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Following report highlights the most critical phase in Knowledge Management, which is 'Knowledge Audit'. The report begins with the introduction of the case study of an organization (Revision), chosen for Knowledge Audit, stating its background, scope and purpose. With the help of Knowledge Audit, a company can figure out its strengths and weaknesses. It is done either internally in an organization (employees and staff) or by using external sources (industry experts or trade associations). The collective purpose of the organization is to understand long-term needs, as well as the current and future demands of the company. Organizational culture and values are important for their overall development. In order to have a creative Knowledge Environment it is essential to have an effective Knowledge Management. The report also discusses the view of several scholars on how a good knowledge management is essential to obtain thorough Knowledge Audit. The behaviors and ideas generated by the individuals have a significant impact on work activities. In an organization knowledge workers and knowledge leaders play a significant role. Growth in technology, knowledge needs and gaps helps an organization understand what is lacking and how it can be achieved. The report concludes by reviewing and understanding knowledge toolkit and giving recommendations.
The Knowledge Audit
This case study is an effort made by the author Liebowitz, et al (2000) in understanding the exceptional and notable value of knowledge management and all the aspects related with it. Knowledge audit is considered as the most critical step which requires valuable and skillful judgement. Knowledge audit is an unbiased evaluation done either internally or externally by an organization, with the contribution made by employees or outside firm respectively. Capturing tacit knowledge, understanding and acquiring qualitative and quantitative characteristics finally becomes a part of the knowledge repository. In this case study; 'Revision', does multiple task of providing clinical services to people, social skill development for adults and job placement services. The audit was done amongst the employers and the staff of the company each had their own preferences. The senior management focused on market surveys, government policies, and staff levied their focus on issues like health, training and most importantly they wanted a common portal where all information can be made available. Several recommendations were offered to 'Revision' which would help them in mapping and sharing their knowledge.
3.2 Scope of the report
The following case study discusses about the relevance of conducting knowledge audit in an organization. It helps in identifying strengths and weaknesses of an organization. In case of 'Revision' the knowledge audit instruments were used to enhance their job performance. Interviews were conducted and on the basis of it, several recommendations were provided like creating a knowledge base where tacit knowledge of senior employees or management can be stored for further reference. Providing better training to the staff or to develop their skills by assessing what skills the employees have and what areas they need to work on. Establishing communities of practice where people with similar interest can get together and share their knowledge. Creating corporate portal where information on various subjects related with the company can be accessed easily.
3.3 Aim or Purpose of the Report
The purpose of this report is to identify, how conducting knowledge audit, helps in improving the skills of a company, whether in retaining their loyal customers or their internal staff. The main idea behind conducting surveys, internally or externally was to gather information or knowledge then preserving it in a common portal which can be easily accessed. To identify the best strategy applied in knowledge management for an organization.
4. Current Knowledge Position of 'Revision'
4.1 Purpose of the organization
The 'Revision' is a small behavior health care organization, which conducted a knowledge audit survey. The response it got was from a very small portion of employees. The senior management and the staff had their own focuses and areas of concerns. Together, they plan long-term needs for an organization, by understanding the current and future demands of the company. Debowski (2006) mentions that a company decides on its priorities and forms a strategy where all employees can work together to achieve same goal. The important tool in achieving strategic management is to understand the values and culture of an organization, which further emphasis on how people interact and work with each other. According to Yang (2010) corporate culture is essential for any organization to follow and understand. It encompasses ideas, methods, group consciousness, behaviors and values which are widely accepted in an organization. It is the basis of development and survival of most of the details of the enterprise's value.
4.2 The knowledge environment in which the organization exists - external context
Many scholars suggest that the capacity of a firm in assimilating and absorbing, new knowledge plays a key role in the process of mutual working of the organization. Bhatt (2001) suggests that, it is important to balance the knowledge management activities and its techniques, technologies and its people. In the knowledge audit survey, the management analyzed two most important factors; a) what knowledge currently exists and b) what is missing. Due to lack of technical skills within the company, maintaining a proper knowledge repository was difficult. In order to achieve competitive edge and competitive advantage, it was important to be aware of the government policies as well. Debowski (2006) stated that the behaviors and ideas generated by the individual's leaves a significant impact on their work activities and responses. Encouragement from the management provides better support to the organization. According to Abdulla (2005), managing knowledge helps in attaining competitive advantage and improves organizational responsiveness efficiency and innovation. It also provide global support environment. According to Hemlin (2009) effective knowledge management is essential for creating knowledge environment. The group leader encourages all team members to participate in generating new ideas to achieve creative output. Environments influence the creative ideas or activities of the groups conducting researches.
