Money, Testosterone and Knowledge Management

This article chronicles an acrimonious schism in the KM association KM Pro in late 2004, and puts it into the context of other KM association schisms in the USA during the late nineties. I wrote this article originally for the Global Knowledge Review in early 2005. They decided not to publish it after one of the protagonists in the drama claimed there were “serious errors of fact” in the article and hinted at legal action (as you’ll see, lawyers were liberally used as instruments of intimidation during the KM Pro episode). Despite several attempts to find out what those “errors” were, I didn’t get any clear answer, so I shelved the article. However, I keep getting asked to share it, so am now posting it here. Feedback appreciated! The drama, by the way, continues, with the shutting down of three Yahoo Groups KM communities in early 2006 directly attributable to the differences between the warring parties in this fight.

Read the article

14 Comments so far

Its an excellent article Patrick - thanks for making it available

Posted on August 26, 2006 at 06:17 PM | Comment permalink

Matt Moore

The NSW KM Forum is a not-for-revenue organization which some of us “sponsor” with voluntary time & Standards Australia fronts up with a venue. Every 12 months or so there is some handwringing “should we charge for membership”, “should we run training courses”. Then everyone thinks about how much work that would entail and it gets dropped.

The choices are pretty stark:
- Either operate as a community of interest with the commercial activities of those involved kept rigorously separate.
- Or operate as independent, for-profit concerns offering training, consulting, etc.

There should be room for both approaches. Australia has been relatively fortunate in that the KM Standard was produced by a government. Even if you don’t think it’s any good, it prevents a commercial organization from trying to dominate this area.

Posted on August 28, 2006 at 12:09 PM | Comment permalink

Luke Naismith

I don’t want to go off topic here but just need to correct something that Matt said.  The KM Standard was not produced by a government organisation.  It was developed by a committee of people representing a range of organisations that volunteered their time and published by Standards Australia - the peak non-government standards development body in Australia.
In Melbourne, our KM group is similar to that of the NSW KM Forum and we have similar discussions with the same ending - it’s a lot easier to be a small independent group run by volunteers without the hassle of finances. 
And thanks Patrick for introducing me on your blog.

Posted on August 29, 2006 at 09:37 PM | Comment permalink

Matt Moore

Fair enough Luke - I have no idea how Standards Australia operates. Does this mean I could set up my own standards - with blackjack? And hookers?

Posted on August 29, 2006 at 11:00 PM | Comment permalink

I think Matt that in some cases the answer is yes you could, if you paid for it .....
I have just blogged on this

Posted on August 30, 2006 at 06:02 AM | Comment permalink


Thanks guys… I have a feeling that Messrs Gervaise, Vaine and Quicksale might be able to help you in your certification endeavours, Matt!

Dave, your post on KM standards is an extremely useful expansion in getting a more objective historical context (as opposed to self-interested “official histories")on the certification/standards issues.

Commercial interest never seems far away in this area and it seems to attract such interest precisely because KM is so fluffy ... people can claim fluffiness is undesirable and there’s a need for standards, but at the same time (a) the professional community is not mature enough to police the process effectively and (b) fluffiness means that the products of standards committees are difficult to refute.

However, from your description of the BSI history, and my knowledge of the Standards Australia process, I do think the Australian standard comes closest to being a product of a reasonably strong professional community, and it seems to have done what a standard should do, which is establish working vocabularies and a degree of common ground, while acknowledging variances.

What do you know of the European KM standards work? [- Thanks to Georges de Wailly via actKM for this link].

Posted on August 30, 2006 at 11:10 AM | Comment permalink

I sort of agree on the Australian Standards Body, but the material is fairly bland - its difficult to disagree with it, but then there is the “so what” question.  That said it gives credibility and the fact it went to a second edition is good news.
The European standard is to my mind a political not a practical exercise and a means of diverting European funding from economic development to useless committee meetings.

Posted on August 30, 2006 at 11:15 AM | Comment permalink


Isn’t a standard supposed to be bland? wink

Posted on August 30, 2006 at 11:17 AM | Comment permalink


Jack Vinson has blogged on the KMPro schisms from the perspective of the local Chicago chapter at that time - which has since gone independent.

He also references an earlier 2004 post about the KMPro agitation, which also questions the links between training/certification and the professional networking role of professional societies and associations.

Posted on August 30, 2006 at 01:05 PM | Comment permalink


Patrick, this is a great article.  As an on-again, off-again practitioner and student of KM since 1998, I remember seeing each of the events described in the article as they were happening.  I must admit, though, not really paying attention at the time to how it was all connected.  “Unbelievable” is about the only word that comes to mind to express my thoughts now that I know.

Thanks for the history lesson, and here’s hoping we can all learn from it.

Posted on September 02, 2006 at 02:28 AM | Comment permalink


Thanks Brett, it’s reassuring to know that it strikes a chord.

Posted on September 05, 2006 at 03:28 PM | Comment permalink


Thank you for the article, Patrick, this is a great service to the KM community. I am doing research on KM education, and have struggled to understand what actually happened in the ‘certification wars’...

We should take this as a lesson, for sure.

Posted on September 06, 2006 at 11:16 AM | Comment permalink


Thanks Andre - I’d be interested in the scope of your research and any planned outcomes or publications. Are you covering the range of provision including Master’s programmes?

Posted on September 08, 2006 at 12:29 PM | Comment permalink


Thanks for your interest, Patrick. I’m studying what I came to call KM competence, or competence in the management of knowledge. I noticed you’ve written about it, but I think my approach is different from yours, since my goal is to propose a master’s program in KM.

Up to now, I’ve sketched a framework of KM competence, carried out a survey of researchers and practitioners about it, and I’m currently analyzing the structure and contents of existing master’s in KM.

I definitely intend to publish on this, but for now the only tangible outcomes are presentations I made at my school ( If you’re interested in them, just let me know and I’ll send you (they are also available at , if you prefer).

Posted on September 08, 2006 at 08:41 PM | Comment permalink

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