Definition of KM:
(O'Dell, 2011, p. p1) APQC defines 'knowledge management as a systematic effort to enable information and knowledge to grow, flow, and create value. The discipline is about creating and managing the processes.'
(Dataware Technologies, Inc., 1998, p. p3) According to Dataware technologies group, 'Successful implementation of KM requires a clear identification of the business problem to be solved and an alignment of the KM project with overall business objectives to get the right knowledge to the right people at the right time and help people share and act on information in order to improve organizational performance.'
(Introduction to Knowledge Management, 2002) According to the University of North Carolina article INLS258, KM may be viewed in terms of:
' People ' How do you increase the ability of an individual in the organisation to influence others with their knowledge
' Processes ' Its approach varies from organization to organization. There is no limit on the number of processes
' Technology ' It needs to be chosen only after all the requirements of a knowledge management initiative have been established.
It is quite clear that there is no standard definition of KM. There are multiple definitions from various books, journals, articles, websites, etc. The fundamental common description is that KM is a process about getting data together and converting the data into consolidated information that can be effectively be used by both people and organisation using various tools such as Technology, etc. How we view KM is explain and referenced well by the University of North Carolina in the article 'Introduction to Knowledge Management'. '
3. APPROACHES TO KMI IMPLEMENTATION
For a successful KMI, organisations need to understand and apply the two strategies as identified by, Hansen, Nohria and Tierney (1999) namely:
Technology Centric Approach
Characteristics: Technology-centric approach primarily focuses on the use of technology to enhance knowledge sharing and creation. It requires investments in technology infrastructure such as networks, software, mobile devices smartphones, tablets, computers, etc. It is also important to invest in cyber protection technologies like VPN, etc. Technology infrastructure is an enabler in knowledge management activities since it supports the people involved by creating knowledge flows. Knowledge is stored in formalised structures like databases and portals.
Process Centric Approach
Characteristics: Process-Centric Approach: Ensures that the enterprise business processes are aligned to achieve the goals set out in the corporate strategy. It focuses on processes themselves, rather than on people, documents or contents.
Examples from my workplace environment: LOTTECH Inc.
Today LOTTECH, where I am employed, use WebEx - Video Conferencing services [allowing file and presentation sharing with voice, HD video and new meeting spaces giving us the freedom to be anywhere] as a means to transfer explicit knowledge. This has resulted in cost saving on travel for the company.
Today at LOTTECH we use Oracle and Microsoft SQL databases for our business applications such SFDC, BI, and CRM. The information is consolidated on our portal named Field Portal and accessible via the intranet. We also use MS Exchange email to communicate. This allows LOTTECH Executive management team to share annual corporate strategy and goals with the team across the world. We have SE Communities distribution library that allows Team to share best Practice from their field experience.
In one of our Oil and Gas Customer, the process-centric approach includes process modelling, simulation, analysis, optimization and monitoring. Toil and Gas Customer uses LOTTECH technology for their business applications for upstream, midstream and downstream application from moving oil to refineries to be converted into petrol and be sold to the end user. I also believe that the world wide web is also another form of technology centric approach to KM.
Four Categories of KM Approaches
According to (O'Dell & Hubert, 2011, pp. 46-47) there are four categories of KM approaches. Namely:
1. Self Service: This technology focused category of KM approaches enables access to information and codified knowledge from dialogue and discussion. Intranets, portals, people finders, and search tools like google and yahoo, sustained by comprehensive content management systems. The focus is on enabling employees to help themselves at the teachable moment while in the work flow. At LOTTECH, most of our trainings are done through web based training at one's convenient time.
2. Lessons learned: Applied to specific processes and projects. This category of KM approaches helps employees capture, share, and reuse lessons based on their experiences. Lessons learned is a category of KM approaches in which the participants debrief major events to capture lessons, best practices, and understand factors of success or failure so they can take corrective action or avoid making the same mistake again. LOTTECH uses Technical Reports that our Engineers can download and learn on how to install our technologies.
