- How do you describe the value of knowledge within your organization, how do you define the term knowledge management / knowledge economy and what types of knowledge does your organization want to manage?
From the Question 7 it was appeared that only 43% of respondent familiar the term knowledge management where the remaining 57% are perplexed and absolutely ignorant. In this research it is not the only difficult to provide every individual visions of knowledge management but sometimes the term itself translates in many ways. One interviewee replied that:
"â€¦â€¦their employees have different skills and experiencesâ€¦â€¦.they are specialized in particular department or field and company wants employee should share their experiences and departmental knowledge not only to perform well but also enough able to do other department jobs when required"
Another interviewee viewed knowledge as information, she believed:
"â€¦â€¦ managing of organizational resources in a way to get right information on right time is knowledge management" her view about the term knowledge is same as 'information' becauseâ€¦â€¦â€¦she said; no one say's; here is the knowledge you want each person says here is the information you want".
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Different perception of knowledge management observed during an interview. Call, D. (2005) stated that the classification of knowledge management transforms from business to business even from person to person. None of the interviewees used exactly the terms 'tacit' and 'explicit' as types of knowledge. Their perceptions of tacit and social aspects of knowledge classified same as information and manage it in a manner similar to information. They only mentioned internal and external knowledge as types of knowledge which they mean was: organizational (GPM) rules book, policies and procedures are the organizational internal knowledge which directs them to perform best and external knowledge is one which comes from outside of the enterprise such as changes in legislation, customization from the customer etc. However the term 'internal knowledge' used by one of the respondent was initially categorized by Polanyi, M. in 1958, and later by Nonaka I. & Takuchi, H. in 1995, as explicit knowledge. These explicit forms of knowledge transfer between GPM's staffs is just know-how not essentially know-why of how the problem occurred and sometimes the task illustrated in a procedures and manuals is different in a reality.
This research was done on Pakistani Company which is still classified as third world country. There are many new business concepts, practices and disciplines emerging now in this country which was not taught and applied before and today's manager are not completely aware of these concept which was adopted by Japanese Companies in early 1990s. However in the case of GPM some knows the notion of knowledge management and it related benefits. One respondent said that:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"GPM is one of the Pakistani innovative company and they are using knowledge of its employee to bring innovative products in markets"
But from the company perspective these flow of knowledge processes neither been promoted between staffs nor it is formalized and embedded in routine jobs. Birkinshaw, J. (2001) stated that organizations can get competitive advantage from its knowledge, the knowledge of its employees which is integrated in structure and processes. Freeze, R. & Kulkarni, U. (2007), believed that the knowledge and the information which is formalized and codified in the form of manuals and procedures are only tacit to explicit in nature. In the case of GPM tacit to tacit or (the concept of socialization) is almost overlooked.
Question - What should be the key components of knowledge management and are they all equally central or they are more or less significant than others?
None of the respondents from the questionnaires disagree that people, process, technology and organizational soft issues culture are not the components of knowledge management but they gave more importance to people and technology rather than culture.
One interviewee declared that:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"people are the engine of organization, they runs organizations"
The interviewee further explained that, we can realize the significance of people when they become a key person in the organization and not available on time for e.g. when corporate seniors left the company or major changing in employees designation etc.
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Two other interviewees expressed that:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"technologies are more important factor than people because the way the technologies boom and the world becomes digital brings a lot differences and thing like communications, transports and many other industries became more faster and accurate than ever before"
They further declared that knowledge management is all about technologies, information management and information systems (IS) because from the company perspective it is lot easier to store any types of file with enormous quantities of information so ultimately user of that information can get it on right time. According to Armistead, C. & Meakins, M. (2002) declared that technological tools are ultimately a facilitator of human knowledge in the organization and Rock, S. (1998) stated that tacit knowledge is held in human brain, not in the technology. Respondents said that the processes of information and flow of knowledge is also dependent on technological systems such as e-mail, internet, intranet etc. are swift and reliable. The interviewee put in plain words that the technologies and system they employed in GPM are constantly maintain and updated in an order to facilitate employees in sharing knowledge. Only one interviewee brings culture in the discussion and his thought that:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"organizational culture is also important for people because we live in that context"
Respondent added that culture is the standard and style of doing businesses which tells us what is acceptable and what is not, management style, strategies and corporate structure are not only the part of culture but it also have an effect on each employee differently. According to Clarke, T. (2001) people should closely aligned to corporate culture.
