The Human Factor in KM4Dev


The Human Factor in KM4Dev

This group will discuss the human and the cultural side of knowledge management for development.

Location: Worldwide
Members: 85
Latest Activity: Dec 24, 2015

Why focus on the human factor?

"What has tended to happen in development is that organizations have generally leaned towards linear and technocentric interpretations of KM, more in line with the descriptive early traditions of knowledge management and organizational development or ‘institution building’" (Hovland, 2003)

"Careful attention is needed to the processes by which values and purpose are defined and articulated so as to create an enabling environment for knowledge management to succeed. Without these processes, organizational learning and knowledge management merely become toolkits and methodologies in a vacuum" (Pasteur et al., 2006). There is also a need to better understand how knowledge and learning may practically address and deal with issues of personality, culture, language, religion, and so on (Ramalingam 2005).

As Davenport and Prusak (1998) put it: “Effective knowledge management cannot take place without extensive behavioral, cultural and organizational change (…) Technology alone won’t make a person with expertise share with others. Technology alone won’t get an employee who is uninterested in seeking knowledge to hop onto a keyboard and searching or browsing.”

Knowledge management is first and foremost a people issue. Does the culture of your organization support ongoing learning and knowledge sharing? Are people motivated and rewarded for creating, sharing and using knowledge? Is there a culture of openness and mutual respect and support? Or is your organization very hierarchical where ‘knowledge is power’ and so people are reluctant to share? Are people under constant pressure to act with no time for knowledge-seeking or reflection? Do they feel inspired to innovate and learn from mistakes, or is there a strong ‘blame and shame’ culture?

These questions are essential to ask and to solve. There is a need to further understand the reasons why people engage in knowledge sharing behavior.

Let's use this group to share articles, insights and experiences to shine a light on the human factor in knowledge management for development!


Survey on Virtual communities of practice (VCoPs) knowledge sharing

Dear Km4dev members:This is to humbly remind you to participate in the survey on knowledgesharing within VCoPs. I will really appreciate if you take a few of yourminutes to fill in the questionnarire…Continue

Started by Hermon Ogbamichael Apr 27, 2011.

How to nurture the human factor in KM?! Good question!

In my world :-) I think two main things should be in place:- Leadership needs to support knowledge management- HRM systems need to support knowledge managementWithout those two, your organization…Continue

Tags: culture, humanfactor, hrm, leadership

Started by Johan Lammers Jun 18, 2009.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Carl Jackson on October 16, 2009 at 6:44pm
Just wondering if we can bridge between the ideas of what for people is important and what is an incentive - perhaps what we are all talking about is enthusiams. If a person feels enthusiastic in their work then time can stretch as we become more insightful and incisive. I am hoping that groups of enthusiasts with common enough goals will be the kind of model for future knowledgeable organisations. I'm kind of pesimistic about whether the rule based or competitive organisations we have at present can be fixed. The opportunities may lie in between and instead of what we have at present. That's not really very concrete - but it is a Friday.
Enjoying the thread, Carl
Comment by Nadejda Loumbeva on October 16, 2009 at 12:01am
Hm, this is shaping out quite interesting.

I totally agree with Karen on that time is not necessarily a factor that hampers people from sharing knowledge; rather, knowledge sharing not meeting their needs would definitely put them off from sharing and learning together. And so, what to do here? A ''needs assessment'' (or questionnaires, and interviews ... yes) is what would seem as the most appropriate thing to do and which rarely gets done ... No?

On incentives, I am not sure I fully agree with Karen and am pretty sure I totally agree with Ian. Incentives can be more powerful than we think ... In fact, lack of good incentives and incentive structures can quite bluntly discourage people from sharing and learning together, even when a proper ''needs assessment'' has been done and is being considered as people are encouraged to share and learn together.
I think one of the most powerful disincentives to sharing and learning together in the UN is how, structurally, money are spent. People and projects and organisations are rewarded for spending money and not for saving it ... The more projects and initiatives one has implemented and the more money they've spent, the better (phew! sorry ...)
I.e., such a systemic mechanism forced people into silos and makes for a competitive climate … ‘we do not need to collaborate, we just need to implement’. In other words, … whether we like it or not, incentives are operating their effects and so they’d better be good for sharing and learning otherwise forget it, sharing and learning won’t happen, and certainly not at the scale where it would, truly, make a positive and desired impact.
Comment by Ian Thorpe on October 15, 2009 at 3:07pm
OK - while agreeing fully what what Karen says about putting yourself in the others shoes and focussing on what is important for them- I'm going to make a case for "incentives" as a part (but not all) of what is needed to encourage greater knowledge sharing and use in an organization.

