In search of knowledge management : pursuing primary principles

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In Search of Knowledge Management: Pursuing Primary Principles

To create a culture based on the core values and achieve performance goals, senior leadership decided to have HR play a more strategic partnership role in [ 23 ]. The mandate for HR was to. Promote diversity and the core of talent management [ 24 ]. Align HR process with the business via rewards and recognition, goal setting, and team design. Warehouse HR and customer information for data analytics to drive intelligent decision making [ 26 ].

Early success with the Praxair program was reflected by the inclusion of the company as the focus of one of 17 chapters in Carter et al. The programs for HRD have continuously evolved at Praxair as exemplified by the following sample of topics. Based on clear communications around corporate vision, goals, and mission, Praxair gives enough autonomy to all business units to run their own business. Praxair encourages employees to be creative thinkers, to accept and explore different or new perspectives to solve problems, and to expand conceptual frameworks. The social support of learning emerges from mentoring relationships.

Mentoring of women and by women leaders represents an important part of that emphasis. Praxair formally trains technical personnel in mentoring skills to accelerate the sharing of both technical and soft skills knowledge. The rapid development of new hires in both hard and soft skills prepares them for filling the gap created by retiring senior employees through mentoring relationships. The most knowledgeable employees in each work group earn the title of subject matter expert SME or corporate fellow [ 28 ]. Furthermore, Praxair puts a great emphasis on leadership development, not only for current leaders but also for the next generation of leaders.

Each employee is mandated to contribute to productivity goals that are measured in hard dollars. A sense of urgency is created to emphasize personal accountability balanced with the skills for teamwork. Furthermore, the company, especially the global engineering business unit, runs communities of practice CoP for knowledge creation and dissemination. Viewing of the videos increased exponentially because of leadership support. Requiring every community of practice to participate with one or more questions per month increased participation and value [ 31 ].

Innovation involves the ideas and efforts of organizational employees.

Organizational learning

As their knowledge, empowerment, and engagement grow, so does innovation capability. Praxair has made a number of deliberate changes over recent years to build that capability. Headquartered in Paris, France, Air Liquide was founded in by a group of French scientists and engineers seeking to develop and commercialize a new process for air liquefaction thus leading to the name of the company. Air Liquide leverages employee development programs, such as technical career pathing, mentoring, and high potential programs, along with more traditional KM approaches such as communities of practice, to facilitate knowledge sharing, transfer technical knowledge, and foster a culture of innovation throughout the organization.

From a developmental standpoint, human resources has established a Technical Career Leaders TCL dual career ladder, created in , that serves to identify, develop, recognize, reward, and retain key technical expertise within the organization as well as facilitate the transfer of their knowledge. The TCL program includes six levels: two local levels and four international levels.

The program offers structured, yet flexible, career tracks where technical talent has the option to develop and progress in their careers within either the technical or the managerial path, and the flexibility to move between career tracks during their careers. Each track includes mentoring, training, networking, and other developmental opportunities for participating employees.

TCL is a worldwide program covering all Air Liquide business lines. As of June , there were approximately experts representing 67 nationalities participating in the TCL. Technical areas encompassed in the TCL program include electronics, engineering and technology, healthcare, industrial merchant cylinder, bulk, and onsite; and applications and services , large industries, and research and development, and each of these areas has its own domain of expertise.

Employees are selected to participate in the TCL program based on criteria such as their participation in knowledge transfer activities, their leadership and influence abilities, and their capacity to communicate and deliver on their technical vision and innovative ideas. An analysis of this technical population revealed that there was insufficient pipeline to fill anticipated gaps in technical roles due to attrition of technical experts. From a knowledge management perspective, Air Liquide has established technical communities of practice CoPs at a worldwide level, the business line level, as well as at the more regional hub level.

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For example, as of June , the company has 7 worldwide technical CoPs established and 10 technical CoPs within the large industries business line in Europe. The intent of the technical worldwide CoPs is to set standards, establish technical vision, and identify technical best practices. The hub CoPs, in turn, focus on implementing the best practices identified in the worldwide CoPs and people development. All communities facilitate knowledge sharing and transfer within the organization.

