2.5 – Why Knowledge management is so important?
Knowledge as a resource causes huge misunderstanding for economists, because unlike the physical commodities, it is the only resource which increased returns as it is used rather than reduced or diminished over time (Clarke, T. 2001). Knowledge may be costly to generate but there is modest cost to diffusion. Massa, S. & Testa, S. (2008) believed that the determinants of success of organizations, and nationwide economies as a total, is ever more dependent upon their efficiency in assembling and utilizing knowledge. Accordingly to Malhotra, Y. (2000) knowledge has turn into a key production factor; though the monetary accounts are still leading by conventional factors of production, including buildings and machinery. The idea of knowledge flowing to where it is most needed is the critical point and it should not flow only from the top down, but flow in all ways in an organization, (Davenport, T. & Prusak, L. 2000). Davidson, C. & Voss, P. (2004), Lin, L. & Kwok, L. (2006) claimed that knowledge is no longer a source of power; it is knowledge sharing that counts in the knowledge economy but author like Kakabadse, N. et al., (2003), viewed knowledge itself is power. Creation and codification of knowledge do not necessarily lead to performance improvement or value creation. Value is generated only when knowledge is allocated all the way through in an organization and linked where it is needed (Chena, C & Huang, J. 2007). It is not sufficient to have smart people in the organization. Instead, the key is to create systems that tap into the knowledge, experiences, and creativity of your staff, your customers, your suppliers, and even your competitors. Knowledge strategy needs to be concerned with the quality of information, not the quantity; and with the timeliness of information delivery, not its speed. Smart systems are excellent but smart people are superior. Despres, C. & Chauvel, D. (1999) identified that knowledge management occurs on three ends:
- the individual,
- the team and
- the organizational.
2.6 – Framework for knowledge approaches
Knowledge management is linked to diverse business fields and it has always been entrenched in the individual behavior. It is not all about creating an index or register that detains the whole thing that anyone ever knew. Collison, C. & Parcell, G. (2004) suggested that it is about maintaining track of those who know the procedure, techniques and fostering the culture and technology that will get them talking. It is challenging to understand the nature of knowledge and the way it is managed. Also the management approaches towards knowledge management is varied. Knowledge can be created from re-describing and re-labeling the past knowledge, it also created from connecting people (the relationships) and connecting technologies (networks). This might be flexible social or stiff technical networks. These discussions vibrate with the managerial paradox of developing organizational performance via rigid or free control systems and this was interpreted in the following model adopted from Armistead, C. & Meakins, M. (2002) for describing four approaches to knowledge management stand on whether it is in an organizational or an individual context, and whether knowledge management is imposed or empowered by managerial approaches.
Armistead, C. & Meakins, M. (2002)
Figure No: 2.3 – Framework for knowledge approaches
Imposition is linked with bureaucracy, structured and controlled systems and attempts to codify all aspects of knowledge. It might expect such perceptions to be more inclined to explicit rather than tacit knowledge. In contrast, Empowerment recognized the potential in the social and individual for knowledge creation and sharing, in which the tacit as much as the explicit aspect of knowledge is engaged. The authors considered that managers are likely to be concerned with knowledge at an individual and organization level and with particular approaches to managing knowledge. Consequently they proposed a managerial framework which uses the constructs of imposed and empowered as one axis and the individual and the organization as the other.
– Prescribed recommends a official approach to knowledge and its management at an organizational level. It might see technology set up widely to detain, store up and guard knowledge.
– Compliance means individual engage in knowledge activities through contract and regulation. Resources are distributed via prescribed performance management processes.
– Adaptive engages with the informal within the social fabric of the organization in the logic of communities of practice and the self-management of teams.
– Self-determination supports individuals to get responsibility for their part to learning in the knowledge creation and sharing processes.
From the above management paradox of how the knowledge is manage at an organizational and individual context. There is another well known model, called SECI or knowledge spiral model. The model did not only described that how the knowledge is managed but it also explained the overall knowledge creation process.
