Choosing Your Knowledge Management Strategy Business Essay

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The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework for the number of different knowledge management strategies and a range of driving forces for knowledge management activities. We synthesize these using an extended version of an existing "KM spectrum"; apply a knowledge engineering approach to provide further guidance for the KM spectrum; and then describe a simple classification approach that links the driving forces to KM strategies, using a number of published heuristics.

Design methodology/approach: The process of knowledge transformation, and that most real world processes operate on a continuum rather than a step transformation, it is perhaps not surprising to find that some researchers have suggested that "explicit" and "tacit" knowledge should be considered to be at the ends of a spectrum of knowledge types rather than being the only two categories on that spectrum. What is needed is a classification that proposes a spectrum of knowledge management approaches. If this spectrum can accommodate the various approaches suggested in the previous section then it can be considered to be sufficiently comprehensive to be useful.

Findings: The paper concludes that contemporary international intellectual capital (IC) frameworks do not include several important characteristics.The proposed SMKR framework focuses on organisational sustainability and provides new understandings as to how the organisation can engage with the following elements: stakeholder engagement, establishment of a dynamic view of knowledge strategy management and a focus on emergent strategies. It suggests that policy developments in the area of knowledge strategic management, measurement and reporting should include these important elements.

Keywords:, Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Economy, Knowledge Framework, Knowledge Implementation, Knowledge Strategy Design, Organisational sustainability, Strategy Management

INTRODUCTION

Knowledge Management (KM) has been the subject of much discussion over the past decade. Organisations are told that they will not survive in the modern Knowledge Era unless they have a strategy for managing and leveraging value from their intellectual assets, and many KM lifecycles and strategies have been proposed. However, it has become clear that the term "Knowledge Management" has been applied to a very broad spectrum of activities designed to manage, exchange and create or enhance intellectual assets within an organisation, and that there is no widespread agreement on what KM actually is. IT applications that are termed "knowledge management applications" range from the development of highly codified help desk systems to the provision of video conferencing to facilitate the exchange of ideas between people.

One fact that does seem to be agreed on is that different situations require different knowledge management strategies. But the range of different "Knowledge Management Strategies" on offer can be bewildering and it is often unclear where to begin in choosing a strategy for a particular situation. We will start by examining a number of published KM strategies and consider how these can be classified. We go on to consider a range of driving forces behind the strategies, and then propose a strategy and a number of heuristics for the selection of a suitable KM strategy.

First, though, we need a working definition of what KM is. Many different definitions of KM have been published, and several will be discussed in this paper. To avoid pre-empting the discussion on the best definition of knowledge management in a given situation, a very broad definition of KM is used for current purposes:

Knowledge Management can be thought of as the deliberate design of processes, tools, structures, etc. with the intent to increase, renew, share, or improve the use of knowledge represented in any of the three elements [Structural, Human and Social] of intellectual capital.

The term 'knowledge strategy' first appeared in the management literature in the late 1990s in response to the observation that initiatives in knowledge management were rarely linked with initiatives in business strategy (Zack 1999). This failure to link the two is apparent to the present author whenever it becomes necessary to pose the question: 'What knowledge is important to your organisation? This question is impossible to answer without a knowledge of the organisation's business strategy. As Stewart (1997, p.70) has observed: 'Knowledge assets, like money or equipment, exist and are worth cultivating only in the context of strategy'. Zack (1999) has used the term 'knowledge strategy' to refer specifically to an organisation's business strategy that takes into account its intellectual resources and capabilities.

Such a knowledge strategy involves the identification of knowledge gaps and surpluses and then, through the implementation of a 'knowledge management strategy', these gaps and surpluses are managed to enhance organisational performance. From a practitioner's perspective the distinction between 'knowledge strategy' and 'knowledge-management strategy' is unnecessary because, in practical terms, it is difficult to separate

the act of identifying important knowledge and the act of implementing knowledge initiatives to close knowledge gaps. To emphasise the importance of aligning knowledge- management initiatives to business needs, the present paper uses the term 'knowledge strategy' to refer to the identification of valuable knowledge assets and to the implementation of the business initiatives that leverage and develop these assets with a view to improving organisational performance.

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT PERSPECTIVE

According to Carpenter & Sanders (2007), strategic management is the process where organizations formulates and implement the strategy. Meanwhile David (2005) defined strategic management in a broader perspective whereby it includes the process of formulation, implementation and controlling. According to David (2005) strategy formulation includes the process of developing a vision and mission, identifying environment analysis for an organization, establishing objectives, generating alternative strategies, and choosing particular strategies to pursue accomplishment.

