Spotlight on Knowledge & Information Management

Abraham Maslow died 73 years ago, in June 1950. But his most famous work lives on, in the shape of that well-known triangle or pyramid; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

“The idea is that individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher-level needs.”

From Steere, B. F. (1988). Becoming an effective classroom manager: A resource for teachers. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-88706-620-7

It’s interesting to note, that the pyramid doesn’t actually appear in Maslow’s own work, although he did describe the hierarchy of needs.

That’s not to say that people can’t experience motivation towards achieving different levels of needs simultaneously, but as Maslow explains, one type of motivation is likely to be the dominant motivation at any time. And the lower levels of need are usually going to be more dominant.

Which makes sense; it’s hard to imagine prioritising self-actualisation, which includes pursuing your creative interests, when you’re sleep deprived or starving hungry. It’s more likely that the need to sleep or eat will be dominant at that time.

What’s this got to do with the usual things I write about – social housing and data – though?

It occurred to me, how useful it would be to look at the hierarchy of needs theory, when reading through the recent (May 2023) Spotlight Report on Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) from the Housing Ombudsman.

As the report makes very clear, good information management is, or should be, the foundation of everything else a landlord aims to achieve. Good information management represents the first level on the hierarchy – it is the dominant need.

We cannot easily achieve our purpose – to provide homes – if we have not met the first need, of managing our information well.

These excerpts from the report sum up the link between purpose and KIM:

“Good knowledge and information management (KIM) is crucial to any organisation’s ability to perform and achieve its mission.”


“Without good information management, a landlord cannot adequately:

• Horizon-scan and identify risks

• Contingency plan

• Proactively address hazards (such as fire safety, asbestos and damp and mould)

• Fully comply with legal and regulatory requirements

• Ensure evidence-based practice, and

• Provide a high-quality service to residents.”

One thing I disagree with in the KIM report, though, is the statement that “knowledge and information management …is actually the closest thing the sector could get to a silver bullet.”

A silver bullet is generally defined as a simple fix to a complex problem.

And overhauling poor information management is far from simple, and is full of potential pitfalls, so it needs very careful consideration, not to mention time, resources, and effort.

It may seem like implementing sound KIM strategies and processes would be an onerous add-on, on top of everything else Landlords need to concentrate on. But in reality, that’s like thinking of building the foundations of a house as an add-on. Foundations go in first, and if they fail, the whole house can fail.

So it is certainly worth taking on this challenge, in fact it is crucial to do so, according to the Housing Ombudsman, and many people agree, myself included.

Where to start with implementing a Knowledge & Information Management strategy?

As I said, I don’t think there is a quick “silver bullet” here. But the hierarchy of needs is useful here too, because within the concept of Knowledge and Information Management, there is a hierarchy of needs too – a pyramid within a pyramid, if you will.

To use the metaphor of building a house again, there is a process for putting in foundations that must be followed closely, with the tasks being performed in the right priority order.

And the word “purpose” comes into play again here. To put in foundations, the trenches can’t be dug before the size of the building and the type of soil is understood. We need to know the purpose of the foundations first – what do they need to support, and how strong do they need to be?

So I urge all landlords, who may be feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead in following the KIM report’s recommendations, to start at the very beginning, and build from there. Consider purpose at all times, too.

The starting point for information is collecting and recording it. Like digging a trench, before we start, we need to understand the purpose of the information so we know what to actually collect, where to record it, and how to ensure its quality.

Similar to the questions that we ask about the foundations; what does it (the information) need to support? How strong (i.e. accurate/good quality) does it need to be?

We’ll be exploring ideas for KIM strategies/Data strategies at our very first conference, The Hive Live on 25th September.

The event is for everyone working with data (i.e. everyone!) not just Data Protection professionals. As the Housing Ombudsman stated in the Spotlight on KIM report ‘senior leaders [need to be] clear about the importance of Knowledge and Information Management (KIM), and their standards and expectations.’

The Hive Live aims to bring Data Protection professionals and experts in other areas of business together, instead of working in silos, in a day of sharing knowledge, listening, learning, planning, and meeting friends old & new, in the interactive & engaging sessions. There is never enough time for networking when we meet with like-minded and similarly enthusiastic professionals in the worlds of housing and data, so this event is largely interactive, or you can of course choose to observe instead, if that’s more your style; there is no pressure to do anything you’re not comfortable with.

Find all the details here: The Hive Live; Blocker to Builder

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