2.7 – SECI Model
In 1995, (Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. 1995) introduced their SECI model, which stands for Socialization, Externalization, Combination and Internalization. The purpose of this model is to offer an understanding of how organizations create knowledge and formalize organization processes which are mostly tacit in nature. It further provides an understanding of knowledge sharing, its management and application at an organizational level. According to Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995) knowledge is formed from the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge. These four knowledge conversion processes interconnected by moving from tacit to explicit knowledge as it moves from socialization to internalization then return to socialization to shape a spiral model of knowledge creation. Hiscock, J. (2004) stated that the first generation earlier to 1995, completely dependent on technologies in their daily task often known technocratic, but this is the second generation of knowledge management, where knowledge exchange is illustrated as a spiral – a thing to be managed and something which can be made explicit. As the purpose of this research it is to look at the barriers to knowledge management thus the only focal point from this model is to observe overall knowledge creation process. Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995) discussed that how tacit and explicit knowledge interrelate to successfully create knowledge in an organization via four conversion processes:
2.7.1 – Socialization – tacit to tacit
Socialization is the process through which tacit knowledge is passed to others; it is directly related to the group processes and organizational culture. Tacit knowledge is often attained through sharing experiences, observations and the processes that arises without formal discussions and using language for instance face to face interaction. Interviewing and focus groups techniques are also creating tacit knowledge amongst people.
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2.7.2 – Externalization – tacit to explicit
Externalization of tacit knowledge is the conversion of tacit knowledge to explicit. As tacit knowledge is embedded in the people’s mind and that is externalize or express by sharing of paradigms, metaphors and concepts through formal discussions. Nonaka, I & Takeuchi, H. (1995) declared that we have conceptualized an image; we generally tend to express it in language. Externalization is developing notions which facilitate tacit knowledge to communicate. Redesign of existing information can escort to new knowledge in the shape of written statements. Wakefield, R. (2006) argued that when knowledge is externalized and turn into explicit it is in fact converted back into information or data. Both have values, but this cannot be out until the data and information is internalized again to form knowledge that is used for some productive purposes.
2.7.3 – Combination – explicit to explicit
Combination is a process of systemizing concept into a knowledge system, at this level explicit knowledge merged with written reports and other strategic documents through formal discussions (i.e. meetings, documents etc.). This process includes gathering significant knowledge then sorting, editing and distributing it, which allows knowledge sharing within organization. Formal education and training are also comprise in this type of knowledge conversion.
2.7.4 – Internalization explicit to tacit
Internalization is a mechanism of altering explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge. It is achieved through individual expression and learning by doing. Once the explicit knowledge shared with individuals to internalize what they have experienced and then their understanding becomes tacit knowledge in the form of shared intellectual models or technological know-how which further become a valuable asset for the organization. For example: customer complaint are recorded and then read by other team members.
2.8 – key components and its related barriers to Knowledge
DuPlessis, M. (2008) point out that knowledge management is a holistic solution integrating mixture of perspectives: people, process, technology and culture perspectives and every single one should hold equal influence. According to Gillingham, H. & Roberts, B. (2006), people, process and technology (soft and hard aspects) reveals the most essential features engaged in capturing, disseminating and sharing knowledge. These elements require to be balanced to guarantee that the complete benefits of knowledge sharing are exploited. Of course, people, process, and technology (PPT) are intertwined and no organizations get very far benefits without having a basic competency in all. But the tougher challenge in knowledge management is how to built ‘PPT’ into an organization. Collison, C. & Parcell, G. (2004) suggested that involving people who knows, and the behaviors to ask, listen and share, some processes to make things easier for sharing, validation, distillation, and a familiar, reliable technology infrastructure to facilitate sharing. Knowledge management is all concerning the integration of people, process, technology but strategy and structure too (Armistead, C. & Meakins, M. 2002). According to Quinn, F. (2008) the development of knowledge managements exposes many issues that firms claim to have solved completely. The issues for example related to business benefits, people and culture, technology and process. These issues reflect all the main areas of concern in a knowledge environment and can be produce the barriers or road block to achieving the corporate success that most of would wish to inhabit.
