Knowledge management and the limits of knowledge codification

Matthew J. Hall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - The idea that knowledge needs to be codified is central to many claims that knowledge can be managed. However, there appear to be no empirical studies in the knowledge management context that examine the process of knowledge codification. This paper therefore seeks to explore codification as a knowledge management process. Design/methodology/approach - The paper draws on findings from research conducted around a knowledge management project in a section of the UK Post Office, using a methodology of participant-observation. Data were collected through observations of project meetings, correspondence between project participants, and individual interviews. Findings - The principal findings about the nature of knowledge codification are first, that the process of knowledge codification also involves the process of defining the codes needed to codify knowledge, and second, that people who participate in the construction of these codes are able to interpret and use the codes more similarly. From this it can be seen that the ability of people to decodify codes similarly places restrictions on the transferability of knowledge between them. Research limitations/implications - The paper therefore argues that a new conceptual approach is needed for the role of knowledge codification in knowledge management that emphasizes the importance of knowledge decodification. Such an approach would start with one's ability to decodify rather than codify knowledge as a prerequisite for knowledge management. Originality/value - The paper provides a conceptual basis for explaining limitations to the management and transferability of knowledge. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Knowledge Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2006


  • knowledge management
  • knowledge transfer
  • postal services
  • United Kingdom


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