3. Communities of practice: Communities, consist of employees who come together face to face and virtually around an issue, discipline, or body of knowledge to share and learn from one another. At LOTTECH we call our communities LOTTECH Caf??, where different teams come together to share experiences, insights, and best practices; and professionally develop each other.
4. The facilitated transfer of best practices: The facilitated transfer of best practices involves identifying and transferring successful, demonstrated practices and processes among units in an organization. This KM approach provides the highest measurable monetary gains because it focuses on the implementation of proven practices. It achieves especially high gains in organizations where there needs to be a standard global process across all operating units (e.g. engineering, financial services, etc.). At LOTTECH we have validated design architecture technology code named FlexPod, which provide best practice on the deployment of business applications like MS SQL, MS Exchange, SAP, SharePoint, etc. The detail information on Flexpod can be found at
A Holistic Approach:
According to Pienaar 'A holistic approach to KM is important as it helps organizations to utilize the best of both worlds regarding the two main approaches to KM ' a personalisation approach and a technology-centric approach.' (Pienaar, 2009 ). A Holistic approach will also help in understanding the nature and characteristics of the two main dimensions of knowledge namely tacit and explicit knowledge.
It is interesting to note from the 'JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT' produced by Graduate School of Knowledge Science, Japan Advanced Institute of Knowledge Science, Ishikawa, Japan. state that '' The most common approaches to KM seem to be technology oriented. ''
4. KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT TYPES
Definition: Tacit knowledge:
Is knowledge that's difficult to write down, visualize or transfer from one person to another? Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that people have that cannot be readily or easily written down because it is personal knowledge embedded in individual experience and involves intangible factors, such as personal beliefs and the value system.
Tacit knowledge is hard to articulate with formal language. It contains subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches. Before tacit knowledge can be communicated, it must be converted into words, models, or numbers that can be understand. Tacit knowledge is essential to competitive advantage because it's difficult for competitors to copy.
The following examples are business critical knowledge that is difficult to write down, visualize and teach. (Fowler, 2013)
' How to speak a language: It's difficult to write down the rules of a language. It's well accepted that learning a language requires use of the language for long periods of time.
' Innovation - is an elusive skill. Some individuals struggle with innovation for many decades with little success. Other individuals seem to innovate effortlessly for a period of time.
' Leadership - Complex social skills such as leadership are difficult to teach. There's no training that can be guaranteed to make you a leader. Leadership extends from experience.
' Aesthetic Sense - Aesthetics explains why art and culture is appealing. It's difficult to verbalize the appeal of a work of art. It's even more difficult to teach an aesthetic sense. Aesthetic sense is ingrained in an individual's world view. It can be cultivated but not taught.
' Sales - Sales is another complex social skill that's fairly difficult to teach. Great salespeople are commonly described as "naturals" because it's difficult to transfer the skill to others.
' Body Language - Body language is incredibly important to communication. However, it's difficult to teach.
' Humour - It's not always possible to explain why something is funny. It's difficult to teach a sense of humour.
' Emotional Intelligence - is the ability to read and use emotions to influence outcomes. It's difficult to teach or express.
Explicit knowledge can be codified, easily transferred without the user having to actually 'know the subject' while tacit knowledge is more intuitive and cannot be communicated or understood without 'knowing the subject'.
Knowledge codification means converting tacit knowledge to explicit. The Codification approach is a 'people-to-document' approach. It is made independent of the person from whom it is extracted & stored in databases or found in presentations, reports, policy documents, manuals, libraries etc. It is moved around the organization through Intranet or other traditional means like meetings, courses, publications, videos, workshops, etc.
Definition Explicit Knowledge:
Cite Explicit knowledge can be articulated into formal language, including grammatical statements (words and numbers), mathematical expressions, specifications, manuals, etc. Explicit knowledge can be readily transmitted others. Also, it can easily be processed by a computer, transmitted electronically, or stored in databases. Explicit knowledge is knowledge and information that can be expressed or written down and is easy for humans to communicate.
The limitations of exclusively focusing on either approach:
Cite Tacit is hard to steal or copy while explicit is easy to duplicate and imitate and can also become obsolete quickly. When organizations go through mergers, downsizing, outsourcing, and termination they suffer from a loss of valuable tacit knowledge because it is lost through employees who leave and take their valuable knowledge, and skills with them.