2.8.1 – People
The biggest misunderstanding that the Information Technology (IT) leaders composed is that the knowledge management is all about technology. Gillingham, H. & Robert, B. (2006) confirmed that people are the most central and complex element in knowledge management. It is a people who create and share knowledge, Since, (tacit) knowledge is set aside in the individuals the most essential thing for knowledge management is the system to allow the conceal knowledge within an individual be spread to others in order for them to share, exploit, and then alter it into (explicit) knowledge within an organization (Yeh, Y. et al., 2006). Knowledge management helps us do what we do better and it’s connect information and people, and people and people. Call, D. (2005) suggested that people are not being able to gain knowledge in a minutes and hours but they learn over days or weeks and one of challenge is to detained knowledge from what people said and did as part of their everyday job and to build it reachable to rest in an organization. According to Gundry, J. & Metes, G. (1996) people behaviors is often manipulated by their beliefs, values, attitudes, and the organization culture. Influencing what people believe should direct to changes in values, attitudes and behavior in which knowledge is shared behavior. Gillingham H. & Robert, B. (2006) stated that it is complicated to get people to do things in a different way because people can simply fall back on defensive routines. A state of willingness require from individuals to get people to modify the way that they do things, it is central to manage those who are willing to create and share their knowledge (Yeh, Y. et al., 2006). According to the Abell, A. & and Oxbrow, N. (2001) people ask numbers of question in organization towards knowledge management for example: What is in knowledge for me? How does it make my job easier? What appreciation will I get for sharing my knowledge? Etc. It is important to identify what knowledge people need and what knowledge people already possess and how to link people and knowledge process.
In any system where information or knowledge is accessible, there must be adequate security to ensure that only appropriate people are able to see what knowledge is held and by whom, in that case ‘confidentiality’ is the barrier to crafting a knowledge sharing culture in the organization (DuPlessis, M. 2008). But from the organizational point of view, one can comprehend that it is in national interest that the particular knowledge stays confidential. In other word the right information and knowledge should distributed to the right people at the right time and right place. For example in defense sectors and utilities provider such as countries like South Africa where they have one and only major energy provider, their key knowledge and information would be exceptionally secret hence it should be strongly managed (Sutton, S. & Leech, S. 2002).
‘Employee often does not know what is the concept of knowledge management’ – their perception about knowledge as resources in not clear as capital assets resources. In the view of McCann, J. & Buckner, M. (2004) people do not include knowledge into their work process to make final products and services and even do not feel responsible for sharing their own knowledge with colleagues. Kols, A. (2004) submitted that people do not even realize that they have knowledge worth sharing. Employees viewed knowledge management as an additional job, processes and formal channel of communications which is not incorporated into their daily working environment (DuPlessis, M. 2008). Another potential factor; ’employed turnover’, where experienced employees transferred, promoted, retired, or fired from the organization, both their tacit and explicit knowledge may be lost unless the organization makes a concerted effort to assure that it is shared.
Knowledge management setup and implementations requires sufficient ‘time’ which is often claimed constraint. Time can be a difficult area or barrier, where employees are considered on the hourly basis, for example; accountants, lawyers, solicitors and engineers. For them, time is wealth and it is hard to modify the view that knowledge management be able to make them work smarter and quicker, even if they do expend some time on it upfront (DuPlessis, M. 2008). When the organization was steady and developing smoothly, it would be feasible for people to take extra time and effort to get involved in such knowledge management activities. Once the circumstances changed, these practices would be easily gone down because they were peripheral to business operations (Lin, L. & Kwok, L. 2006).
