Knowledge Management – Cycle


It is vital to understand the following elements of the Knowledge Management Cycle and their respective importance because by doing so, one finds points of reference that can be more easily identified and adjusted if they are not implemented correctly or are not being followed in the first place. Upon discovery, a particular element can be reinstated or altered to ensure the completion of the KM Cycle.

Knowledge Creation and/or Capture

Knowledge creation and capture is the process of “gain” or acquirement. This “gain” occurs by either the creation or capture of said knowledge. It is understood that this step is the particular awareness, understanding, or acquaintance of facts, knowledge, and skills brought into existence or acquired via experience, education, or some other kind of exposure.

This happens in many different ways. This could occur in a professional environment by watching and listening to a trainer or reading through the policy and Standard Operating Procedure Manuals. It could also be that one sees a flaw in a certain system and, based on past experience or through pure innovation, figures out a way to improve upon it to save time or money.

Dalkir makes an excellent point that knowledge is also created in social settings. Through interactions, a group memory or knowledge base is created and sometimes changed (2011). This is important to note because knowledge itself is not limited to a professional setting. This also means that the KM cycle is not limited to a professional setting.

It should be noted that the process of capture and creation are very different ideas. Creation is to bring into existence. The Theory of Relativity would be a great example of “Creation” because such ideas were not present before the discovery. Capture, on the other hand, is the process of taking possession. This infers that the knowledge is already out there but that one has taken possession of that knowledge. This could be done mentally, physically, experientially, or even technologically.

Regardless of whether this knowledge is created or captured, the point is that knowledge must be acquired as this is both the start and the end of the cycle.

Knowledge Codification

Knowledge codification is the process of making or organizing code to where it can be more easily accessed. In other words, it is the comprehensive recording of acquired knowledge. A great example of this would be the idea of data entry. This could include any number of things but is not limited to names in an Excel document, inventory numbers that can be cross-referenced against previous years, or even entries into a discussion board.

This idea does not end with technology, though. Many today quickly forget older organizational tools such as the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) System. One could also stretch to say that the earliest form of codification was that of prehistoric men when they began drawing on the walls to record what they saw. The point is that if there is knowledge to be had, then there is knowledge to be codified in many ways.

Knowledge Sharing and Dissemination

Knowledge Dissemination and Sharing is a relatively simple idea. This part of the process is taking the knowledge, making it available, and/or providing it to another. However, while the term is simple, that does not mean the process or practice thereof is simple. Actually, it could be said that the term is simple, yet the practice is complex.

Knowledge sharing and dissemination are the processes of distribution regarding that knowledge. How this is approached can change everything, and the practice itself relies upon so many different factors that it can be hard to measure effectively. Examples of these factors may include arbitrary ideas such as trust or respect or technological ones that include email or SharePoint. While any of the factors presented are great tools for dissemination, they are not exactly aspects that an organization should rely on regarding the overall process.

Furthermore, knowledge distribution can become a challenge in the face of adversity or breakdown. The consequences can range from annoyance to catastrophic. An example of knowledge distribution going wrong could be the military response to the advancing Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Washington recognized the threat and sent the warning, but the distribution of the knowledge was not shared effectively, hence the death of quite a few Americans. This brings the discussion to Knowledge Acquisition and Application.

Knowledge Acquisition and Application

Knowledge acquisition and application are more about putting the knowledge to good use after receiving it. It should also be recognized that knowledge is only as good as the person who uses it. Including Mother Nature in the discussion seems appropriate for this demonstration.

Suppose the National Weather Service issues a Severe Hurricane Warning stating that the anticipated storm is much larger than previous storms and that people need to evacuate the coastal areas. In that case, some will undoubtedly not evacuate, regardless of the warning. In this scenario, the knowledge was created, captured, codified, and disseminated highly effectively. Yet, when the knowledge was acquired by the end-user, the correct or desired application of that knowledge was missed. Perhaps the importance of or actual danger posed was not understood. Maybe it was based on the stubbornness of the person receiving the information due to past success rates regarding hurricanes in that area. Regardless, because of this potential misunderstanding or miscalculation, the chances of a bad outcome are substantially more significant for this person.

Knowledge Acquisition and Application are vital aspects of the KM Cycle because they are the action aspects of the cycle, the result, and the effect on the original cause. It is how the cycle comes full circle. However, to have the desired impact, the dissemination, codification, and creation must be clear, meaning that each step of the cycle deserves its own deliberate and direct attention.

Perspectives and Considerations

Being a cycle, it should be understood that each part is crucial to the system’s overall success. It should also be noted that to achieve the desired result with any system, each piece or step must be achieved with a high degree of success; IE creation must be sound, codification must be sound, dissemination must be effective, and the acquisition and application must be effective as well. The KM Cycle is no exception. The following represents supporting concepts from multiple expert sources, which overlap and reinforce the perspectives provided regarding the elements discussed.

