are the somes?" and the conversations should be about leadership and stewardship. However, it may well be that knowledge work is more than the sum of these three parts (people, process, technology). In which case, as managers, we still have a lot to learn.
Within a bureaucracy we do all of the above. We can't avoid the managing if we choose to participate in the organization and the acts of organizing that bureaucracy entails. Perhaps our questions should not be about the 'somethings'. Rather, to borrow a line from Patrick, maybe we should be asking of KM: What ground are we walking on today?