2.8.2 – Process
Armistead, C. & Meakins, M. (2002) declared that knowledge management is a process rather than an asset, and hence to facilitate maximize its value an organization must have to form an environment that facilitates the flow of knowledge. The argument between technology and people is about the ways of managing knowledge processes. Barnes, P. (2007), Probst et al., (2000) categorizes knowledge management in six core processes; knowledge identification, knowledge acquisition, knowledge expansion, knowledge sharing or distribution, knowledge exploitation and knowledge preservation. In order to share knowledge, one requires tools or processes: Expert locater systems, communities of practice (formal and informal), distance learning information-sharing tools, emergent expertise, storytelling, knowledge repositories, conferences/workshops/ seminars, e-learning applications and virtual communities are some of the methods organizations can use to disseminate knowledge. Abell, A. & Oxbrow, N. (2001) believed that people make process work, often through informal steps- how can these be formalized and how to build communities around business processes. Process must learn – how to achieve the commitment of people to the learning process and how to integrate knowledge creation and utilization into business process. Processes need technology support- how to integrate business benefits and technology capability, it also require formal and informal communication between employees.
‘Lack of communication’, non-standardized processes and information systems and not knowing where to get knowledge. Gillingham, H. & Roberts, B. (2006) stated that location and distance (geographical, legal, cultural and lingual) to access of vast organization knowledge can be a bottleneck Informal communication outlook as just chitchat or chatty activity, managers do not see the advantage of (tacit) knowledge process or transfer from one employee to another hence often employees are restricted to engage in discussing projects or ideas at meeting places such as near to water coolers or coffee machines (Webb, S. 1998).
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However ‘organization confusion’ over the focus of the initiative often creates barriers to knowledge management: information or knowledge management; knowledge management or learning organization; which should lead human resources (HR) or information technology (IT). However there is danger in attempting to identify and collect everything available. According to Giannetto, K. & Wheeler, A. (2000) if too much detail is gathered, it is impossible to distinguish what might be of value to employees and it will become a huge unmanageable, bureaucratic nightmare Organizations ‘focus on collection not connection’ and attempt to capture all organization knowledge in repositories, often creating electronic bucket in place of physical filing cabinets also misunderstand the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge and treat it in the same way.
2.8.3 – Technology
The role of technology is significant; it is ultimately a facilitator of human knowledge in the organization. Technology or IS does not hold tacit knowledge, as it is held in the human brain (Rock, S. 1998), although it is transfer medium of tacit into explicit knowledge to some extend because tacit knowledge alters with each new experience and technology should be updated frequently. Armistead, C. & Meakins, M. (2002) affirmed that information technology can enable speedy search, access and retrieval of information, and can support collaboration and communication between organizational members. In real meaning, it can undoubtedly play a variety of roles to support an organization’s knowledge management processes. Technologies and knowledge management are strongly tied, because both assist the circulation of structured knowledge vertically and horizontally in the organization. (Yeh, Y. et al., 2006) argued that technology plays following roles in knowledge management:
– acquiring knowledge;
– classify, store, index, and tie knowledge related digital items;
– search and identify related content; and
– flexibly communicate the content based on the different utilization backgrounds.
Knowledge management classifications are broadly defined technologies which improve and enable knowledge generation, codification and transfer. Peoples experiences and interpretations that add value, transforms into knowledge by using technologies. Knowledge management (technology) tools for instance: e-mail, document systems, groupware, the internet, intranet and video conferencing are all knowledge collaboration tools which can be use for gathering, organizing and sharing knowledge in the organizations (Gillingham, H. & Roberts, B. 2006).
Not everyone is ‘computer literate’ and that sort of illiteracy become a cause which brake knowledge management processes also people finds that working with complex systems is not easy (DuPlessis, M. 2006). Sometimes it is more challenging for the organization to get people trained to using the KM tools (technologies) to facilitate knowledge sharing and retention.