4.3 The organizational structure including the internal knowledge culture
Debowski (2006) defined organizational structure as the framework of policies and rules, which organizations need to follow. Organizational structure arranges the lines of authority, communication and assigns rights and duties. It decides on how to control and coordinate the flow of information within the organization. It further determines the manner in which the roles and power is allocated. "Organization culture is the collective perception, beliefs and values of employees in a workplace", (Debowski, 2006) the analysis and results of the Knowledge Audit survey done by 'Revision' got a very limited response from within the company. However Knowledge Audit helped them in identifying what knowledge is missing and what can be done to fulfill this gap. Interviews were conducted with the president and subject expertise believing that they have tacit knowledge which can be very beneficial especially in matters related with politicians, lobbyists, making deals and so on.
4.4 Knowledge workers
According to Debowski (2006) the knowledge workers is employed because of his/ her knowledge on the subject matter, they produce information, ideas rather than goods and services. To employ talented people is not an easy task and retaining them is even more difficult. They are specifically employed to work on projects where outcome is difficult to measure or define. Their intellectual capital works as an asset in a competitive knowledge economy. A knowledge worker appreciates the opportunity to develop further. As in case of 'Revision' the other members of senior management were considered as the external source of providing information necessary for their jobs. According to Nandi (2008) talented knowledge workers are the most important asset for an organization. There are generally three types of candidates appear to offer their services in management; 1) fresh graduates, 2) experienced industrial experts and 3) people disappointed with current job and are looking for better work environment.
4.5 Knowledge Leaders
Debowski (2006) states that knowledge management requires a very strong and effective leadership. They help in developing effective knowledge community by providing vision, energy and enthusiasm to the organization. A knowledge leader must understand complex situations. They need to explain the goals of knowledge management so that people can identify their respective roles and work in order to achieve them. Knowledge leader must have a good understanding of people, processes and business principles. According to Hemlin (2009) knowledge leader must be a good communicator so that he/she has the perfect knowledge of organization practices, progress, and solutions for every rumour. Knowledge leaders need to build strong bond with its people. They should encourage others to develop more skills. Debowski (2006) states that a knowledge leader plays a significant role in organizational culture, systems, structure, support and capability. Collaboration is a technique which can help in accessing new knowledge. Bordean (2010) an intelligent knowledge leader can effectively understand how to manage knowledge, people, resources which can help in difficult times. The rapid change in technology and information systems which leads to globalization; it is very important to find its core competencies ad develop strategies; manage financial performance to extract best results from the organization.
4.6 Technology - For Networking, Sharing knowledge, Knowledge Management Systems (KMS), etc.
Knowledge Management Systems provides technical support to capture and disseminate knowledge across different organizations. According to Debowski (2006) technologies support knowledge management in four basic areas; 1) Business process management; it helps in achieving interaction with various firms, 2) Content management; enabling user to easily extract intellectual knowledge; 3) Web content management; provides a web site or portal framework where all the information is available and also build s user interactive channel, 4) knowledge applications management; provides software which helps people create their knowledge, like spreadsheets, presentations, etc. However, the new and immature software sometimes adopted by companies can be very disappointing which can even affect productivity. New and smarter tools are invented each year. It is the responsibility of the organization to replenish their systems as technology and user expectations are always changing. As for 'Revisions' the staff wanted to access information but did not knew where to go. They management thought that it will be beneficial if they give extra computer training to their staff. According to Rusli and Talib (2010) KMS helps in building shared vision because of similar codification; misunderstanding in communication between the staff can be reduced. By learning from previous experience from agents or communities a knowledge technology framework can be developed. Each member has partial information, which is necessary to other member in the group. The software system allows such information to be stored and shared.
4.7 Knowledge resources and knowledge-sharing practices
"Knowledge sharing is the process of providing one's knowledge to others as well as to receive knowledge from others." (Bechina and Bommen, 2006). Delong (2004), discussed in his book that infrastructure, policies and practices are important for supporting long term retention needs, however it is the responsibility of the firms to employ knowledge sharing practices which can be encapsulated in day - to - day working environment. Initially it is essential to recognize the knowledge inventory of an organization. The various techniques used for tapping the strengths and weaknesses are by holding interviews, videotaping, training, storytelling, mentoring, Communities of Practices. Hoe, et al (2007) viewed knowledge sharing as a process of creating a common stock of knowledge within an organization, this knowledge can be tacit; which can be extracted through direct or indirect interactions. According to Bechina and Bommen (2006) the businesses today are facing challenges forced on them with the inventions in new technology, product lifecycle, and high market mortality. Therefore a strong knowledge sharing system is required. Knowledge sharing process is vital for a successful knowledge management in organization. Knowledge workers are more willing to participate in knowledge management activities if proper recognition or financial rewards are given. Communities of Practices allow transfer of tacit knowledge for adequate usage, to support the codification, storage and even retrieval of knowledge.