In large organizations with rules and heirarchies - people do respond to incentives - be they financial reward, personal recognition, promotion or even risk of sanction or bad reputation. In terms of knowledge sharing - if your bosses don't support and encourage sharing and seeking knowledge then it's much harder for this kind of behavious to flourish. If your bosses don't think it is important and make this clear to you (even if they are obviously wrong) then this will affect many people's behaviour. Similarly if leaders make clear that this is a useful and legitimate part of your work-life and you are given personal recognition for it (including in performance appraisals) then you are more likely to do it. Similarly if it seems perfectly acceptable to do new programmes without looking at the latest related knowledge and past experience and then risk repeating mistakes that have been made in the past - then many people will tend to do this since it is much easier.
While KM systems need to support the real needs and situation of of people and organizations - to work effectively they need to be supported by clear leadership commitment (talking the talk but also setting an example) and to be supported by systems and an organizational culture which clearly places value on this type of work. (otherwise motivated knowledge sharers are swimming against the tide)
Comment by Karen Schmidt on October 15, 2009 at 11:00am
following your discussion about incentives, lack of time and learning how to implement good practises for motivating people to share their knowledge I understand all this are issues for "knowledge managers". They have nothing to do with the problems of your target audience, the people you want to share their knowledge...

I'd always think it's best to you put yourself in the shoes of those you want to motivate to beeing active, trying to understand their perspective and their needs - to put it simple (certainly too simple, but for demonstration...)

Having "lack of time" is nothing unusual - it's what we all have if we have to fullfill our cause and daily routines... What do you do if you see that time is not an unlimited resource? You focus on the things which are important for you, of course. What's important for your target audience?
Is the system you want to put in place important for them, what could be their benefit from using / contributing? Do you know the answer or do you guess based on assumptions / info you got from third party?

Another issue directly related to this: "Incentives" I don't know it's a term I hear very often from knowledge managers, but I realy don't like in the context of the above? For me incentive is something one artificially invents for extrinsic motivation, which is nice to have (like the chocolate in the EDU huddle, thank you Nancy! I enjoyed it, but if I would not have expected a greater benefit from the topic itself, the chocolate may not have convinced me to join the huddle ;-)

So I believe the essence is simply to find out what is important for the people and to provide solutions which are helping them to do what's important for them; to do better without more effort or reach the same result with less effort.

For doing so stakeholder interviews might be a good instrument - just find out "what do you need me for" and create trust in people you are really interested in what matters for them. Otherwise you risk just spending much time in convincing people of using km methods and promising a benefit they might not wish to have. And then of course the resistance to change our own style of work for something you don't see as important for you is very very strong and sustainable.

sorry, it's not a "method" ready to use and it's not new, but maybe there are a few thoughts in, which could be helpful. And by the way - if you expect people to change, don't be resistant to change yourself if needed (or the solution you had in mind in the beginning)
Comment by Ian Thorpe on October 14, 2009 at 9:37pm
Nadja - just a quick thought on your comment. I fully agree that lack of time is a symptom rather than a cause of lack of sharing (and using) knowledge.

In terms of organizational culture I think two things are critically important:

1. Incentives: what incentives are put in place to encourage and reward collaboration and recognize contribution. These can be both informal (visible recognition of contributions, fining ways for peers to give positive feedback to one another etc.) and more formal such as including this in job descruiptions, performance assessments, office performance indicators etc.