Almost all interviewees emphasized on technologies greater than the people and culture, they strongly believed that knowledge and information shared between people through the technologies and the technologies rooted in information system are the key enabler of transferring knowledge more quicker and faster, According to respondents technologies is basically connecting people regardless of wherever they are and culture is simply allowed us that how the things should move whether it is people and information. However Alavi, M. & Leidner, D. (2001) suggested that knowledge management is not as much of technical problem, but it is more cultural problem.
Question - How do you view the statement 'time is money' and why it is so important? How is it possible to give enough time to employees for sharing knowledge?
Mostly respondents believed that lack of time is barrier in sharing ideas and knowledge and from the Questionnaires it was confirmed that the majority of respondents acknowledged that it is not a simple to do other person's jobs, these sort of views amongst respondents suggested that they have enough jobs to do on time and if someone else work allocated to them then due to the time pressure their main focus is just to complete the task no matter what they are learning and getting knowledge from it. The interviewee said that:
â€¦â€¦there are 20 -22 people are working under him and he do not have enough time to interact one to one with staffsâ€¦â€¦.he further said that the constrain of time in GPM is not only the case but he thinks that other industries and workforce have limited time to do the things".
According to Drucker, P. (2001) time is scarce resource for managers; if it is not managed then nothing else can be managed. Interviewee elucidated that when they enter into building it's a time for action (doing task) and as a business people or professional there are always less time for reflection and interaction informally. Respondent also bring an interesting dot is; standard working hours which is not only unusual in the company but they does excessive hours than obligatory. As Bartlett, C. & Ghoshal, S. (2002) declared that lack of time might hamper the learning of individual staffs and more likely they do mistakes. However all the respondents agreed in Question 16 that department learns from the mistakes made by other staffs. Few respondents answered to open-ended Question in which they were asked what three things can improve knowledge management practice in GPM and there responses were:
"Give enough time to share work related issues and discuss about job improvements. Employees should be respected at all level regardless of their mistakes. Working hours must be standardized because often late sittings dishearten them to share knowledge as well as give dissatisfaction on job"
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Data collected from the open ended questions in questionnaire were also helped researcher to ask cross-questions to the interviewee. The interviewer asked about standard working time in GPM and interviewee replied that:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"sometimes people like to start their job late and finish late but they complete their task, however we have rules and regulation for standard working hours but at the same time there is a huge gap between these policies and implementations"
She further make clear that this is the way they do their jobs and it is a norm of corporate culture, she also accepted that staff occasionally does longer and late shifts. GPM operating their business in a more stable environment in terms of fewer nuisances from external economical pressure except the overall national political instability but internal element such as time pressure and late sittings offered by respondents viewed as obstruction of sharing knowledge.
Constrain of time also replicated in Question 6, where only 20% respondents received comprehensively company guide and policies and 40% respondents received gradual training. However 73% respondents got the brief introduction of job and 67% respondents introduced formally within the organization at the time when they joined the company. Ultimately due to the lack of time GPM hinder the sharing of new and updated knowledge from the workers by not providing entire policies and ongoing training which end up in the barrier form.
Question - How important it is to trust on other member of staffs in knowledge and information sharing?
