Introduction hitches. Spender Spender argues that there are

Introduction

 

Knowledge Management (KM) has become the new buzz
term. The idea that managing knowledge would give an organisation the competitive
advantage is an enticing idea, but this is more complex than it seems. KM
projects are frequently confused as being IT projects. Technology was seen as
the silver bullet to solve the collection of knowledge, but the human aspect,
the tacit knowledge, the data in context is much more complicated to gather
than the explicit knowledge.

 

Mathieu Weggeman has
also done research in this field. He developed the Knowledge Management Value
Chain model for the management of knowledge in an organization. He suggests
that if knowledge moves through the five phases in the KM value chain the
output would be increased knowledge. This model is very much IT driven.

 

This paper will focus on Spender’s
view on how KM projects should provide value to organisations and
considerations for choosing appropriate KM strategies. Armistead and Meakins as
well as Newell et al.’s views will be discussed considering Spender’s findings
focussing on alignment of context, processes and how successful KM strategies are
geared at adding value to an organisation by enhancing established practices
and help solve employees’ information hitches.

 

Spender

 

Spender
argues that there are different KM project types and there are risks associated
with each one. He suggests that the focus is to understand organisational practices
and not to change it.  Choosing the
correct KM project type would thus enhance practices that organisations and
managers are already participating in. The 3 types of data-intensive KM project are grouped according to whether
the data to be handled is:

(1)  Incomplete meaning this is a project
of discovery and innovation and incudes managing new knowledge and how
organisations can make use of this new information,

(2)  Complete but in the wrong part of the
corporation which implies that these types of projects are usually associated
with communication projects where information is shared to reduce silo affects,

(3)  An under-managed corporate asset where
data is considered as a valuable organisational resource (Spender,
2006).

 

Spencer
states that managers should ensure that KM interventions provide value to the
organisation by:

·        Encouraging
knowledge sharing is crucial to the mutual benefit of all. Sharing data amongst
stakeholders allows for different perspectives on the data and this could lead
more effective problem solving and break down of the silo mentalities.   

·       Individuals hold a great portion of organisational
knowledge, but organisational knowledge is not only individual, it includes the
culture of an organisation and its processes. A manager’s task is not only to
manage the relationship between organisational data, meaning and practice but
also how the organisational practices shape the staff. Staff are resistance
when they are entranced with their work that their identity is linked to what
they do. Practice shapes identity and community. Community includes the
relationships of trust and interpersonal relationships. Managers can create
environments to encourage good relations, but actual interaction between staff
is a matter of choice and preference and cannot be managed by the manager.
Shared resources like company jargon also contributes to a sense of community.

·       Data on its own has little meaning. It
is captured within a context and every piece of data has its own narrative,
thus just handing over data without the narrative produces less valuable
information for managerial decision making. Meaning thus relates to practice
which relates to the specific business model of the organisation. Meaning is also
linked to the managers’ experience and view of the world also referred to as
one’s “lens”. To manage and align the different “lenses” is a difficult task
but this leads to a common meaning and understanding if done successfully. KM
projects should include the affected staff in planning and thus getting
everybody on the same page, viewing the data through the same “lens” and so reducing
resistance. If staff share and understand the organisational mission and vision,
they are already geared towards a common organisational goal. Data-orientated
KM projects can be successful if the meaning of the data is understood by all
stakeholders involved.

·       An organisation’s practices is the consolidation
of organisational routines which encompass the organisational knowledge.
Organisational practises are a result of managers’ decisions. Staff’s meaning
can be attached to organisational data through organisational practices and
management controls the practices. This could still be a challenge to managers,
particularly when practices rely on the tacit skill of staff.

Spender findings suggests that a successful
KM project implementation is characterised by supporting and enhancing current
practises and not changing it.

 

Newell et al.

 

Newell
et al.’s KM approach is to develop an enabling context creating organisational cultures,
structures, opportunities for collaboration and coordination that support
knowledge work. Understand knowledge processes and practices are valued through
which knowledge is shared, integrated, translated and transformed. On the
negative side if staff feel threatened knowledge can also be hoarded,
constrained and protected. Knowledge can be deployed for specific purposes to accomplishing
specific tasks as set by stakeholders and in doing so giving the individuals
the capacity to act. According to Newell et al. the purpose of KM is to align
context, processes and purposes within an organisation.