Knowledge strategy formulation describes the way and an action to achieve objectives.Strategy evaluation is the final stages in strategic management. Managers desperately need to know when particular strategies are not working well; strategy evaluation is the primary means for obtaining this information. The first activity is examining the underlying bases of organization strategy. Next, comparing expected results with actual results and finally taking corrective actions.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

In this section, we survey various knowledge management strategies that have been proposed. The major difference between the various approaches is that they emphasis different aspects of knowledge management; some strategies focus on the knowledge, others on the business processes/areas, and others on the end results.

CLASSIFICATION BY KNOWLEDGE: NONAKA & TAKEUCHI's MATRIX OF KNOWLEDGE TYPES-

While the best way to classify knowledge is a matter of some debate some of the most influential and helpful classifications of KM for KM practitioners are based on a combination of knowledge accessibility (i.e. where is the knowledge stored or located and in what form?) and knowledge transformation (i.e. the flow of knowledge from one place to another and from one form to another). This perspective underlies the analysis of Nonaka & Takeuchi in their "knowledge spiral" (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995), as well as the "Information Space" ("I-Space") model developed by Boisot (Boisot, 1998). Innovation or learning occurs as a result of the flow and transformation of knowledge.

One of the most widely accepted and widely quoted approaches to classifying knowledge from a KM perspective is the "knowledge matrix" of Nonaka & Takeuchi. This matrix classifies knowledge as either explicit or tacit, and either individual or collective. Nonaka & Takeuchi also propose corresponding knowledge processes that transform knowledge from one form to another: socialisation (from tacit to tacit, whereby an individual acquires tacit knowledge directly from others through shared

experience, observation, imitation and so on); externalisation (from tacit to explicit, through articulation of tacit knowledge into explicit concepts); combination (from explicit to explicit, through a systematisation of concepts drawing on different bodies of explicit knowledge); and internalisation (from explicit to tacit, through a process of "learning by doing" and through a verbalisation and documentation of experiences). Nonaka & Takeuchi model the process of "organisational knowledge creation" as a spiral in which knowledge is "amplified" through these four modes of knowledge conversion.

A SECOND KNOWLEDE ClASSIFICATION: BOISOT's I-SPACE MODEL

In Boisot's scheme, knowledge assets can be located within a three dimensional space defined by axes from "uncodified" to "codified", from "concrete" to "abstract" and from "undiffused" to "diffused". He then proposes a "Social Learning Cycle" (SLC) that uses the I-Space to model the dynamic flow of knowledge through a series of six phases:

1.      Scanning: insights are gained from generally available (diffused) data

2.      Problem-Solving: problems are solved giving structure and coherence to these insights (knowledge becomes 'codified')

3.      Abstraction: the newly codified insights are generalised to a wide range of situations (knowledge becomes more 'abstract')

4.      Diffusion: the new insights are shared with a target population in a codified and abstract form (knowledge becomes 'diffused')

5.      Impacting: abstract knowledge becomes embedded in concrete practices, for example in artefacts, rules or behaviour patterns (knowledge becomes 'concrete')

Classification By Business Process:

        Knowledge Strategy as Business Strategy

o       A comprehensive, enterprise-wide approach to KM, where frequently knowledge is seen as the product.

        Intellectual Asset Management Strategy

o       Focuses on assets already within the company that can be exploited more fully or enhanced.

        Personal Knowledge Asset Responsibility Strategy

Encourage and support individual employees to develop their skills and knowledge as well as to share their knowledge with each other.

        Knowledge Creation Strategy

o       Emphasises the innovation and creation of new knowledge through R&D. Adopted by market leaders who shape the future direction of their sector.

        Knowledge Transfer Strategy

o       Transfer of knowledge and best practices in order to improve operational quality and efficiency.

        Customer-Focused Knowledge Strategy

o       Aims to understand customers and their needs and so provide them with exactly what they want.

A SYNTHESISED- APPROACHES: KM SPECTRUM

What is needed is a classification that proposes a spectrum of knowledge management approaches. If this spectrum can accommodate the various approaches suggested in the previous section then it can be considered to be sufficiently comprehensive to be useful.The KM Spectrum, to help organisations make sense of the large diversity of material appearing under the heading of KM, and to help them assess where they are in KM terms. His focus is on the KM activities that are being carried out, grouped into six categories:

1.      Transactional KM: Knowledge is embedded in technology.

2.      Analytical KM: Knowledge is derived from external data sources, typically focussing on customer-related information.

3.      Asset Management KM: Explicit management of knowledge assets (often created as a by-product of the business) which can be reused in different ways.

4.      Process-based KM: The codification and improvement of business practice and the sharing of these improved processes within the organisation.

5.      Developmental KM: Building up the capabilities of the organisation's knowledge workers through training and staff development.

6.      Innovation/creation KM: Fostering an environment which promotes the creation of new knowledge, for example through R & D and through forming teams of people from different disciplines.

DISCUSSION OF THE KM SPECTRUM

This "knowledge management spectrum" has a number of implications for the way that knowledge management is done, and even for the definition of what knowledge management is. Binney makes a number of observations about the spectrum.

