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Personal Knowledge Management

Planning Guide
Developing ways to “work smarter not harder”

Kirby Wright

Table of Contents
The personal knowledge management model is Introduction to Personal Knowledge Management 2
based on research which identified that knowledge Understanding Knowledge Work 2
workers apply four interrelated dimensions - Understanding the Analytical Dimension 3
analytical, information, social and learning - as they Understanding the Information Dimension 4
address work problems. This booklets provides Understanding the Social Dimension 5
information about developing a personal knowledge Understanding the Learning Dimension 6
management plan that will help you enhance your Analytical Dimension questions 7
work style and approaches. Information Dimension questions 7
Social Dimension questions 8
Learning Dimension questions 9
KRW Knowledge Developing a PKM Plan - suggestions 9
Resources Sources for more information 11
Knowledge Resources provides customer-focused, quality
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personal knowledge management, workplace learning,
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Personal Knowledge Management Planning Guide 1

Introduction to Personal Knowledge Management
Increasingly, organizations depend on the contributions of knowledge workers. Knowledge workers are people with high
levels of expertise, education and experience, whose primary role involves the creation, distribution or application of
knowledge. Often, knowledge workers define their own work and have autonomy in determining what, when and how
they will do their work. Typically, they assume responsibility for managing themselves and their work tends to be
unstructured. To be effective, knowledge workers engage in continuous learning and improvement. Most learning occurs
on the job, through experience and interactions with peers, experts and members of their networks.

For knowledge workers, engaged in tasks such as developing plans, negotiating a contract, diagnosing an illness,
investigating a crime, writing a report, the quality of work is often more important than the quantity of work. When one
considers the work of knowledge workers - managers, analysts, health professionals, engineers, accountants, police
officers, and more - one way to understand this work is to focus on the importance of encountering situations, solving
problems and making decisions.

Research on how knowledge workers engage in problem solving activities highlights the importance of four inter-related
activities: analytical processes, accessing and applying information resources, collaborative and social interactions as well
as continuous learning. These knowledge dimensions are applied in context. A number of
Analytical Information factors exist including educational background, work experience, personal motivation,
Dimension Dimension
creativity and risk capacity. As well, workers function in different organizational settings;
Social Dimension Learning Dimension each with variations in culture, leadership, work practices, level of knowledge support,
openness, innovation, etc.

There is a growing acknowledgment of the importance of supporting knowledge workers. The concept of Personal
Knowledge Management (pkm) is one way to do this. PKM focuses on the knowledge activities of individual workers
and provides a structured way for individuals to assess their own work practices and identify areas of strength and
potential improvement. The emphasis on pkm is personal - it encourages workers to consider how they work, as
individuals and collaboratively, and to develop mechanisms to work more effectively.

Understanding knowledge work

The following section explores the four inter-related knowledge dimensions. Each dimension is discussed in more detail.
For each dimension a series of core competencies is identified and the characteristics of each competency is described.

While the competencies and dimensions have been created as a result of a synthesis of available research and field
testing, it is important to emphasize that, for each knowledge worker, their knowledge processes will be unique. Each of
us works within a specific context; even for workers in the same organization and in similar roles, the situations will be
somewhat unique. Therefore, the information presented is intended to be suggestive. Your work may not completely fit
these patterns. As well you may perform different roles and functions.

As a suggestive guide these descriptions may give some insights about common knowledge worker activities. It is hoped
that these descriptions will make it easier for you to consider your work, compare your roles with others and get a better
sense of some of the types of behaviours you may want to explore as you begin to develop your personal knowledge
management plan.

A series of questions for each of the four knowledge dimensions have been included. Again, these questions are
intended to serve as probes. Some may be more useful than others. Feel free to create you own based on your work

Personal Knowledge Management Planning Guide 2

Understanding the analytical dimension
Interpret - making sense and recognizing patterns in order to quickly understand the nature of an issue or situation.
Sense-making and pattern recognition are key ways that people make decisions in demanding situations (e.g., under time
pressures, uncertainty, vague goals, high stakes and changing conditions.) As individuals interpret problems they first
assess the situation to determine if it is similar to previous experience; if so individuals tend to reapply previous
practices judged to have been effective. If the problem is novel (has not been experienced before), sense-making and
pattern recognition needs to shift to allow individuals to be more thoughtful in identifying approaches.