I personally believe that because the majority of our labour force in South Africa is uneducated they rely a lot in using tacit knowledge they have learned throughout their working life. They find it difficult to convert their tacit knowledge into codified knowledge. They generally rely more on their experience that using scientific proven data or information.
Once an individual articulates their knowledge through a document, or drawing for example it is easy for it to be quickly passed around the organization and disseminated for appropriate use.
5. KM PROCESSES:
KM supports and coordinates the generation, codification, transfer and application of individual knowledge in value creation processes. Cite There are generally 4 stages of KM processes.
1. Knowledge generation: Companies create a great amount of data and information in their daily business activities. It would be essential for the company to have a system of managing the newly created information so it can be reused to solve new problems or leveraged to value-add to other business activities. For example, high technology companies may often receive a lot of feedbacks from customers on their products. This kind of information could be very useful for the R&D team to come up with new improved products. Companies may find that they cannot meet their knowledge requirement from their available knowledge assets. The gap will have to be filled either by internally developing new knowledge or acquiring the knowledge from external sources. Knowledge creation can only be achieved in a creative environment that encourages teamwork and the use of creative potential. If manage successfully, the process can expand or change the company's knowledge base to meet the company's current and future needs.
2. Knowledge Codification: Data and Information need to be collected and analysed in order to turn them into useful knowledge. This is the stage where tacit knowledge is converted into explicit knowledge and is very critical to the success of the other two stages - application and transfer. Without documenting and codifying tacit knowledge, its transfer for the purposes of learning and utilization, both internally and externally, will be difficult achieve.
Furthermore legal protection of these valuable knowledge assets can only be done if the knowledge has been codified. For examples, patent applications require the complete disclosures of the inventions and trade secrets require the demonstration of safe-keeping of documented information. The legal rights come with IP protection offers the company a distinct advantage which can be used to derive revenues from IP licensing or exclusive rights to commercialize.
3. Knowledge Application: It is unusual for companies to not to know how to generate value from the use of the knowledge assets they have. It is worse when a company does not even know the kind of knowledge it has.
Knowledge Management offers a management system for the company to ensure that their knowledge assets when created are properly documented, and that the knowledge in different domain owners will be shared within the organization. When knowledge assets are documented and shared, knowledge utilization will be facilitated. This is the stage in Knowledge Management where value creation is delivered. By harnessing knowledge from different knowledge domains and competencies across the organization, direct impacts to the missions and goals of the company can be achieved
4. Knowledge Transfer: One of the advantages of knowledge is that knowledge is dynamic. Knowledge can be adapted and evolved through the processes of learning and sharing. The impact made by individual knowledge is not as great as collective knowledge so sharing within the organization should be encourage. When a company has limited capability to effectively use certain knowledge, it would be worthwhile to consider external transfer to third parties who may have the competencies to utilize the knowledge for value creation. For example, a company may have invented a new technology but it does not have the capability to produce products based on such invention. The technology can be licensed to a third party who has the production facilities and the marketing and sales capability to sell the product.
6. THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN KM:
The role and importance of ICT in knowledge transfer have been emphasized by many scholars. Clearly, technological advances bring a vast number of new opportunities to transfer and share knowledge and expertise throughout the organization within departments, plants, countries and across national borders. These technologies have a strategic role in knowledge sharing specifically for geographically dispersed global organizations (Bender and Fish, 2000).
Four growth stages to KM
The extent of IT can be defined in terms of four growth stages for knowledge management systems. (Gottschalk, 2008, pp. 61-65). According to Gottschalk stage two, firms apply the personalization strategy in KM. The typical system at stage two of KM technology in police investigations is the intranet. Intranets provide a rich set of tools for creating collaborative environments in which members of an organization can exchange ideas, share information, and work together on common projects and assignments regardless of their physical location. Information from many different sources and media, including text, graphics, video and audio can be displayed, shared, and accessed across an enterprise through a simple common interface. In this respect, these technologies have a strategic importance not only in knowledge transfer inside the organization but also knowledge transfer among different organizations (Zhao and Xie, 2002).