Programs such as TCL and LEAP facilitate innovation on an individual level by presenting employees with multiple and diverse opportunities for learning and growth and on a collective level by enabling employees to learn from one another and build on the ideas of others. Similarly, CoPs at Air Liquide provide forums for networking, knowledge sharing, and employee development, ultimately fostering individual and organizational learning and innovation.

Rockwell Collins, Inc. Rockwell Collins runs operations in 60 locations with nearly 20, employees around the globe Rockwell Collins, The organization also provides flight simulation and training, MRO maintenance, repair, operations services, navigation, and surveillance systems [ 31 ]. Since , Rockwell Collins has undergone a period of rapid growth. The unprecedented growth was a primary driver of its KM system. With the rapid expansion of the organization, the necessity to connect new employees with existing knowledge and expertise worldwide became increasingly urgent [ 31 ].

Over the past 10 years, each department of Rockwell Collins has been closely connected by the KM system. Currently, many KM approaches and tools, such as communities of practice organized groups for employees to share and learn , Epedia companywide Wikipedia , Lessons Learned a reflection tool in Epedia , and Enterprise Tools Integrated Forum questions and answers forum are used daily [ 35 — 37 ].

Rockwell Collins has promoted a learning culture by combining its formal training and development processes with these industry leading KM programs [ 34 , 38 ]. The five to ten awards won by Rockwell Collins each year, include Blue Ribbon winner for Innovation by Military Training Technology magazine in [ 39 ]. For example, a virtual university Rockwell Collins University functions as the catalyst for innovation.

Technology enables employees to access learning anytime and anywhere. Employees seek answers actively instead of being offered solutions. For example, learning and development specialists regularly assess the need to retain the core knowledge that senior employees may take away when they retire. As a group, HRD specialists use such venues as one mechanism to identify training needs [ 40 ]. One pervasive risk to many technical organizations is employees leaving the organization with critical technical, cultural, and social knowledge that is difficult to replace.

The KM system helps the organization navigate both planned and unplanned organization change. HRD at Rockwell Collins leverages training and development and knowledge sharing through KM tools to support organizational learning on each level individual, team, and organizational. Second, the implementation of KM programs facilitates knowledge sharing at the company more freely and efficiently.

Finally, the company has created healthy recognition and reward mechanisms that encourage knowledge sharing and innovative behaviors by employees. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, FMC Technologies is a publicly traded oil and gas equipment services company, specializing in subsea, surface technology, and energy infrastructure. FMC Technologies was recognized by Forbes on its list of most innovative companies in [ 20 ]. Companies with a market cap above NPV of cash flows are ranked in order of the most market cap above NPV to the least.

Foss et al. The core beliefs espoused by early HRD practitioners and theorists include the notions that HRD itself is the process and practice of developing, harnessing, or releasing of human expertise through individual and organizational development in order to improve performance [ 42 ].


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Knowledge sharing supports organizational productivity and also enriches its credibility with the marketplace and stakeholders [ 41 ]. Leadership and talent development—Sustainment of success and mindfulness is critical in the leadership and talent development disciplines within FMC. Women learn about leadership roles, behaviors, styles, and leading teams, as well as focus on career development and leadership skills necessary for them to be successful.

The company monitors the career advancement of the participants to ensure their success and that of the program [ 42 ].

Knowledge Base

If a team member is having an issue or experiencing a challenge, another employee anywhere in the world can provide expertise from a virtual community with thousands of members. In addition to sharing expertise, employees learn about the various working conditions of their colleagues [ 42 ]. One of the most prominent features about this organization is consistent messaging about its internal organizational and operational expertise.

Clearly, the health of the organizational culture is a key factor in the success of a KM strategy. Important to the organizational culture is the presence or absence of strong social networks that contribute a sense of the social capital in an organization's culture. The author defines social capital as the sum of connections between people and the associated norms of trust and behavior that create social cohesion.

Part 5, "Keeping Score," goes into the measurement aspects of KM. This section is key because it provides a framework for evaluating the success of KM and in documenting its value. A key piece of advice that this section offers is the need to combine numbers quantitative with the stories qualitative behind the numbers. This reinforces the premise that both tacit and explicit knowledge have value within the context of people pursuing a KM strategy. The author advocates for producing actionable measures, not measuring everything, using existing measurement systems when possible, and for crafting communication strategies that keep the designated measures and strategies in the forefront.

