1. Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Do you agree with his statement? Explain why? (1 page answer)
2. Neil Armstrong once said “Research is creating new knowledge”. Do you agree with his statement? Explain why and develop the idea. (1 page answer)
3. Shunryu Suzuki once said “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few." Do you agree with his statement? Explain why and develop the idea. (1 page answer)
4. Answer the questions associated with this case study:
Snapshot Industries liked to see itself as a bastion of tradition. The original owner, Sam
Snapshot, had maintained close control over the business for 25 years as it developed a number of commercial products in gardening and kitchenware. Until he retired, Sam knew the names of every one of the 200 staff members and their families. He made all decisions about products, clients and employment conditions, and even signed every leave application. Sam was Snapshot Industries. The business - comprising a plastics section, a machinery and tools factory, packaging and distribution, and an office – had maintained the same business focus and systems for a very long time. Sales were steady and reliable - after all, everyone needs vegetable peelers and rakes.
Employees were proud to tell their friends that 95% of staff had been with the company for over 20 years. They boasted of their well-developed systems and the way everyone had complete control over their work. They liked the fact that each section had its own tearoom and distinctive office systems. Each person had a particular role, and there was a strong, informal understanding of where each fitted. There were never any arguments over who did what, because each person had control over his or her own patch. Predictability, they felt, was the secret of success. Each day was totally predictable, and the level of work was comfortable. No one needed to think too hard, or consider how things could be done differently.
The death of Sam caused major upheaval, particularly when his grandson, Jim, took over the reins. Initially, there was only slight consternation. Employees were sure Jim would see the value of the existing system and would preserve the arrangements which already existed. They watched with increasing anxiety as this 30-year-old MBA graduate started to hire movers and shakers, and started acquiring several other businesses in service areas as well as manufacturing. The company expanded from 200 employees to 600, and a restructure was undertaken.
The number of products was reduced, and the output for each product was increased. The plastics area was redeveloped around assembly and quality control teams, with senior staff acting as supervisors. Several teams were responsible for building similar products, and bonuses were introduced for higher performance. This created great stress among the 'old hands' as they had never worked in a competitive setting before. They found they were starting to avoid each other and stick with their small teams. A vigorous marketing team was installed, and a centralised record and personnel system was initiated. The introduction of computers into all areas caused additional stress for those who had been at Snapshot for a long time working in the applied areas. They couldn't even use the mouse, let alone navigate around the keyboard! And now they were being asked to enter their work times, leave applications and supervisory records online. Stress was high, and taking a toll in accidents, absenteeism and turnover.
Within a year of the restructure, Jim found that 60 of the original 200 staff had retired.
They indicated they couldn't see where they fitted now, and were feeling too overwhelmed with the rate of change. Many noted they couldn't sleep at night, because they were being asked to learn too much too quickly.
In addition, a number of the newly acquired people were also resigning. Many were commenting that it was too hard to integrate with the old Snapshot people. They felt they were regarded as upstarts and they were excluded from information they needed to do
their job. The original staff, when confronted with this claim, argued that they couldn't share it, as it was in their heads and much too hard to explain. Besides, there was not enough time to stop and natter when they themselves had so much to do and learn in their new work roles.
And so key people found new positions and left, often taking several other good members of their team with them. Orion Enterprises seemed to be attracting quite a few of these departees, and Jim was starting to recognise he had a problem.
At first, he had been keen to see them go- he could see great potential for bringing in fresh blood, and creating new opportunities. However, he was realising that there were some major problems that needed solving. Inconsistent systems were starting to emerge, with different teams operating in very different ways. He was experiencing major faults in product lines. When teams were asked to explain these problems, they would either indicate that a key member had resigned, and they didn't know how to manage the process so well anymore, or it would be found that the person with the knowledge was in a team that discouraged communication with others. Records were also indicating some major problems in their capture of information. Although a number of new forms and systems had been established, many of the old brigade insisted on submitting tatty handwritten notes which were often indecipherable.
Jim was feeling panicky. He could see the whole place unravelling before his eyes. New staff were complaining of 'silos' within the organisation, and the difficulty of both locating and accessing sources of expertise. Everyone who came to his office noted they had no idea where the organisation was going, or what it wanted from them, so they found they were just doing what they thought was needed. This was resulting in some major inconsistencies and misdirections in the business. Costs were up and productivity was diminishing rather than increasing, despite the bonuses being offered. To Jim, the company was beginning to feel like a giant monster consuming his inheritance as he watched helplessly.
4.1 / Do you believe that the problems are linked to knowledge “miss-management”? Explain why?
4.2 / Identify the types of knowledge which can be found in Snapshot Industries. Consider which elements are strategic knowledge.
4.3 / Why were the resignations and retirements a problem? What could be done about this?
4.4 / Identify the reasons for the consultant's concern over leadership. How has Jim's leadership affected the business? Can you see some ways in which Jim could improve his practices?
4.5 / In your opinion, which areas most need to reflect knowledge management principles? Why?