Holland, J. & Johanson, U. 2003) recognized that organization consideration towards ‘technological costs’ sometimes restrain in respect of installing knowledge management software’s and hardware’s. Perhaps both are very expensive in terms of getting licenses for every member in a large organization. Since knowledge is an intangible asset, it is more complex for organization to calculate return on investment in hard form (cash), therefore step back from any initiative; however Collison, C & Parcell, G. (2001) believed that knowledge benefits can be defined in qualitative and quantitative measures. Another barriers occur when technology is not ‘up to date’ with the business processes as well as with the improvements in the technological world then knowledge and information might become rapidly old-fashioned and if maintenance and back-ups is not done regularly, knowledge can be vanished in a catastrophe situation, which is not only costly but also irretrievable.
The advance type of communications for example; ‘intranet’ if organizations only rely on this then it will be a huge barrier to the exchange of tacit knowledge. Davenport, T & Prusak, L. (2000) suggest that knowledge sharing events happen when people connect via communities of practice and in person meetings.
2.8.4 – Culture
Chen, C. & Huang, J. (2007) described organizational culture as shared value, beliefs, and work atmospheres that could have considerable impacts on the behaviors of employees. According to Yeh, Y. et al., (2006) culture is the combination of value, core belief, behavior model, and emblem. Culture is normally reflected in the form of organization’s corporate structure, management and leadership style, learning from experience, norms, and practices, trust, rewards and recognition, networks and community of practices etc (DeLong, DW. & Fahey, L. 2004, Al-Hawamdeh, S. 2003). Culture can play a role for organizational learning and every organization’s culture is an independent entity different than any other organization. Alavi, M. & Leidner, D. (2001) suggested that it is significant to comprehend that knowledge management is not as much of technical problem, but it is more of cultural problem. Culture is not only intangible and illusive, but it can also be observed at multiple levels in an organization.
‘Trust and honesty’ are elements of culture – sometime not clearly visible, Davenport, T. & Prusak, L. (2000) confirmed that without these elements knowledge management would not function properly between individuals. Employees ask many questions themselves for instance; if I share knowledge will others misuse it, can I belief the knowledge that others created (Abell, A. & Oxbrow, N. 2001).
Another familiar barrier point out by Kols, A. (2004) ‘knowledge as a source of power or authority’ and therefore hoarding it, similarly organizations are naturally unwilling to share their skills and know-how with rivals. Employees possibly will not willing to share their knowledge because they might lose control/power, they spotlight on continued existence in the organization rather than willingness to share knowledge (Clegg, S. & Palmer, G. 1996). The following Chinese sayings depicting this philosophy with influences from such widespread beliefs, knowledge sharing becomes more complex.
“A good mastery of a single skill ensures a lifetime employment” – (Lin, L. & Kwok, L. 2006).
Internal divisions are general obstacle. Each department, field office, service delivery site, or project team tends to focus on its own problems, have limited contact with outsiders, and unaware of what other subdivisions are doing. Davenport, T. & Prusak, L. (2000) stated that employee often assumes that the people in top of ‘organizational hierarchy’ have greater knowledge and expertise and this difference amongst individual may be seen as a barrier. Employees on different hierarchical or designations frequently struggle to share knowledge between these levels, as they feel they may have much or more knowledge on a particular subject but not consulted or totally ignored because of their position in organization. Furthermore Webb, S. (1998) revealed that managers often try to avoid consult subordinates because they might ‘fear for losing face’. If skills are greatly diverse within professional areas and/or within ranks, it might obstruct the tools and practice through the knowledge is shared between levels.
Organization consists of multiple ‘genders’ and seeking assistance from same gender whether the person is helpful or not is normal cause and may be a barrier. Bartram, S. (2005) stated that women in managerial position often seen as one of the cultural barrier. Also assorted age makes a differentiation at the point of exchanging knowledge.