Important to the integrity of the measurement system is the use of valid and reliable measures that should be displayed in a variety of ways with enough context to explain them.

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Measurement approaches for KM are presented, with emphasis given to the more frequently used balanced scorecard. The balanced scorecard links an organization's mission and strategy to the measures that represent financial performance as well as 3 additional perspectives: customers, internal business processes, and learning and growth. Although used to a lesser extent, the author introduces measures of intellectual capital using a typology of 4 types of measures: direct intellectual capital method, market capitalization method, return on assets method, and scorecard method.

The direct intellectual capital method estimates the value of intangible assets by first identifying their various components and then quantifying them either alone or together. The market capitalization method, a somewhat volatile measure, focuses on the perceived value of an organization in the marketplace by looking at the difference between the company's market capitalization and its stockholder's equity. The return on assets method focuses on an average earning from intangible assets. Calculating the return on assets involves dividing the company's pre-tax earnings by the average tangible assets and then comparing with the industry average.

The scorecard method for intellectual capital is similar to the balanced scorecard previously described. When focusing exclusively on measuring intellectual capital, however, various components of intangible assets are assessed. An example of an intangible asset scorecard represents the work by Karl-Erik Sveiby, a pioneer in KM. Sveiby 2 focuses on human competence values, experience, social skills, and educational background , external structure trademarks, brand name, and image , and internal structure databases, processes, models, and documentation.

Part 6, "Settling in for the Long Haul," represents a kaleidoscope of issues that may be useful to those implementing a KM strategy. For example, the author suggests the importance of not equating KM to IT, provides caution regarding the need to establish realistic deadlines 5 years seems to be the norm for full KM implementation , and emphasizes the importance of accommodating differences yet not fully sacrificing standardization.

Furthermore, the author pulls from her military background to reiterate the value of debriefing particularly after the pilot phase using timely after-action reports and implementing precision-driven changes resulting from the lessons learned. The page book ends with 3 appendices inclusive of a brief glossary, a list of useful Web sites, and a reference list of pertinent books and articles. The book is thoroughly indexed to assist the reader in finding topics of interest.

Missing, however, is a detachable table that would summarize the "least you need to know" sections of the book into a useable poster suitable for mounting. Overall, the book does an outstanding job of itemizing fundamental KM information. Parts 1, 2, and 5 provide answers to 3 key questions about KM:. The book's primary distinctive feature is its ability to convey KM information with the author not becoming lost in the complex lingo of KM.

The book reinforces more in-depth KM content typically presented in an academic course or in a scholarly text. Using what could be described as a rather simplistic description of organizational culture an element that helped in parts 1, 2, and 5 , part 4 presents a discussion on culture that works within this context and serves to complement the "pure" KM information in parts 1, 2, and 5. If nothing else, part 4 underscores the importance of organizational culture as a factor that can either facilitate or derail a KM strategy.

Recognizing the significance of culture and learning from the culture could prove to be an incomparable strategy to enhance the likelihood of success when implementing KM. The part 3 discussion regarding IT may be said to be so elementary that even a technology "non-geek" would find it useless. The author may have aimed the technology discussion to the novice IT user, incorrectly assuming that lack of KM knowledge equates to lack of IT knowledge. This observation is particularly interesting given that the book makes a clear distinction that KM is not IT.

In reality, either omitting part 3 or replacing it with a section on KM exemplars in the healthcare industry one industry not referenced would have added more value. In any event, a recommendation for future readers of this book would be to skip over part 3 in what otherwise is a most informative book. Part 6, much like part 3, did not seem to "fit" as a distinct section.

Unlike part 3, which is deemed useless, part 6 provided a hodgepodge of helpful tidbits that could have been more efficiently incorporated into the most valuable sections of the book parts 1, 2, and 5. In reviewing this book, the section on COP defined as a "killer strategy for KM" truly lived up to the title and raised the most reflective questions:. Why, if a COP is deemed to be so valuable in other industries, is the concept of COP not prevalent in the healthcare setting?

The answer to question 1 consists of 4 elements crucial to the success of COP. First, for COP to thrive, this requires an investment in resources and supportive structures. Second, success in COP and KM requires a long-term focus rather than emphasis on immediate and tangible results. As a subfield, organizational learning is the study of experience, knowledge, and the effects of knowledge within an organizational context.

