Building the Knowledge Culture

Knowledge Workers in the New Environment (3)

Guy St. Clair


In the August 29th SMR post we gave attention to knowledge workers, a first “category” for people working in the knowledge domain.

Another category is that of strategic knowledge professionals. These are knowledge development/knowledge sharing (KD/KS) employees often thought of as a company’s “information professionals,” “content professionals,” “IT specialists,” “information managers,” or any of the myriad new titles coming into the knowledge lexicon these days. As KM and knowledge services continue their move toward enterprise-wide acceptance (including acceptance and – to some extent – enthusiasm in the management community at large), we see the valuable role of the strategic knowledge professional extending into a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. And they all come together in a single function: to support KD/KS activities – regardless of origin and subject – undertaken throughout the organization.

Many established professional employees in the knowledge domain fall into the category of the strategic knowledge professional. Records managers and archivists fit in here of course, and specialist librarians with their academic degrees in library and information science (graduate-level degrees in North America and most of the European Union member countries) are also good examples of the strategic knowledge professional, since their role is to apply their professional education and expertise in support of enterprise-wide KD/KS.

In most organizations, the work of the strategic knowledge professional is spelled out pretty clearly, primarily because the important contribution of the employee’s discrete discipline links to the success of enterprise-wide knowledge activities. These employees can usually be counted on to participate in an enterprise-wide understanding of a subject or group of subjects through focused analysis, design and/or development. They use their research and/or search skills (especially in situations relating to content created in-house, such as company records and/or organizational archives) to define problems and identify alternatives.

In other situations, strategic knowledge professionals bring high-end research expertise to the organization, positioning themselves for important work in a wide variety of projects (regardless of the division or section of the company in which the projects originate). They generally connect to professionals in other disciplines and work (generally) with captured knowledge – tangible information – in physical or electronic repositories, with the distinction being that the knowledge these professionals manage is strategic and – as I’ve noted – directly connected to the success of the organizational or corporate mission.

That’s a critical distinction, and it must be given serious consideration when we think about the role of the strategic knowledge professional in the company. For a variety of reasons, the professions making up those distinct disciplines – as I referred to them earlier – have over the years become even more distinct, separating from one another. Sadly, in many companies and organizations this separation has contributed to yet another version of “silo” structuring, but in this case the silos are within what we think of as the organization’s broader-based knowledge domain. As discrete “practices” (probably a better word than “disciplines”), the strategic knowledge professions often sit apart from one another in the corporate structure. It’s that separateness that has contributed to management’s need for an overall, enterprise-wide knowledge strategy.

And led to the emerging career of the knowledge strategist, which we’ll explore in our next post.

Stay tuned.

– September 6, 2009

  1. Ken Lindsay says:

    All knowledge has a strategic connotation, since knowledge can be used either for the greater good or for the greater evil. Knowledge as a tool can improve or destroy civilisations, communities, groups or an individual when used strategically. Therefore, how communities, groups and individuals manage knowledge can only [come] down to devising stratergies that will ensure knowledge is seen to have continuity and purpose.

    Kind regards Ken

  2. Hemangi R. Vyas says:

    This would serve as a very good argument ( so to speak) and a valid point for how Librarians and other Information Professionals (Record Mangers, Archivists) can translate their skills and experience in the field of Knowledge Management and thus become Strategic Knowledge Professionals by virtue of their expertise.
    Here in India I find that for KM roles a lot of professionals are pulled up from within the organization – who may not (or would not) have the research capabilities which come into play in a significant manner in content management as also the exposure to and rich experience of addressing and resolving queries, linking information and satisfying information needs emerging from different fields which Librarians would possess. These professionals are more likely specialists in the main function of the organizations ( be it CAs, Engineers, and such). As mentioned in the previous SMR post of August 29, I don’t debate their relevance or effectiveness in the said roles however they are singled out as most likely suitable for KM roles only because of they are subject specialists. For some reason MBA has become a required criteria and as also many also roll out a profile titled KM professionals which list out IT functions.

  3. Nerisa Jepkorir Kamar at the SLA Knowledge Management Division Group at LinkedIn says:

    I like the output of the programme … “Change agent.”

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