Envision - quickly evaluating a course of action by imagining how it may unfold. Envisioning is the intuitive, just-in-
time capacity to imagine how an action will unfold. For skilled practitioners, this involves simultaneously being able to
see past and future, understand outcomes and then adjusting behaviour, in real time, when actions do not result in
desired outcomes. Due to our memory limitations people usually construct mental simulations using around three
variables and around six transitions. Envisioning creates mental models; our models emerge out of own experience and
are difficult to articulate. Increasing our awareness/building capacity around mental models involves reflection (ability to
slow down thinking processes to become more aware) and inquiry (personal conversations to allow us to test our

Analyze - applying formal analytical methods when a rational choice strategy is required, e.g., there is a need to provide
justification, to find agreement when stakeholders have different positions or optimization is required (the process of
identifying, through comparison, the best course of action.) Analysis involves applying formal methods which are
specific to one’s work function and/or industry; this may include forecasting, optimization, mathematical modelling,
probability and statistical analysis, network analysis, budgeting, processes mapping, etc.

Create - generating new ideas or concepts, or developing new associations between existing ideas or concepts.
Developing creative capacity may involve seeking diversity of experiences (in life and work), participating in a range of
avocations that encourage people to think differently (e.g., photography, arts, extensive reading), working with mentors
(who are recognized as being creative and open to risks) and extending networks.

Context - seeing beyond specific situations, to understand the linkages and interactions that comprise a whole system.
This involves the ability to consider diverse cause and effect elements, wider implications, multiple influences and the
interconnectedness of forces. Further, since human / organizational systems tend to be dynamic, open and complex, it
is often impossible to clearly define a complex problem, given the many elements, their changing nature and a lack of
clarity around the ideal end state or solution.

Competency Description

Interpret Recognize patterns and make sense of


Envision Create mental models to solve problems

Apply Apply techniques and models to

understand and address problems

Create Imagine new options, redefine issues

Context Understand system elements and

complexity of problems

Personal Knowledge Management Planning Guide 3

Understanding the information dimension

Source - finding quality information including ability to effectively search for information (using search tools, simple and
advanced searching techniques, looking at multiple sources - involving both internal and external sources of
information). Finding also involves browsing - less focused approaches to identifying information (including the ability
to recognize information that may have future value).
Analyze - assessing and evaluating the quality of sourced information, including a preliminary (quick) assessment of
potential value while searching and a more systematic and structured assessment when selecting among possible
resources. Analysis should include comparisons to similar information sources (of known quality), assessing currency,
determining relevance of resource in the context of the particular issue and context, assessing the source of the
information and quality of the evidence used.
Organize - naming, ordering, cataloguing, storing, culling and retrieving information for future use. Ideally, information
is organized according to personal preferences (particularly personal or private information.) If stored centrally it should
be organized using intuitive, broadly understood naming and storage conventions. Increasingly, individuals are required
to organize information embedded in a variety of media. Concerns over naming conventions, information objects
(organized into smaller, adaptable sizes), taxonomy (folksonomy) and tagging challenges are part of effective organizing
Aggregate - developing synthesis materials including the integration of multiple information elements. Involves
applying information to specific contexts and problems; summarize multiple sources and editing information for specific
users and needs.
Communicate - presenting, sharing and interacting with others around information. Communication involves
presentation of information and ideas in written, oral or visual forms. Effective communication involves understanding
the needs of audiences, seeking ways to obtain feedback and responses. As well, it is important to adjust to individual,
small or large group sizes as well as multiple audiences, integrating multiple media and linking narrative (story) with
rational and logical information presentation.

Competency Description

Source Find and retrieve high quality

information resources

Assess Analyze value of sourced information,

examine and identify useful elements

Organize Order, name, store and cull information

for future use

Aggregate Assemble, summarize, synthesize, edit

and combine information

Communicate Present information in written and oral


Personal Knowledge Management Planning Guide 4

Understanding the social dimension
Find - accessing people who can provide useful information, ideas and advice to help one work. These people may be
experts, others with similar interests or with divergent interests/experience; co-workers, others (inside your organization
or outside). Finding may involves using personal contacts, asking others for referrals, search databases.

Collaborate - working with others to achieve collective results that participants would be incapable of accomplishing
while working alone. Collaboration involves individuals having shared objectives, trust and respect, diverse skills,
commitment and the ability to understand the dynamics of working together.