4.8 Knowledge Needs
Gordan and Grant (2005) believes that with an effective use of knowledge it is easy to attain insight into breakthrough processes which information management alone could not supply. Knowledge needs focuses on what company actually requires and what methods it will adapt to achieve it. Knowledge is the basis for competition. Debowski (2006) suggests that knowledge Management is a continuous change process because it influences how people think, behave, interact and focus on their work. The change should reflect the company's requirements, clarify its specifications, and encourage collaboration and communication, individual thoughts should also be considered at all stage of development. Knowledge Management helps in reviewing how things are done differently across various processes. It provides with an opportunity to for thinking creatively and differently to enhance practices and outcomes. Pre-existing systems can increase the complexity of development process. However the new system should clearly contribute to the corporate strategy. The budget restrains must also be considered. 'Revision' wanted to conduct knowledge audit survey again but due to financial constrain the company did not consider this plan. According to Pan, et al. (2007) knowledge management is a vital resource for company's competitiveness. The tacit knowledge needs to be made explicit so that it can be stored or transferred to other individuals.
4.9 Knowledge Gaps
Knowledge gap means what is lacking in the organization. 'Revision' had many problems faced by the staff in a way that they could not access information easily. They did not know where to look for the relevant information. It involved compliance with federal and local laws, standard and regulations. More training was require by the staff. Communication also needed improvement on physical and procedural factors. According to Hoe et al (2007) knowledge may be hidden in a complete different location or in unexpected category. This centralization of knowledge can reduce the speed and effectiveness with which knowledge repository is build. Sometimes people spend their precious time looking for someone who can give them the kind of information they require. Debowski (2006) describes knowledge gap as the identification of what is known to the company and what needs to be known. The specialized knowledge held by the workers is tapped for future creation of knowledge. On the basis of these guidelines the organization develops new knowledge which is used in applications which can be shared. However, it is the responsibility of the management to check that the knowledge is always reviewed and updated. In this way the gaps in the knowledge can be reduced and better results can be achieved.
Knowledge Gap Analysis
Source taken from http://web.cba.neu.edu/~mzack/articles/kstrat/ksfig3.jpg accessed May 9, 2010.
5. Understanding Knowledge Culture
Knowledge Culture plays an imperative role in establishing good knowledge management. The reason I choose this topic is that it is an important aspect in KM that is discussed throughout the book. If I happen to meet any staff member from the case study organization I would like to know;
Q1: What is the significance of corporate culture in developing strategic knowledge management?
A1: As we know that it is very important for a knowledge leader to have all those qualities which can prove him /her as a strong and focused person who can encourage people to participate in supporting the organization. Every organization has its own style of working. The manner in which people behave, communicate or emote influence people around them. Had the knowledge leaders of the case study organization developed good values and corporate culture within the organization, then a large number of employees could have taken part in the knowledge auditing and would have been more interactive.
Q2: How does collaborative knowledge cultures contribute in achieving competitive advantage?
A2: For an organization to operate successfully it is essential that the employees must be informed about the daily report of the company and their views or innovative ideas should be appreciated. A regular communication must be held across all levels of the organization, so that employees know whom to approach in case they need some information. This factor is a huge problem with the staff of 'Revision' because they did not know where to look for the information and wasted their productive time searching for relevant source.
Q3: In this organization, what are the knowledge culture enablers? How do they contribute to the effectiveness of the organization?
A3: Knowledge culture enablers operate at each level of the organization, they help in building a strong base for the development of knowledge community. It enables people to collaborate with each other and share their knowledge; encouragement in terms of communication is more effective for overall performance of the organization. The opportunity to show their skills along with other members of the organization also encourages knowledge culture. However, the management in the case study did not consider conducting survey with the entire strength of the company. The survey conducted in limited number of people cannot show apt results.
Q4: What is the role of communication in implementing knowledge culture?
A4: Communication is vital because it keeps people informed about the existing values and expectations. Communication channels such as portals, forum or company's websites, meetings, etc. allows users to give their feedback on cultural and specific issues. But in the case study organization the managers are concerned about the issues they think are important and pay less attention to what is demanded by the staff working under them. Without proper communication it will be difficult to even tap tacit knowledge of an employee.
Q5: Had you been made knowledge leader, what qualities would you inculcate in yourself to build an effective knowledge community?
A5: This is very important to know what it requires to become a good leader and to sustain a level of trust amongst people working for that organization. Beside, having good knowledge about the business process, policies or strategies, it is important to understand the people. By working collaboratively, by encouraging them or honoring them with recognition it becomes easy to establish a strong knowledge community which can further help in sharing knowledge at all levels in the organization.