More than half of the respondents realized trust on people is a barrier in knowledge sharing. One interviewee believed that: remarkable
â€¦..."trust in people, offer remarkable and continuous development"
He further explored that people are the most powerful force and they should trust on other colleagues to whom they work with, though to measure trust is not easy. However the above literature stated that trust can be measure by connecting people (face to face interaction). It is also the way of transferring tacit knowledge. According to Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995), socialization begins through linking people into social networks where they can able to talk, to share dialogues with other people. Another interviewee thought:
â€¦â€¦."they trust on employees but due to the confidentiality matter they do not share all the information with staffs until the right time comes"
None of the interviewees openly mentioned that they do not trust on employees. However greater part of respondent are working with GPM more than three years which is sensibly enough time to well-built relationship and trust between each other but that was not the case in GPM and trust as barrier appeared from the questionnaire in knowledge sharing. According to Abell, A. & Oxbrow, N. (2001) people ask many questions themselves for instance; if I share knowledge will others misuse it, can I belief the knowledge that others created etc.
Question - What is the overall culture of staffing and what efforts were undertaken or undertaking in your organization to retain employee's knowledge when they are transferring or leaving the company?
Organizational culture and norms of businesses are rooted in every operations of the company. As the research is about 'barriers to knowledge management' and some of the culture issues such as trust, communication styles etc. discussed in relevant sections.
The respondent replied to the question that: they hire people same as other organizations does like, first we defined job description and very specific job specifications for candidates and then new person hired on his/her particular talents and experiences which best fit with the role defined for the jobs. The interviewer asked question from her response that: Is it possible to modify job description? and her reply was;
â€¦â€¦â€¦"it is not possible and it's rarely happen in GPM that we modify job description on the basis of employee's competencies".
The particular interviewee discussed lot about recruiting procedures, during conversation she hit an interesting point of exit interviews which is taking from exiting employees. She believed that:
â€¦....."it is important for us to take short interview for those who are leaving the company, these interviews are very informal and employees feel confident and fearless to discuss about any drawback or weaknesses they faced on the job and then their views are considered to improve working practice through we can retaining valuable employees"
Interviewees also acknowledged that they can realize the significance of key employees when they are not available on time or left the company, they said it is more disaster for the company when corporate senior's left and join to competitors. According to Jaw, B.S. & Liu, W. (2003) when employee depart from the organization, they took key organizational and personal knowledge with them which is benefited for those who hired them.
Question - How do you translate GPM structure and working pattern?
From the Question 18, 53% respondents seen current organizational structure is problematic for them with respect to creating and sharing knowledge. Throughout the interviews and from the Question 17, 62% respondents stated that direct supervision from line managers and follow the formal procedures are the norms of GPM culture. The company has small hierarchy at operational level such as Branch manager, Head of the departments (line managers) and supervisors but the way they organized and their patterns of work highlighted a bureaucratic structure. One interviewee said:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"he is working with the company more than 4 years and the overall structure is same as it was before when he started, it is a rigid structure with clearly separated workforce on departmental levels".
It was also apparent from the interviews that employees are hired and placed into the well structured departments where they are controlled by managers rather than give up control. But from the views of Armistead, C. & Meakins, M. (2002) organizations have to realize that networks are more important than the hierarchies and networks should be promoted rather than it grows independently. The interviewee brought another interesting point that:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"some employees have great knowledge and experience but they force down their expert know-how to other fellow members"
Here the respondents cleared that he is talking about the most senior and experience staffs, he said sometimes showing off specialty to others indirectly break the process of learning between expert and non-expert and then staffs make errors that sometimes costly. Respondents agreed in Question 16 past experiences and mistakes from one member of staff become a lesson for another which facilitates to execute future tasks. Same as Johannessen, J. (2003) suggested that tolerance for mistakes in a constructive way give chance to learn again in right manner.
Question - What knowledge management tools the company have in sharing knowledge and information? Apart from these tools how formally or informally employees are interacting in organization or what are the social activities in you organization where people involve or link with each other?