Close networks - participating in, developing and contributing to close - high trust - networks. Close networks are made
up of individuals who share common knowledge, understandings and experiences. The presence of trusting
relationships facilitates the ability to share information and insights.

Extended networks - participating in external - boundary-spanning - networks allow individuals to gain access to rich
sources of information, new insights and experiences outside of one’s immediate focus.

Dialogue - engaging in 2 way conversations with two or more people. Based on an openness to explore ideas and
participate in on-going communications rather than a purposeful attempt to reach conclusions or express a particular
viewpoint. Dialogue involves learning from each other and exploring assumptions of thinking, meaning and ideas.

Competency Description

Find Identify and interact with others who

can help you address problems

Collaborate Engage in effective teamwork and

collaboration activities

Close Networks Develop and maintain high trust

networks within work and interests

Extended Networks Expand and maintain networks outside

of immediate focus

Dialogue Ask questions and share knowledge

with others

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Understanding the learning dimension
Sense - sense making is an intuitive process by which we understand problem. How we make sense is unique: individuals
unconsciously blend judgments, beliefs, perceptions,, mental models and experiences. We make sense by identifying
patterns and familiar elements of a problem. Sense making speeds our problem solving - by quickly knowing what is
going in order to figure out what to do, to perceive the elements of the issue, comprehend meaning and implications of
actions, assess plausibility of actions, project possible outcomes and predict how actions will impact outcomes. We
strengthen sense making through feedback, reflection, reviewing activities, engaging in dialogue, expanding experiences,
articulating the cues we see in an issue, being aware of ones self-identity and our conceptual frameworks.
Reflect - a conscious process of introspection of events and experiences. At times, experienced people may be less
reflective - for example, as practices become routine they may miss opportunities to consider their practice. Skilled
practitioners can reflect-in-action (think quickly, “on their feet” as they practice to modify and adjust actions according
to situations). As well, people, reflect-on-action (spend time, post-event - exploring why one acted they way they did.)
Skilled practitioners are alert to times when they experience surprise, puzzlement or confusion in a situation that is
unique or uncertain and seek to consciously reflect on these situations.
Develop - creating new knowledge involves higher-level learning. To create new knowledge (in written forms, through
presentations or in discussions), one has to reflect on personal (tacit) knowledge, understandings and experiences,
integrate these elements with external information, test and examine these ideas with others and present new ideas in
useful ways. The creation of new knowledge does not need to involve a pure research or discovery process; the
development of new knowledge (for personal reasons or for sharing with others) can involve integration of ideas from a
variety of sources or the application of knowledge in new ways. While we are always creating and building on our
experiences (tacit forms of knowledge), the explicit creation involves developing explicit/tangible resources.
Improve - creating a proactive approach to renewal and enhancement. Improvement includes physical (through exercise,
nutrition, stress reduction), spiritual (through values clarification, study, meditation, and commitment), mental (through
reading, visualization, planning and writing), and social-emotional (through service, empathy and looking for synergy.)
Personal improvement may take different paths - moving from formal to informal learning. Ideally, individuals develop
their own learning plans and periodically monitor progress and outcomes.
Extend - supporting personal learning through teaching/coaching/facilitating the learning of others. Extending and
sharing knowledge challenges one to consciously consider what is known, to organize and present knowledge.
Recognizes that adults learn from and through experience, learning occurs when one is ready (e.g., has a problem to
solve), learning involves interaction and discussion, learning requires practice and follow-up and learning is a continuous
process of constructing new knowledge, based on one’s existing values, experiences and understandings.