Organizational learning is related to the studies of organizational theory , organizational communication , organizational behavior , organizational psychology , and organizational development. Organizational learning has received contributions from the fields of educational psychology , sociology , economics , anthropology , political science , and management science.

Organizations gain knowledge in one of the four organizational communities of learning : individual, team, organizational, and inter-organizational. Organizational learning "involves the process through which organizational communities e. The origin of the focused study of organizational learning can be traced to the late s, when researchers studied it from a psychological viewpoint. Key advances in the field include:. Knowledge is an indicator of organizational learning. Organization learning happens when there is a change in the knowledge of an organization. For example, some researchers assess knowledge as changes in an organization's practices or routines that increase efficiency.

Knowledge is not a homogenous resource. Although it is related to data and information, knowledge is different from these constructs. Data are a set of defined, objective facts concerning events, while information is a value-added form of data that adds meaning through contextualization, categorization, calculation, correction, or condensation. Experience is knowledge that is generated through exposure to and application of knowledge. Knowledge originates within and is applied by units of an organization to evaluate and utilize experience and information effectively.


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Knowledge can become embedded within repositories, routines, processes, practices, tools, and norms, depending on the relationship between information, experience, and knowledge. Two distinct forms of knowledge, explicit and tacit, are significant in this respect. Explicit knowledge is codified, systematic, formal, and easy to communicate. Tacit knowledge is personal, context-specific, subjective knowledge.

Organizational learning tracks the changes that occur within an organization as it acquires knowledge and experience. To evaluate organizational learning, the knowledge an organization creates, transfers, and retains must be quantified. Organizational learning is composed of concepts that are difficult to quantify. Measuring organizational learning requires combining different types of methodologies.

Researchers studying organizational learning have measured the knowledge acquired through various ways since there is no one way of measuring it. Silvia Gherardi measured knowledge as the change in practices within an organization over time, which is essentially learning from experience. George Huber measured knowledge as the distribution of information within an organization.

In his study, he noted that "organizational components commonly develop 'new' information by piecing together items of information that they obtain from other organizational units. An increasingly common and versatile measure of organizational learning is an organizational learning curve demonstrating experience curve effects. A learning curve measures the rate of a metric of learning relative to a metric for experience. Researcher Linda Argote explains that "large increases in productivity typically occur as organizations gain experience in production. Argote identifies three factors that affect these rates: increased proficiency of individuals, improvements in an organization's technology, and improvements in its structure such as its routines and methods of coordination.

The linear-linear input form on the left is transformed into the log-log form on the right to demonstrate that the proficiency increase correlates with experience. Attempts to explain variance of rates in organizational learning across different organizations have been explored in theoretical models. Namely the theoretical models conceived by John F. Muth, Bernardo Huberman, and Christina Fang. An organization's experience affects its learning, so it is important to also study the context of the organizational climate , which affects an organization's experience.

This context refers to an organization's characteristics, specifically its "structure, culture, technology, identity, memory, goals, incentives, and strategy. Knowledge acquired through learning by doing can depreciate over time. The depreciation rate is affected by the turnover rate of individuals and how knowledge is stored within the organization. Organizations with higher turnover rates will lose more knowledge than others. Organizations with knowledge embedded in technology rather than individuals are more resistant to organizational forgetting.

In shipyards with no relative input reduction, individual unit cost decreased with increasing cumulative output. Three key processes that drive organizational learning are knowledge creation, knowledge retention, and knowledge transfer. Knowledge creation specifically concerns Experience that can be embedded within the organization. Experience is knowledge generated by direct exposure to the subject. This direct exposure is through tasks involving the needs, processes, and environment of the organization. Explicit and tacit knowledge are reinforced and become contextualized when the organization gains knowledge.

While experience can produce outputs in data, information, or knowledge, experience in the form of knowledge is useful since this can be transferred, retained, and tacitly or explicitly utilized within organizational processes. Knowledge creation connects to creativity and its relationship to experience. Dimensions of experience are aspects of experience that impact the form and function of knowledge creation. Knowledge transfer concerns the mechanisms by which experience spreads and embeds itself within the organization.