The company has developed internal intranet and e-mail system often they called information systems (IS) and from that system staffs can dig out information quicker and faster but in reality it is more one way lane. In response to Question 9 respondents are extremely admitted that the E-mail, Internet, Intranet and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) are the most effective tools in knowledge sharing in GPM. One interviewee said that:
â€¦â€¦.."as the company selling innovative and technological products same as our channels of communication are more modernized which is not only efficient but also supporting to this type of organization"
Varieties of views have been collected in Question 17 where the most of respondents stated that they are updating about their jobs and departments via the formal memos, letters and straight communication from line managers. A small number of respondents have little informal contacts within the organization.
The interviewee said that they occasionally release online news bulletin for employees and the purpose of this online bulletin is to inform briefly about company's performance and what they achieved etc. changes in management structure, review of last meeting, new rules and procedure are also the parts of bulletin. This advanced types of communication system the company currently hold is basically 'push' knowledge and information downward. Documents are scanned and distributed via e-mails to the staffs reminded the concept of (Combination) Explicit to Explicit knowledge (Nonaka & Takeuchi SECI model). The combination process is a systemize process in which explicit knowledge merge with written repots, images or other strategic documents etc. Technology and information system such as intranet may be the barrier to exchange of tacit knowledge but from the visions of interviewees, they did not realized yet and claimed it their major strength. Although electronic communications is transfer medium of tacit into explicit knowledge to some extend but not supporting of sharing 'tacit to tacit' knowledge at all. Another interviewee revealed that
â€¦â€¦â€¦"they have quarterly meetings with member of staff in which they discuss their departmental issues and progressâ€¦â€¦ and employee's views and opinions collected and reviewed".
This time frame or the frequency of meetings pointed out by interviewee is highly look like as formal meetings. According to Sarkisyan, A. & Marinova, N. (2003) often the formal meetings entail too many people and these meetings wrap with fixed business agendas to discuss on limited time. It is not always necessary that the only formal meetings develop knowledge transfer between workers. If management does not take any initiative other than the formal meetings then the chances are higher to dependent on existing explicit knowledge which needs to be replaced in time of change. In Question 21, majority of respondents agreed that knowledge should be replaced which obviously means that it is not possible to do the old things in an old ways.
Even though having all of the formal procedures and meetings in GPM, the interviewee said they celebrate occasionally social and religious festival, he said they organized internal gradual training program which is more informal and two way communication process. According to the interviewees they have friendly working environment where people help each other to solve any queries, other than that they have internal lunch room but due to time pressure they hardly go for lunch together. He further explained that:
â€¦â€¦.."The centralized information management systems are good enough butâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦ even the procedures and manuals were printed clearly in hard and electronic format employees still ask question such as how I can find this and how do I do this etc?"
This particular view illustrated that staffs wants to communicate directly or informally to the people rather than looking solution in those formal procedures and manuals. Even in Question 19 respondents expressed that they interact with colleagues and call experts to solve problems. The overall knowledge content the company hold is sufficient and recognized as major assist for performing routine jobs and at the sometime company has narrow views of knowledge management which mostly dependent on formal communication. In GPM there is a gap of sharing personal knowledge which often arises through loose structure, however at present the standard knowledge documents (content management) is well set up. Focus to be made on how these contents understand by diverse employees and then share with other member of staff (explicit to tacit to tacit).
Question - Do you think that current economic situation can have an effect on sharing personal knowledge with others?
