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Knowledge Management Failure Factors

In 2013 and 2014, I tried to synthesize the knowledge management (KM) failure factors that have been discussed in cases and studies for the last 10 years or so. This resulted in an article that I am currently offering for free from this site. You can download it by clicking this link. This section and the articles within it are based on that paper (though without the same level of detail).

It is fair to say that the history of KM has been a very bumpy one. Over the years, KM initiatives have been associated with countless failures, making many companies and executives very apprehensive at considering implementing such a program.


The Issue of Definition

In order to understand how these knowledge management failures came about and how they could be prevented, it is important first to understand the ambiguity that surrounds our entire discipline. There are several factors that come into play here:

The reason I mentioned the above is because whenever someone talks of KM failing or succeeding, it is very important to understand what exactly they mean by KM and what exactly they expected from it. For this reason, the first article in this section deals with the problem of a lack of universal definition of KM.


KM Failure Factors

Based on the works of numerous researchers and authors, I arrived at two categories of factors, namely "causal" and "resultant".

Causal factors refer to fundamental problems within the organization, which lead to conditions that are not suitable for KM. They are not always easily visible and they lead to a number of symptoms, which I have termed “resultant” factors.

Below I have included an overview of these factors. For each of these points, there is substantial empirical evidence as well as theoretical deliberations linking them to KM failure (and conversely, to KM success). Please note that these factors are not listed in order of importance, nor does any one causal factor correspond to a specific resultant factor.

Causal Failure Factors: Resultant Failure Factors:

For a deeper discussion, I will be adding an article on Failure Factors in Knowledge Management in the near future.


Alan Frost M.Sc., 2014
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