Knowledge transfer can be evaluated using various metrics, including learning curves that demonstrate process improvements over time by comparing the decrease in labor hours to complete a unit of production with the cumulative units produced over time. Wright's identification of organizational learning curves preceded more complex outcome considerations [4] that now inform measures of knowledge transfer. While knowledge may transfer tacitly and explicitly as direct experience, organizations can introduce processes and knowledge management systems that facilitate this transfer.

Researchers investigate the context of various factors and mechanisms affecting knowledge transfer to determine their beneficial and detrimental effects. Factors on knowledge transfer include the dimensions of the knowledge described in the prior section, as well as the contexts in which it occurs and mechanisms through which it can occur:. Knowledge retention concerns the behavior of knowledge that has been embedded within the organization, characterized by the organizational memory. Organizational memory, quantified by measures such as cumulative knowledge and the rate of decay over time, is impacted by experience, processes and knowledge repositories that affect knowledge retention.

Repositories can include the organization's rules and routines, [81] altered by the processes of routine development [82] and routine modification. In a study of organizational learning in the automotive and fast food industries, Argote found that high turn over rates lead to lower productivity and decreased organizational memory.

Knowledge Sharing and Human Resource Development in Innovative Organizations

Applications of organizational learning research and contexts for organizational learning facilitation and practices are numerous. Experience curves can be used to make projections of production costs, compare performance across units, identify the effects of various processes and practices, and make informed financial decisions about how to allocate resources. Utilizing knowledge transfer and retention concepts to recognize, maintain, and reclaim embedded knowledge can help organizations become more efficient with their knowledge.

Organizational learning theories and knowledge management practices can be applied to organizational design and leadership decisions. Various knowledge management concepts and practices are the relevant products of organizational learning research. Work on knowledge transfer applies to knowledge retention and contributes to many of the applications listed below, including the practices of building learning organizations , implementing knowledge management systems, and its context for inter organizational learning and the diffusion of innovations.

Learning organizations are organizations that actively work to optimize learning.

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Learning organizations use the active process of knowledge management to design organizational processes and systems that concretely facilitate knowledge creation, transfer, and retention. Organizational metacognition is used to refer to the processes by which the organization 'knows what it knows'. The study of organizational learning and other fields of research such as organizational development , System theory , and cognitive science provide the theoretical basis for specifically prescribing these interventions.

Army's use of a formally structured de-brief process called an after-action review AAR to analyze what happened, why it happened, and how it could be improved immediately after a mission. Learning laboratories are a type or learning organization dedicate to knowledge creation, collection, and control. Learning organizations also address organizational climate by creating a supportive learning environment and practicing leadership that reinforces learning.

Leaders can create learning opportunities by facilitating environments that include learning activities, establishing a culture of learning via norms, behaviors, and rules, and lead processes of discourse by listening, asking questions, and providing feedback. Leaders must practice the individual learning they advocate for by remaining open to new perspectives, being aware of personal biases, seeking exposure to unfiltered and contradictory sources of information, and developing a sense of humility. While learning processes depend on the context for optimizing knowledge transfer, the implementation of knowledge management systems incorporates technology into these processes.

Knowledge management systems are technologies that serve as a repository, communication, or collaboration tool for transferring and retaining knowledge. Knowledge management systems alone are not necessarily successful, but as a communication tool they tangibly reinforce individuals' ability to spread and reinforce their knowledge. Organizational learning is important to consider in relation to innovation , entrepreneurship , technological change , and economic growth , specifically within the contexts of knowledge sharing and inter organizational learning.

As one of the key dynamics behind the knowledge economy , organizational learning informs our understanding of knowledge transfer between organizations. Heterogeneous experience yields better learning outcomes than homogenous experience, and knowledge diffusion spreads heterogeneous experience across organizations. It may be seen as a subset of the anthropological concept of diffusion and can help to explain how ideas are spread by individuals, social networks, and organizations.

Innovation policy, economic development initiatives, educational program endeavors, and entrepreneurial incubation and acceleration could all be informed by organizational learning practices. In case no systematic approach has been applied when creating organizational memory systems, there is a risk of corporate amnesia.

Environment of organizational amnesia leads to avoiding mistakes at all cost.



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