2. Role modelling - that senior leaders in the organization not only speak to the importance of collaboration but also behave in a way which demonstrates that it is really important (by their own actions or how they recognize and reward others).
Comment by Nadejda Loumbeva on October 14, 2009 at 1:10pm
I just had a quick skip through the below comments of James, Nancy, and Anita. I think the perspectives are many, and great.

I think James and Anita and experimenting within the terms of their situation, i.e., learning by doing. They are trying to see how and in what form collaboration and sharing can work within their organisations. All right, so far so good.

I agree with Nancy on that lack if time is a symptom rather than a cause. Lack of time is not the real reason why people would not want to collaborate (better) and work differently. Rather, the underlying reason may be that they (plainly) do not want to change how they work. Another perhaps most important underlying reason, is that, despite the current talk about change, people may have never really got a feel and taste for it. I.e., they may have never really experienced something that would enable them to imagine themselves and their work happening in a (fundamentally) different way.

In terms of helping the imagination, I've been reading a book called ''Leonardo's Vision'' by Valerie Brown. In that book, Valerie goes about putting together an approach towards change through dialogue. It goes through: What it should be (vision) - What it is (present state) - What it could be (reconciling vision and present state) - What it can be (implementing the vision). (This is not Valerie's trademark I believe ... but it is in there that I saw it.) Such an approach might be helpful in terms attempting a conversation/a dialogue of some sort about change throughout the organisation. A conversation of this sort could be on one2one, could also be in groups, etc. This would be an excellent world café framework.

Another two more practical that might help the imagination are 1. changing the design of the work, for example, by introducing incentives that reward working in groups and teams rather than working individually (I have not seen that implemented in an IO, yet ... despite that people keep talking about it!) and 2. giving people a feel and taste for knowledge sharing methods and tools, such as peer assists, electronic discussions forums, blogs - in other words, push in the methods and the tools by training people on them, and/or by enabling meetings and workshops through these methods and tools - that way you would be starting a silent revolution with some (if you ask me, always) very positive repercussion effects.

And so that's that ... Hope it helps!
Comment by James Cohen on October 12, 2009 at 1:43pm
Johan, nice to see you're passionate on this topic. The large issue I'm facing is briding the value-time gap that Nancy highlighted below (by the way, thank you Nancy for the reply. It helped point me in the right direction of thinking). So tangible strategies I would greatly appreciate. I'm pretty happy with using this discussion board. I checked the DGgroup page, but frankly I find it a bit of cumbersum tool and couldn't even find the thread related to this topic
Comment by Johan Lammers on October 12, 2009 at 1:20pm
Wow, we have a lot of people in this group. I would love to dicuss what good activities would be for our group with these amazing folks in it.

- Focused discussions on the human side of KM
- Sharing resources on the human side of KM
- Organize chats, skype calles etc around interesting topics
etc etc etc
Or all of the above

What would you like to do? What are your ideas? What would be meaningful activities for our beautiful KM4Dev subgroup?
Comment by Peter J. Bury on October 3, 2009 at 9:57am
"James, first, forgive me for not seeing your message earlier. This is one aspect of Ning that challenges me - the visibility of the messages"

Use the follow / unfollow options on the various pages of our ningthing

Comment by Nancy White on August 31, 2009 at 3:23pm
James, first, forgive me for not seeing your message earlier. This is one aspect of Ning that challenges me - the visibility of the messages. If you don't visit the web and attend to what you have or haven't subscribed to, you can lose things easily. The email list I'm referring to is KM4Dev's main communication vehicle, a DGroups email list. You can see the most recent messages on the Ning home page (scroll down a bit, middle section) but all the information is here:

Now, as to the time thing. My experience is that time is a SYMPTOM not a reason itself. Overloaded work schedules with unrealistic time frames. Challenges with task and time management. But mostly, not a clear and understandable link between what "KM" (whatever that really is!) and how it helps an individual in a work context do their job better/faster, etc.

In other words, if we can make the link between time spent and value, then the time reason starts to melt. So it seems we have to attend to 1) is the activity being proposed pragmatic and related to work 2) is there a bridge that quickly gets a person to a point where they get value out of that new activity.

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