7. KM STRATEGIES:
Strategies for successful KMI implementation within organisations:
Formal or informal social processes and cultural issues are just as important as technological systems in knowledge transfer and sharing. Establishing advanced technological systems does not necessarily make people transfer and share knowledge in an organization. It is the type, quality and frequency of social processes and the structure of organizational culture that do. In addition to the formal social processes that can be controlled and managed to some extent, spontaneous, unstructured knowledge transfer is also vital for an organization's success.
For this reason, it is necessary to develop dedicated strategies to encourage spontaneous knowledge exchanges with special emphasis given to informal relations (Davenport and Prusak, 1998). This is essential specifically in transferring tacit knowledge such as experience or expertise which requires time, face-to-face interactions and sophisticated social processes.
As part of the KM development strategy, the system has to remain holistic in outlook and ensure that through appropriate feedback mechanisms, the necessary corrective actions are taken when errors are detected. Failure to do so could result in the system becoming obsolete in a relatively short period of time. Further to this the KM system could produce poor results due to bad and inaccurate decisions based on faulty knowledge principles and ideas. (Tiwana, 1999).
Examples from my workplace environment: LOTTECH Inc.
I have realised that tacit knowledge forms the foundation for building sustainable competitive advantage within LOTTECH. We regularly have brainstorming session where we discuss the best way to improve company productivity and increase revenue. LOTTECH annual System Engineering conference explores the use of both tacit and explicit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge comes through the form of presentation on company product updates and solution during the conference. Tacit knowledge comes through a few people sharing their experience on how they have achieved success in their careers as system engineers, etc. Engineers are encouraged to use their tacit knowledge to create what we call Best Practise documents based on their experience in the field. Once this best experience documents have been validated and adopted, they are shared within the company intranet for all engineers to access and apply when required. Knowledge is codified using a "people-to-documents" approach. This approach allows many people to search for and retrieve codified knowledge without having to contact the person who originally developed it.
This is one of the reasons that LOTTECH has been rated among the best 100 USA companies to work for. (Annunzio, 2010, pp. 7-8) LOTTECH credits its success to the environment it has carefully built within the senior leadership team and throughout the company. Every four to six weeks, the five top leaders get together to take the pulse of their business, the market and the economy.
They meet over dinner, learning from one another and making sure they agree on the company's direction. Attended by the CEO, Vice Chairman, President and two executive vice presidents, these meetings supplement daytime business review sessions, which sometimes include other executives. There's no hierarchy at LOTTECH's senior leadership meetings, nor do the participants worry about stepping into someone else's territory. The participants often disagree with one another. They hash out the issues and once they make a decision, they move ahead. There are no "meetings after the meeting." In closing Holistic Approach to KMI is the best to achieve greater success.
Introduction to Knowledge Management. (2002). Retrieved from University of North Carolina: http://www.unc.edu/~sunnyliu/inls258/Introduction_to_Knowledge_Management.html
Annunzio, S. L. (2010, June 01). Lessons From Team Fumbles. Retrieved from Restaurantheadhunter.com: http://restaurantheadhunter.com/keep_newsletters/newsletter_2010_06.pdf
Dataware Technologies, Inc. (1998). Seven Steps to Implementing KMI in your Organisation. Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts, USA. Retrieved from www.systems-thinking.org/kmgmt/km7steps.pdf
Fowler, D. (2013, July 24). 10 Examples of Tacit knowledge. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from 10 Examples of Tacit Knowledge: http://management.simplicable.com/management/new/10-examples-of-tacit-knowledge
Gottschalk, P. (2008). Knowledge Management in Policing. New York City: Hindawi Publishing Corporation.
O'Dell, C., & Hubert, C. (2011). In C. H. Carla O'Dell, The New Edge in Knowledge Management (pp. 46-47). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons inc.
Pienaar, W. (2009 , December 16). A Holistic approach to knowledge management. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from A Holistic approach to knowledge management: http://www.diepienaars.co.za/mitholistic/interests/mit/mitholistic
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