Webb S. (1998) believed that employees are unwilling to share knowledge if the future economic growth of ‘organization is unstable’ and they strive to secure their position by retention of tacit knowledge as power. The overall organization instability may spoil social networks and reduce flow of knowledge from one corner to another in an organization (Lesser, E. & Prusak, L. 2001). Management emphasis on individual rather than team, disincentive to knowledge sharing, competition between employees, motivational limitations, lack of acknowledging for the supplier of knowledge, sub-standard physical layout of work space, and fewer management commitments could be a constraint for knowledge sharing environment (Chase, R. 1997).
2.9 – How the barriers of knowledge management can be managed?
Knowledge management is a lengthy and iterative process and its related benefits realized over a period of time. There are no rapid fix solutions to counter these barriers. However to overcome these barriers an organizations require to undertake essential approaches and actions. According to Du Plessis, M. (2008) knowledge management barriers directly line up with organizational, national and personnel culture. Top and senior managements can play a significant role for instance by raising the awareness of knowledge management activities and its benefits into work place (Birkinshaw, J. 2001). At any level of knowledge management it is compulsory to make sure that employees trained on the basis of knowledge management, once the knew the insights of knowledge management they are enough able to see how its adds value into their routine jobs and how organization can create social and intangible capital. However if employees ignore or do not understand the notion of knowledge management then they will not be capable to leverage it completely, even though organizations have elegant knowledge management plans and systems. Flexibilities between departments could span knowledge sharing boundaries. Employees should not reserve by position in a hierarchy and retain by resources.
Davenport, T. & Prusak, L. (2000) stated that the components of knowledge management: people, process and technology must be uniformly supplied in terms of time and money. The most powerful force in knowledge management is people because they can able to change their environment so trust in people is an extraordinary phenomenon in managing people and their knowledge. Milton, N. (nd) described two other ways to manage knowledge called connect and collect, however these terms are vastly similar to the Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. ‘SECI model’ (see section 2.7). The S mean Socialization and it begins through the connecting people into social networks where they can able to talk, to share dialogues with other people where the other three boxes named Externalization, Combination and Internalization is all about revolving tacit knowledge into explicit into tacit knowledge. For example knowledge is documented, recorded into knowledge system or knowledge repository in an organized way thus the others can access it. Organizational culture should abide for mistakes by recognizing and gratifying innovative errors, also there should be no fear of losing position from not knowing the entire thing (Gillingham, H. & Robert, B. 2006). In the view of Barnes, P. (2007), decentralize structure gives opportunities to know where the decisive knowledge is located and able to make more accurate decisions. Incentive and reward systems not only influence members to support knowledge management activities but it also encourage their willingness to take part in the creation and sharing knowledge (Yeh, Y. et al., 2006). Lack of trust alters into culture of trust and confidence get by face to face interactions; it’s not only the way of transferring tacit knowledge between individuals but it allows to evaluating the trustworthiness of both the giver and the receiver. Use of technology in knowledge management stipulates user training and members should have skills available other than technical ones such as interpersonal skills. According to the Abell, A. & Oxbrow, N. (2001) technologies should not be the driver and substitute of social interactions; neither should it be a barrier.
2.10 – Summary
Every organizations is a knowledge based and they possesses particular knowledge in various forms such as in human capital, structure capital, intellectual capital etc. and the issue of knowledge management is essential because organization lives in uncertain world. The above literature has been identified potential barriers to knowledge management which was categorized into organizational culture, people perceptions, ineffective processes and obsolete technologies. There is no cause to believe that those barriers will not impact on knowledge sharing to a more or fewer extent within an organization and between personnel. However the rationale of this study was not to classify an extensive organizational barrier profile but the principle was merely to recognize a set of commonly studied barriers in knowledge management which can be apparent in various means across an organization. When organizations managed and implement knowledge in a logical and structure way it can add value to both the employees and organizations effectiveness. The literature review also fascinated that knowledge management is a social activity or relies on social models, even though sharing of knowledge can be possible from technologies but recipient and sender of knowledge are still humans. Organizational culture, employee’s perceptions and their characteristics, sources of knowledge creation and the context in which knowledge is shared are key consideration in knowledge management.
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