6. Knowledge audit Tools
In order to attain knowledge from people, managers across the organizations use knowledge audit tools. To begin with it is important to understand what knowledge a company had and what it needs to acquire. The gap between these two factors must be filled using relevant sources for information. The first tool identified is storytelling, which enables the users to share knowledge. These stories are based on the real scenarios, the company is facing which can be quickly, naturally, clearly, truthfully and collaboratively told to a number of people. Liebowitz et al. (2000) also suggested storytelling as the most significant tool. Moreover the knowledge leader needs to have certain qualities to adapt strategies which influence the organization in a positive manner. They need to understand the systems, culture, structure and capabilities. Forming Wiki system is also used widely as the system to collect knowledge, ideas, and tasks in certain areas. It helps in exchanging brainstorming ideas which are collectively very useful. People get the opportunity to assess themselves and then compare and discuss with the group.
Every firm is entitled to know its strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and plan their strategy base on the outcome. The internal attribute of a company or a firm as well as the external conditions which are helpful in achieving those goals are overall helpful whereas, weaknesses internally or threats from external conditions act harmful. Intangible assets monitor examines the values, experiences, social skills, educational background of an employee, how organization is regarded outside, brand names, and relationship with customers, company's database, processes, and models. It emphasizes that people are the true agents in business and rest of the aspects like internal or external structure are entrenched in it. 'Revision' provides services to people with different needs, therefore they need to be updated with the latest trend and give chance to their customers to give feedback on the quality of services and how it can be improved further. Liebowitz et al. (2000) laid great emphasis on taxonomies with mapping people, documents, opinions and ideas and link external resources in a manner which is comfortable with users seeking information. Using conceptual maps as a way of representing, visualizing and communicating is an effective only to a limited extent because it is difficult to design and later modify and maintain. Interviewing seniors, conducting surveys and distributing questionnairs are a part of auditing. Knowledge Audits, Social network analysis, outcome mapping, virtual teams and face to face, stories, knowledge capture and storage, taxonomies, interviews these are all tools which are useful in creating and sharing knowledge. It is important to understand the real advantage of using knowledge tools in capturing tacit or hidden knowledge which can be imparted to others without any problem.
There are few recommendations based on the details provided in the current knowledge position of the company. These recommendations are suggested after making a thorough analysis of the knowledge management of the case study organization.
Communication: Proper communication channels should be formed so that the employee seeking information knows whom to approach and how to approach. Sometimes information is available online and sometime it is the tacit knowledge that is more useful. People use range of strategies to communicate effectively within and across organizations. Besides holding meetings, seminars, conferences; Company's also adapt a wide range of technological channels such as, emails, tele and web conferencing, messengers, etc. This will lot of value productive time of the organization as a whole.
Corporate portal: It's very important for an organization to build its own portal where not just the senior managers but also staff members working at lower levels can login and access information they require. It will enable users to get updated information on the daily basis. The intranet would help user to access information which is available outside. It will also allow customers who can access it, give their highly valued feedback, which further acts as a motivational factor for the company to grow and mould to change if required. The stakeholders can get the report of the company's market position.
Training Staff Members: If any change occurs in a company it is essential for the management to inform its employees and give them training on that subject. For example when there is a new invention in laptops, the company needs to train its employees so that they can understand and troubleshoot the system if required.
Organizational Knowledge: 'Revision' needs to impose and maintain strong and effective organizational knowledge. The workplaces have a vital impact on people's performance. The principles, policies and values must be clearly stated to all employees. People work in teams or form groups to work on a particular project, there is a need to educate the staff with the work processes of the organization so that the employees know what is expected out of them.
Recognition and Rewards: Most of the staff members working in 'Revision' are social workers. They are generally people with high qualification. Sometimes if they are not paid in accordance to their profile, it can result in attrition. This can prove as a loss to the company because their tacit knowledge will go away with them when they leave the job. If properly rewarded with cash or kind or given their share of recognition, things might have a different look.
To conclude the entire report there are several factors which supports the importance of having knowledge audit done either within or outside the organization. As the report progresses it highlights the current knowledge position of the case study company. Being a small behavioral health care organization its main purpose is to serve the people and help them in multiple ways. With the help of knowledge audit it realizes the positive aspects of the company; also it recognizes the areas which need improvement. Competitive advantage helps in inventing new products and services for a company. Every organization has its own behavior, culture, policies, strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Though it is the duty of the top management of the company to build awareness about all these features to its employees, however it is employee's responsibility as well to share its knowledge with the organization and contribute towards its progress. The knowledge workers and knowledge leaders play an important role in the development of the organization. Knowledge leader must have all those qualities in him to sustain his position and be able to create enthusiasm amongst its people to work with more zest and zeal.
By giving proper recognition to the deserving candidates the company not only retains those employees but is also able to extract the tacit knowledge these people have after gaining experience in a particular field. With the introduction of corporate portal the company helps its staff to save on their time and reduce frustration for looking for the information. Therefore by understanding what potential a company has and what gaps are there to be filled, it will become easy for a company or an organization to work in those areas and build a strong loyalty with not just within the employees working for that organization but also with its customer, stakeholder and in global market scenario.