Competency Description

Sense Expand one’s pattern recognition and

sense making capacity

Reflect Consciously engage in thoughtful


Develop Develop new knowledge

Improve Engage in continuous personal


Extend Support work of others by sharing


Personal Knowledge Management Planning Guide 6

Reflective Questions - Analytical Dimension
The analytical dimension is the most challenging dimension to assess. Often our analytical processes are unconscious
and hidden. Emerging work on problem solving emphasizes the importance of one’s ability to engage in sense making
and pattern recognition as we encounter problems; our ability to understand the nature of a problem (sense making) and
to develop solutions (pattern recognition) is highly intuitive.
To explore the analytical dimension you must engage in a series of un-natural activities! These include identifying
situations, issues or problems you encounter in order to work through them in a systematic and reflective fashion - to
analyze how we have actually understood and solved the situation. (We typically don’t engage in this sort of study
because we are too busy getting our work done) Is is useful to: identify the source of the problem or issue; describe how
you understood it (made sense of it); think about the types of patterns you identified (was the problem similar to
something you had worked on before, what were the sub-components or elements of the issue, etc.); examine the steps
you took to work through the problem or issue; think about how you reacted when actions or steps that you took did
not result in intended outcomes.
As well you may wish to explore a number of questions:
• Can you articulate the ways that you understand (make sense of) problems?
• What are the common patterns that you look for when you encounter a situation/problem?
• Do you tend to analyze or approach problems the same way?
• At times when you use analytical tools, what are they, are they specific to your professional training (or can you apply
other techniques from other fields) and can you modify or adapt techniques if required?
• How do you respond to issues (within problems), what happens when intended outcomes do not occur?
• Are you able to see the big picture, understanding context and other perspectives?

Reflective Questions - Information Dimension

Knowledge workers work with information; effectiveness is linked to the ability to find and locate, apply, share, organize
and create information resources. We are often overwhelmed with information to the point of overload while at other
times we waste time searching for the information that we need.

One approach that you may apply to assess your information practices could involve an information audit - identifying
the information resources you use (for example, by tracking the documents, reports, internet sites, e-mails, etc. that you
encounter over a period of time). Then, assess their characteristics including the source (personal files, team or work
files, organizational resources, external resources - non-internet, and internet resources); the quality of the information
(research-based, recognized or trusted author, general with no sense of quality); the frequency of use (daily, weekly,
occasionally); currency (how frequently the information is updated) and whether you located the information by
deliberate searching, focused browsing or random scanning. Once you have assessed the characteristics of your
information resources it will be possible to identify patterns and common practices and, further, assess whether you feel
these practices are effective.

Additional questions you may want to consider:

• How much time do you spend searching for information each week?

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• Assess your ability to determine the quality information - can you evaluate information quality?

• How easy is for you to find the information that you have stored in your files or electronically?

• How would you assess your ability to integrate and synthesize various sources of information?

• How would you assess your ability to create produce new information resources for others?

• Do you review and cull your information resources? How frequently?

• Do you have well developed search skills? What approaches do you use?

Reflective Questions - Social Dimension

Knowledge work involves interacting with others - asking information and advice, sharing ideas, working as part of
collaborative teams; belonging to communities of practice and networks.

To understand your social practices it is useful to assess your personal network activities. One approach involves
identifying the people you interact with as part of your work activities. (It may be useful to develop a list of your
contacts over a period of time or review your e-mail activities and contact list to identify your contacts and networks.)
Examine your network, including assessing for each individual the level of your contact in the organization relative to
your own (higher rank, same, lower, external contact); the proximity of your contact (on work team, in same unit, within
the organization, in a different organization); the physical location (in the same office, same floor, different building or
different community); the frequency of the contact (continuously, regularly, rarely); the length of time you have known
the contact (less than one year, one to three years, etc.); and value of the contact (the person provides expert advice, the
person provides access to other contacts or the person contributes novel ideas). [It is important to emphasize that your
social contacts will have various characteristics. For example, for one individual it may be important to interact with
them regularly and others less frequently. Some contacts will be co-located and others may be in other organizations.)
The value of assessing the characteristics of your social contacts is to identify patterns and to be able to assess if these
patterns are adequately supporting your need for social interactions.

Additional questions you may consider include:

• Are you able to quickly find people who can provide you with information that you need?

• Have you added people to your network? Have you worked to maintain your networks?

• Assess your teamwork skills - how do you work with others on teams?

• Are you able to engage in difficult conversations - sharing ideas, providing alternative views, disagreeing - in ways
that encourage further discussion and maintain group cohesion?

• What do you do to build and maintain interpersonal relationships?

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Questions to consider - Learning Dimension
The learning dimension forms the foundation for the other three dimensions. In order to analyze your
continuous learning processes it is useful to spend time consciously and systematically reflecting on your
work and learning activities. This could include:
• Focusing on balance and self-renewal including physical, mental, spiritual and social/emotional activities.
• Becoming more reflective - keep a journal in which you comment on work; take time for yourself to
engage in reflective thought; developing routines and systems to review your own performance.
• Expand your experience. The richer and more varied one’s work experience the stronger one’s sense
making and pattern recognitions processes.
Additional questions you may consider:
• What are you doing to attend to your physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual well-being?
• How are you creating new knowledge?
• What are you doing to expand your ability to make sense of problems and to see patterns for solutions?
• How are your reflecting on work practice including the thinking processes that you engage in?
• What are you doing to help develop others?