In Question 15, the way the researcher asked question is to know indirectly either the respondents believes knowledge as a power and authority or not. Most of respondents agree that 'current economic situation is negatively influencing on sharing knowledge'. Interviewee responded this question in a funny way, he said:
â€¦â€¦"we did not let off yet any employees in current economic situation, he further saidâ€¦â€¦â€¦.key people in the organization hold extraordinary knowledge but not share until and unless someone asks and wants to know what is that"
It is clear from the interviewee point of view that knowledge is share only on 'need to know bases'. Respondent also stressed that the staffs who have extra talent, shared to his or her department only not to the entire organization, however its affect to the organization. According to the interviewees having knowledge is one thing and putting that knowledge to attain some benefits is something else he said not only knowledge is power but conflict of interest and competitions between departments and employees makes a major difference in knowledge management. It is also the possibility that ideas share on departmental level may adopted by managers and well modify it then forwarded as its own ideas to get credit. One interviewee quotes an example of martial art, he said:
â€¦â€¦â€¦"even the trainer of martial art hide and keep at least one of his strength and techniques from their trainee to maintain differentiation as a result no one can beat and take his position"
This particular respondent confidently talking about knowledge is power and the way he quotes an example during conversation is made apparent that knowledge is seen as power and a natural aversion to knowledge sharing in GPM. However Collison, C. & Parcell, G. (2004) suggested that, the more information or knowledge you give, the more powerful you become.
Question - How do you use knowledge of the company for developing products? And what benefits can obtain from initiating and implementing knowledge management?
The interviewees responded that company are developing new and fresh products (chip & pin devices, latest software etc.) which is becoming popular and reliable for the markets and they are looking more business in near future. Interviewee further said that they have inbuilt team who look after the overall development of the products; the team includes senior technicians, software developers and market researchers or analysts, these people are basically bringing new features and advancement in the products they sell.
The interviewees brought an interesting point during conversation and from that interviewer form an additional question which was not in the list. The researcher asked them; is it the knowledge and expertise of people you sell as a product? And after a small pause interviewee replied that:
â€¦â€¦â€¦ "yes sort of, but it is not an individual efforts because products develop at multiple stages and group of people behind this"
He said that not only individual and company's knowledge is enough to developing products but sometimes we look at what market and customer demands and what is our competitors doing. The above literature also made attention that competitive advantage can be achieved by managing organizational unique know-how which their competitors do not know how to manage and employ.
Those respondents who knew about the application of knowledge management at an organizational level answered that; improve productivity, innovative ideas and intellectual capital can be gain by using and managing organizational knowledge. The interviewee acknowledged that:
â€¦â€¦.."at an functional level employees do not think about what they are doing they just do it as regular job. he said: â€¦â€¦. no matter what knowledge repositories (database) we have but if an employee does not want to learn new things and not willing to become a part of it then it is difficult to realized major benefits"
In the views of respondent, knowledge is always around people, it is important for employees to know and learn about themselves and organization. If the staff doing their jobs as an account, technician or software developer etc. then you are limited to your professionals interviewees believed that customer relationship, brand value, organizational reputation and networks of supply and distributions can be improve if they know how to collaborate all of these professionals and get overall organizational goal.
Question - How does your organization get people to share idea? How the reward systems encourage employees and get willingness to share their personal and private knowledge?
From the Question 14 it was apparent that not only financial rewards but job security and recognition from manager are the other forms of rewards respondents want to see in GPM. Whereas Davenport, T. & Prusak, L. (2000) stated that knowledge shares should receive tangible rewards of financial benefit.
According to the respondents they do not have remuneration systems particularly in relations to knowledge sharing, the one reason they gave that:
â€¦â€¦."there are no realistic ways to measure such activities"
One respondent wrote in open end question that the company should give rewards like employee of the month. However, according to Gillingham, H. & Robert, B. (2006) the needs for rewards is a people issue whereas the mechanism for confer rewards is an organizational issue. Two Interviewees acknowledged that hey are running overall rewards systems such as award for excellence where manager acknowledge employees on behalf of the company. Whereas one interviewee expressed that; employee are being paid fair enough on the basis of their skills, knowledge and experiences and it is obligatory for each employee to apply their expertise in good faith for the benefit of organization and what does actually reward mean to her was
â€¦â€¦.."when you do something extraordinary and unexpected, then you deserve the reward"