 

Newell
et al.’s structural perspective focuses on knowledge as a possession and
identifies the different types of knowledge that people possess i.e. tacit
(know-how) and explicit (know what) knowledge. Because the structural approach
sees knowledge as an object, strong correlation is seen between an increase in
knowledge, knowledge transfer and organisational performance. The structural
framework has been criticised as not taking the dynamic nature of knowledge
into account.  It also does not consider
the lens with which the holder of the knowledge views the data.  Knowledge is a possession and with this being
able to collect and move it around has proven to be useless unless knowledge
could be applied to a specific task. Structural perspective also takes the view
that all departments in organisations are in harmonious cohesion and everybody
is happy to share their knowledge with each other to the benefit of the whole
organisation. Structural approach is not concerned with the context in which
knowledge was created.  Newell et al.’s
process perspective sees knowledge as dynamic, equivocal and a process of sense
making where role players interact to find common understanding within a
certain context.  The transfer of
knowledge is highly influenced by the social and political relationship between
role-players. Thus, to encourage the transfer of knowledge, building an
enabling context to encourage social interaction is highly advantages to an
organisation. The process and practice perspectives shares the view that knowledge
creation is a social and organisational activity. The practice perspective
suggests that knowledge and practice is closely linked and hence knowledge is
shared where practise is shared. The process perspective highlights the
importance of materials, like telephones and internet connections, to
facilitate social interaction and thus influence the transfer of knowledge.
Knowledge is part of a whole, where the whole is the organisation and the parts
are the departments. Change in one department can affect the whole
organisation. This confirms that knowledge is dynamic and social of nature. The
practice perspective recognises that time and effort has been invested in
creating current practices and that people could find it difficult to move to
new practices.

 

Knowledge
intensive organisations recognise the importance of knowledge for a competitive
advantage and thus create an enabling environment that supports the creation
and sharing of knowledge. In these organisations knowledge exploitation
(reassess, review of existing knowledge), knowledge exploration (creation of
new knowledge) or a combination of both are pursued.

 

HIGH

Craft
Create/Integrate

Community
Share/Integrate

EXPLORATION

Status
Quo
 

Connect
Codify/Share

LOW

LOW

EXPLOITATION

HIGH

 

Figure 1: Purpose and process involved in managing
knowledge (Newell, et
al., 2009)

Figure
1 above illustrated that innovation and new ideas are linked to a craft-based environment where
exploration of new knowledge is high and exploitation of old knowledge is low.
Creating knowledge focuses on application of skilled worker, intellectual
ability and expertise in teams.  An
enabling context for the knowledge workers in this sector is work that supports
self-management and self-organising in teams. 
Connected organisation are
mainly well established organisations where knowledge have been codified over a
period of time including the context in which knowledge was codified. The exploration
of knowledge is low, but exploitation of existing knowledge is high. The
exploiting of existing knowledge means that the knowledge is viewed at
different angles by the stakeholders and new insights and approaches can be
engaged on. In the community context exploitation
is high where integration with other stakeholders are pursued and the exploration
of knowledge is high, hence innovation is a driving force. Integration between
different organisations or departments require a common understanding of the
context for successful integration to occur. 
Sharing of knowledge is highly reliant on trust and this is not always a
manageable task. Unambiguous codification is important, but the context must be
stipulated for it to add value to the organisation.  Organisations that do not see the benefits in
managing knowledge retains their status quo.

 

Spender on Newell et
al.

Newell et al.’s structural perspective
consists of areas that does not correlate with Spender’s view.  This perspective is focused on gathering
knowledge and it does not consider the context in which knowledge is collected
or the lens of the person viewing the data. The structural perspective is not
concerned with the social relations among staff. On the contrary, Spender states
that KM projects that are data-orientated and the meaning is non-controversial,
has a good chance of success (Spender, 2006). This reflects properties of Newel et
al.’s structural view where knowledge is seen as a resource to be accumulated,
captured and shared (Newell, et al., 2009).  Newell et al.’s process perspective is in line
with Spender’s argument of creating an enabling context for knowledge
creation.  This
perspective illustrates the social nature of knowledge transfer in a similar
way that Spender ‘s data intensive KM project are approached.  Sharing of data breaks down the silo mentalities
within an organisation.  Spender’s
incomplete model strongly resembles Newell et al.’s craft quadrant. In the later exploration is high; meaning new
knowledge is being create and this relies on discovery and innovation for both
quadrants. Spender’s grouping of the data being complete but incorrectly
located in the organisation indicates that the sharing of information is
suggested; is in line with Newell et al.’s community quadrant. Both areas rely
strongly on the sharing of information to break down the silo mentalities but
also use existing knowledge in new ways.