FEATURES OF THE SPECTRUM

Several features that differentiate knowledge management approaches can be observed from this spectrum. We can see how the different approaches have different specialisations; for example, there is a left-to-right transition from techniques that are good for managing explicit knowledge to techniques that are good for managing tacit knowledge, with techniques for managing Beckman's category of implicit knowledge falling in the middle of the spectrum. There are several other transitions, too: the degree of individual choice (for the user of the managed knowledge) increases from left to right; the choice of tools or approaches for carrying out a knowledge based task increases from left to right; and the emphasis on the need for organisational change also increases from left to right.

It's clear that what is referred to as "Knowledge management" actually consists of a range of techniques that address different organisational issues and needs. Indeed, Binney notes that "there appears to be an author affinity to parts of the spectrum depending on each author's discipline and background. Management theorists tend to be primarily focused on the process, innovation/creation and developmental elements of the spectrum, with technologists focusing more on the transactional, analytical and asset management elements". The implications of this observation reach to the foundations of knowledge management, for it helps explain disagreements over the definition of knowledge management: technologists tend to explain knowledge management in terms of externalisation or combination of knowledge, while management theorists generally focus on knowledge management as a process of socialisation and internalisation. This in turn leads to different opinions of approaches and techniques for knowledge management, notably the use of technology; management theorists tend to think of technology as being merely an enabling factor to socialisation and communication, while technologists see it as the central focus.

These two views of knowledge management can be characterised as the "cognitive" view and the "community" view. The community view emphasises knowledge as socially constructed and is managed primarily by encouraging groups and individuals to communicate and share experiences and ideas. The cognitive view regards knowledge in objective terms which can be expressed and codified, and is often expressed by the capture and codification of knowledge in computer systems.

COMPLETENESS OF THE KM SPECTRUM

It's worth considering whether the KM spectrum deals with all known approaches to knowledge management, and if not, to consider why. Two approaches that are not covered have been identified, and these are discussed in turn.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT AS A CORPORATE STRATEGY

One of the knowledge management approaches identified by Day & Wendler was "Shaping corporate strategy around knowledge"; Wiig has a similar category of "Knowledge Strategy as Business Strategy". Day & Wendler's example was of Monsanto, who found that its two divisions used such different approaches to knowledge management that they decided to sell off one of the divisions. This approach would not be expected to be incorporated into Binney's KM spectrum, for it does not map to a single approach in the spectrum; rather, it is a decision made as a result of the type of analysis that the KM spectrum provides.

ASSET IMPROVEMENT

From a technologist's point of view, there is one area of knowledge-related technology that does not appear in the spectrum: the area of improvement of existing knowledge assets through optimisation techniques. This does appear to be an omission from the spectrum, for the optimisation of knowledge assets is aimed at increasing their utility, and so should qualify as "knowledge management". Since asset improvement is normally done using computer-based statistical techniques, but does not transform the asset into a different form, it belongs to the left of Asset Management but to the right of Analytical KM in the spectrum.

DISCUSSION

We have surveyed a number of approaches to knowledge management and have shown how they can be brought together in the six categories of Binney's KM spectrum. We have recommended addition of a seventh category, shown how the KM spectrum maps onto the other approaches, and then used both the KM spectrum and the other approaches to develop the beginnings of a knowledge management strategy selection questionnaire.

The KM spectrum seems to be a comprehensive description of possible knowledge management strategies, and its left-to-right dimension maps well to various heuristics and schools of thought. One issue that has not been discussed is whether some KM strategies are more favoured by users than others. Binney has argued that "there is little evidence that mandating participation is a sustainable intervention or adoption model", which implies that approaches from the right of the KM spectrum should be favoured over those from the left. However, Binney's argument is not necessarily correct; mandated participation is frequently accepted by the users when the need for it is clear (as in safety critical systems), when it is clearly the best approach or when the users can simply be forced to use it (military personnel, undergraduate students and people relying on state benefits are examples of these). This issue should probably be added to the list of factors that are used in selecting a KM approach, however.

Further work in this area might include:

        Seeing if there is an association between the KM spectrum and the value of knowledge assets, both before and after they have been "managed".

        Surveying users' attitudes to knowledge assets generated by different KM approaches.

        Considering potential negative factors that might contribute to selecting a KM approach; in the Binney's case study, the lack of computer availability was a significant factor against transactional or analytical KM.

CONCLUSION

This paper has presented an analysis of the building blocks required for a knowledge strategy-a Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Economy, Knowledge Framework, Knowledge Implementation, Knowledge Strategy Design, Organisational sustainability, Strategy Management. An overall knowledge strategy is defined by how these three components interact to help an organisation enhance its knowledge environment.