According to Castro and Sánchez (2013), “Organizational Knowledge Management Creation and Transfer is the process of making available, amplifying, and connecting the knowledge created by and within and between organizations.” This, too, could be considered a KM Cycle in that the steps are still being followed; creation/capture, codification and amplification, dissemination, and acquisition by those within the organization and the other organizations the knowledge is being shared with. Creation, of course, is step one in the cycle but is fundamental before reaching any other step.

In the International Journal Of Advanced Manufacturing Technology (2013), the authors clearly state, “Organizational learning and knowledge management directly influenced organizational innovation; whereas organizational learning and organizational innovation directly influenced organizational performance among manufacturing firms.” This clearly demonstrates the need to codify the knowledge created because of its influence on the other aspects of the cycle. In other words, the application and/or dissemination of the knowledge within the firms were hindered if the organization of such knowledge was not already established.

Wei-Li reiterates the importance of effective dissemination regarding the overall process stating that “researchers have confirmed that effective knowledge sharing can enhance organizational absorptive capacity, productivity, performance, competitive advantage, and so on” (2013). Essentially, Wei-Li is recognizing that effective internal dissemination of knowledge aids in the ability of the organization to capture and codify said knowledge, making the organization more competitive overall.

Guzman and Trivelato (2011) reiterate that “knowledge decodification involves interpretation and application that, in turn, implies an understanding of the meaning of the codes used by the sender and thus, how to interpret these codes.” Essentially what is being said here is that the application of the knowledge being received can only be as good as the information created. Bad information equals bad results. This is a reminder to the creator or capturer of knowledge to codify that knowledge so that the end-user who engages in the acquisition and application process will be able to do so effectively based on what was provided. Once again, to ensure a positive result, the steps prior must be sound.

KM Cycle Elements

There is much that a leader must do to maximize the value of each of the KM Cycle elements. These would include but are not limited to, things such as educating those who would handle the knowledge on their particular role regarding the knowledge stream, but perhaps also on how their role and the knowledge they are handling impacts the entire process.

It would also be wise to engage participation and ownership in the process for those handling the different aspects. This plays well into the idea that a leader must illustrate or demonstrate a complete understanding regarding the capacity of what that particular piece of that cycle entails. This would help to build confidence in the overall process in the minds of those expected to initiate or follow it.

Then, of course, there is the process itself. A leader must not only hold the process together but also maintain its integrity so that those who are contributing to or relying upon the cycle can remain confident in it.

Why is a Cycle?

It can be said that the four elements and their variants form a cycle because, in order to achieve maximum benefit from the KM Models, one must follow the series of events or steps and repeat them in the same order as provided if they truly seek a solid result.

It boils down to cause and effect, really. For instance, one cannot distribute knowledge they do not have. One cannot apply the knowledge that has yet to be distributed. Finally, one cannot codify knowledge that has yet to be collected or even created.

It is defined as a cycle because the process always repeats itself, and it usually only goes in one direction. True, aspects can be refined, revisited, revamped, etc., but essentially the one who partakes in such actions is basically starting the cycle all over.

This is an important illustration of the KM process. Regardless of your analogy, the system appears to be the same. This makes it easier to capture knowledge, organize the thought process, and share it for someone else to acquire it, much like this paper. The knowledge has been captured, organized based on the knowledge provided, and it is currently being disseminated in such a way that will be acquired by the end-user.

Value in the KM Cycle

I find the KM Cycle brings a lot of value to Knowledge-Based Leadership. Basically, anything cyclical brings an enormous amount of value to the table. Being cyclical means, it is generally reliable if the elements are intact. If certain elements are not intact, then the cycle will break down. However, if a system is truly cyclical and a breakdown occurs, the ability to pinpoint a problem increases, generating a greater possibility for a problem to be addressed and corrected.

As demonstrated, it is easy to see the importance of understanding the elements of the KM Cycle because by doing so, one can more easily and effectively apply the cycle to their own profession. In addition, one can also more easily identify and correct issues within the cycle if they were not implemented correctly or were not being followed in the first place. Collectively, this will increase the overall effectiveness of its purpose.

Be sure to read my article regarding Knowledge Management – Tools.


Martín-de-Castro, G., & Montoro-Sánchez, Á. (2013). Exploring Knowledge Creation and Transfer in the Firm: Context and Leadership. Universia Business Review, (40), 126-137.
Noruzy, A., Dalfard, V., Azhdari, B., Nazari-Shirkouhi, S., & Rezazadeh, A. (2013). Relations between transformational leadership, organizational learning, knowledge management, organizational innovation, and organizational performance: an empirical investigation of manufacturing firms. International Journal Of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 64(5-8), 1073-1085. doi:10.1007/s00170-012-4038-y
WEI-LI, W. (2013). TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE OR NOT: DEPENDENCE ON KNOWLEDGE-SHARING SATISFACTION. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 41(1), 47-58. doi:10.2224/sbp.2013.41.1.47
Guzman, G., & Trivelato, L. (2011). Packaging and unpackaging knowledge in mass higher education-a knowledge management perspective. Higher Education, 62(4), 451-465. doi:10.1007/s10734-010-9398-3
Dalkir, K. (2011). Knowledge management in theory and practice. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.