 

Armistead and Meakins

Armistead
and Meakins suggests four KM frameworks that combines context on an individual
or organisational level with the type of managerial approaches of imposed and
empowered. The imposing managerial approach is found more in bureaucratic
organisation with structured systems with codified knowledge. The empowered
managerial approach focuses on social and individual knowledge creation and
sharing engaging both tacit and explicit knowledge.

 

 

IMPOSED

EMPOWERED

ORGANISATIONAL

Prescribed

Adaptive

INDIVIDUAL

Compliance

Self-determination

Figure 2. Armistead and
Meakins’ framework for knowledge approaches (Armistead & Meakins, 2002)

The
figure above describes Armistead and Meakins’ framework for knowledge
approaches. Prescribed proposes that knowledge
sharing is imposed at an organisational level through business processes. The
use of IT systems is prevalent in this approach. Sharing of information is
managed via formal training programmes. There are attempting to measure
knowledge as if it was an object.  The compliance approach suggests that the
individuals engage through organisational contract and regulation. Here knowledge
sharing is critical and often staff are required to capture expertise, share
knowledge via event like meetings and conferences or attend formal training. One
of the strengths of this quadrant is that the individual understands what is expected.  The adaptive
quadrant suggests strong communities of practices and social networks thus, a
culture of sharing is prevalent. IT is restricted to facilitate knowledge only.
 This sector is also identified by the self-management
of teams. The self-determination
approach promotes the individual’s responsibility for learning and reflection, knowledge
creation and sharing. It should be emphasised that knowledge sharing is only
successful in a trusting environment.

 

Armistead
and Meakins implies that management should know what they want from KM before
proceeding. The KM implementation plan includes:

(1)
Identify what organisational knowledge is associated with each domain in the
framework,

(2)
Identify the use of technology as a KM tool across the framework and how people
feature in the KM scope,

(3)
Question the appropriateness of KM rules in each quadrant,

(4)
Explaining the presence of trade-offs between quadrants and how they might
affect organisational effectiveness and

(5) Develop approaches for eliminating
trade-offs or minimising their effect.

Armistead
and Meakins identifies three aspects of knowledge that managers
need to consider in the performance of KM programmes. Firstly, the identification
and roles of explicit and tacit knowledge. Secondly, the importance of each
type of knowledge and how one would tap into it. The importance of the collective
aspects of knowledge via social interaction to access knowledge and the importance
of networks, both formal and informal, for the transfer of knowledge.  Lastly, the development of appropriate context
for knowledge creation and sharing.

 

Spender on Armistead and Meakins

 

Armistead and Meakins agree with Spender
that KM is less about technology than about connecting people with the new
technology in new ways (Spender, 2006). In their prescribed
framework, the IT is strongly pushed and people’s perspective is not highly
appreciated. This is not in line with Spender’s thinking. Armistead
and Meakins’ framework
of knowledge approach is like Spender’s thinking in that their notion of
imposed knowledge in organisations are where the external knowledge of the
organisation is in practice.

 

Discussion

 

It is clear that a current
assessment of the organisational knowledge should be made before a decision of
what KM approach can be followed would best benefit and add value to the
organisation. Different models are strong in different areas and it is up to
the manager to decide which KM approach will best suite their organisation.
What does stand out is that the social interaction between stakeholders to form
a richer individual and inevitably a more comprehensive organizational
knowledge base is prevalent in all the authors’ work.

 

 

Conclusion

 

KM projects will be successful if the following is
kept in mind people first, being social of nature, sharing knowledge and contributing
to the organisation must be acknowledge. Secondly, processes should be clear to
all, does it work and is it being followed. Technology is addressed lastly and should
be implemented to assist or enhance current processes. KM that have a low
impact in the people, process and technology areas have a high rate of success.
If all these elements are to be changed during the KM project then the risk of
failure of the project is high because there are many elements to consider and
manage. Newell et al. and Armistead
and Meakins have strong views on how to draw value from KM interventions. My investigation draws me to conclude that Newell
et al.’s purpose and process perspective adds value to an organisation that is
more in line with Spender’s thinking where the elements of innovation, creation
and sharing of knowledge is on the encouraged. Spender states that you should
evaluate the risks to decide which KM strategy to implement to minimize the
risk. 

 

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