Developing a pkm plan - suggestions

As knowledge workers become more aware of the value of personal knowledge management, they often find it useful to
develop a personal plan. The planning process encourages participants to reflect on their knowledge activities and
processes and to focus on areas for improvement. Some of the various activities include:
• Understanding knowledge work and workers [See companion booklet Rethinking Knowledge Work]
• Completing a knowledge processes diagnostic assessment
• Identifying distinctive work tasks, problems and projects, breaking these activities down and analyzing them.
From this work, it is possible to create a personalized plan that will allow you to enhance your core knowledge work
processes. Personal plans are individualized - workers create plans that work for their particular needs. As you develop
your plan, consider:
• The most useful plans are often captured on a single page. Planners need to balance the desire to include details
with the benefits of having the PKM plan presented concisely.
• Individuals need to determine whether they provide goals for each of the four areas or focus on key dimensions.
Your analysis and assessment should guide your plan design.
• The most effective plans include specific and measurable goals. Ideally you will develop goals that are Specific,
Measurable, Agreed upon (by yourself and potentially with others who you work with), Realistic and Time defined.
• The real benefit of the PKM planning process is the analytical and reflective process itself - the creation of a PKM
plan is only an outcome of this process. Many people who have developed PKM plans find it very helpful to review
their plans (in detail) each six months and redo the planning process annually.

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Graphical Format

Expand sense making

Improve file mgt
-review one work issue (per week)
-new document naming (2 months)
Enhance business planning skills
Cull existing files
-readings on business planning
-review and cull (3 months)
Analytical Information
dimension dimension

Social Learning
dimension dimension

Expand contacts
-15 new people (re: innovation) (4 mos.)
Conduct post project reviews
-personal after action review (immediate)
Join industry network
Expand knowledge in innovation
-join HC network and attend
-read and identify leading practice
conference (immediate and 6 mos)

Two approaches to presenting a PKM plan

have emerged. One model uses a table, while
another uses a graphic format (often built
around four quadrants).

Table Format

Objective Actions Outcomes Timelines


Expand sensemaking Once per week, spend Consider problems from Immediate and ongoing
skills time reviewing a various different
particular problem and perspectives before
assess from different determining cause


Improve personal file Develop new naming Consistent naming. Over next 2 months
management protocol, store by project Reduce access time to >
2 minutes

Cull existing files Review paper and No duplicate files. No duplicate files. Faster
electronic files to remove search time
duplicates, drafts and
outdated material


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Sources for more information
I have provided a short list of books that may be helpful to you in order to explore some of the knowledge dimensions
in more detail. In addition, to the books it is possible to identify many on-line resources.
The following books, some focused on a specific knowledge dimension and others that cover more than one dimension,
are recommended:
• Palus, C. & Horth, D. (2002). The leaders edge: Six creative competencies for navigating complex challenges.
• Klein, G. (1999). Sources of power: How people make decisions.
• Klein, G. (2003). The power of intuition: How to use your gut feelings to make better decisions at work.
• De Bono, E. (1993). Serious Creativity: Using the power of lateral thinking to create new ideas.
• Davenport, T. & Beck, J. (2002). The attention economy: Understanding the new currency of business.
• Allen, D. (2002). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity.
• Cohen, D. & Prusak, L. (2001). In good company: How social capital makes organizations work.
• Brown, J.S. & Duguid, P. (2002). The social life of information.
• Wenger, E., McDermott, R. & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge.
• Cross, R., Parker, A. & Cross. R. (2004). The hidden power of social networks: Understanding how work really gets done in
• Strauss, D. & Layton, T. (2002). How to make collaboration work: Powerful ways to build consensus, solve problems and make
• Davenport, T. (2005). Thinking for a living: How to get better performance and results from knowledge workers.
• Leonard, D. & Swap, W. (2005) Deep smarts: How to cultivate and transform enduring business wisdom.

• Cross, J. (2006). Informal learning: Redesigning the natural pathway that inspires innovation and performance.

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