The framework and environment evolve in parallel through the implementation of tangible knowledge initiatives. The aim is to identify and implement initiatives that are coherent with the framework and environment while simultaneously using the initiatives to evolve the framework and environment. Elements 'evolve' because the full outcome of any initiative cannot be known in advance. The traits that turn out to be successful will be replicated in future projects whereas the unsuccessful characteristics will be modified or discarded. Unplanned initiatives can be incorporated easily into the strategy as they emerge. A knowledge initiative can have two broad objectives:

• providing immediate business value (such as implementing a mentoring scheme for a new software development project, or a document-management system that addresses a particular business process); or

• developing a capability that enhances the knowledge environment (such as providing collaborative technologies for all employees to use, or establishing an ability to locate relevant expertise rapidly).

.

The proposed approach to knowledge strategy presented in this paper is simple and flexible. The most important aspect of the exercise is to develop and communicate the knowledge framework in conjunction with the initiatives-because the framework influences the other elements of the knowledge strategy.

Communicating the knowledge framework should start with the people who are

responsible for identifying and implementing business initiatives. In many cases these are the senior and middle managers of the organisation. If senior management does not perceive the value of knowledge management, it is necessary to tackle individual projects in which knowledge management can influence design, and apply the approach at that level. The successful completion of a limited project then forms the basis for encompassing a wider portfolio of projects.

It is imperative that organisations develop knowledge strategies in this 'knowledge age'. The process of developing the strategy is far more important than any individual knowledge artifact it might create. Through its development, a knowledge strategy encourages the emergence of a level of understanding that facilitates an organisation's best use of its most important resource-knowledge.

REFERENCES

Binney D., 2001, The knowledge management spectrum - understanding the KM landscape, Journal of Knowledge Management, 33-42.

Boisot M.H., 1998, Knowledge Assets: Securing Competitive Advantage in the Information Economy, Oxford University Press.

Clemmons Rumizen Melissie. (2002) The complete idiot's guide to knowledge management. Madison, WI: CWL Publishing Enterprises.

Carpenter, M.A., & Sanders, (2009) Strategic Management: A Dynamic Perspective. Pearson Education.

"Developing a Knowledge Management Strategy." Knowledge Management. National Electronic Library of Health. English

Knowledge Management Framework and Roadmap: Strategic Approaches to Leverage FAO as a Knowledge Organizatio, L. Lamoureux (July 2010) 27.

Knowledge Management Road Map:Supporting Document, I. Wooler (July 2008)

Manasco B., 2010, Leading Firms Develop Knowledge Strategies, Knowledge Inc., October.

Scarbrough H. and J. Swan, 2008, Case Studies in Knowledge Management, Institute of Personnel and Development.

Skyrme David J. (2002) How to develop a successful KM strategy. David J Skyrme Associates..

www ebooks/Knowledge.Management.Strategies.

www.marketplace-live.com

http://www.imarkgroup.org

www.alhea.com/Management+Strategy

www.encyclopediacenter.com/

Zack, M. (2000), Knowledge and Strategy,Butterworth-Heinmann

overall knowledge strategy is defined by how these three components interact to help an

organisation enhance its knowledge environment.

The framework and environment evolve in parallel through the implementation of

tangible knowledge initiatives. The aim is to identify and implement initiatives that are coherent with the framework and environment while simultaneously using the initiatives to evolve the framework and environment. Elements 'evolve' because the full outcome of any initiative cannot be known in advance. The traits that turn out to be successful will be replicated in future projects whereas the unsuccessful characteristics will be modified or

discarded. Unplanned initiatives can be incorporated easily into the strategy as they emerge.

A knowledge initiative can have two broad objectives:

• providing immediate business value (such as implementing a mentoring scheme for

a new software development project, or a document-management system that

addresses a particular business process); or

• developing a capability that enhances the knowledge environment (such as

providing collaborative technologies for all employees to use, or establishing an ability to locate relevant expertise rapidly).

These two broad objectives are illustrated in Figure 1 as the business initiatives and

infrastructure initiatives respectively.

The proposed approach to knowledge strategy presented in this paper is simple and

flexible. The most important aspect of the exercise is to develop and communicate the knowledge framework in conjunction with the initiatives-because the framework influences the other elements of the knowledge strategy.

Communicating the knowledge framework should start with the people who are

responsible for identifying and implementing business initiatives. In many cases these are the senior and middle managers of the organisation. If senior management does not perceive the value of knowledge management, it is necessary to tackle individual projects in which knowledge management can influence design, and apply the approach at that level. The successful completion of a limited project then forms the basis for encompassing a wider portfolio of projects.

It is imperative that organisations develop knowledge strategies in this 'knowledge

age'. The process of developing the strategy is far more important than any individual knowledge artefact it might create. Through its development, a knowledge strategy encourages the emergence of a level of understanding that facilitates an organisation's best use of its most important resource-knowledge.

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