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Understanding Knowledge Management

In today’s economy, organizations are shifting towards knowledge management to improve their performance. Effective performance of an organization can be achieved through a combination of strategies and framework created. These tools require commitment from the employees to achieve full implementation and realization of expected results. Organizations need to fully utilize their total knowledge resources to ensure that procedures laid out in the organization are followed as expected, and that waste is minimized. The results from the implementation of these procedures are what matters to the organization. It gives an organization a base to determine the direction its success or failures and how they could manage these results (Easterby and Lyles 2013). For an organization to realize their full potential, it must consider these elements; knowledge management, communication of interest, performance measurements, intellectual capital and the social networks.

For the past one and a half decade, the field of knowledge management has fully developed into a coherent process that organization could use to draw and utilize the knowledge it possesses fully. Through knowledge management, an organization can improve its production through creating potentially useful information that is relevant and timely to people working within the organization.  The organization can gain a competitive advantage against rivals in the market as noted by Nonaka, and Takeuchi (2012).

The organization can realize benefits of its knowledge resources if the available systems allow for full utilization of these resources. Organizational knowledge management complements organizational learning as they both make knowledge become part of the organization's fabric. Components of knowledge management include knowledge, processes & goals and systems. To understand knowledge management one needs to learn how these elements are interrelated.

Knowledge can be categorized into four forms on the basis of measuring knowledge assets. The organizational and individual knowledge can be measured using the explicit and tacit knowledge which could be integrated into the organizational knowledge level as explained by King  (2015). These knowledge categories can be further broken down to individual explicit knowledge, individual tacit knowledge, explicit organizational knowledge, and organizational tacit knowledge.

This includes knowledge assets that a person could evidently show and requires the effort of a person to achieve them. They include formal education that shows the level of education attained such as degree, language fluency certification, and any other formal certification. Training also determines the explicit knowledge individual possesses such as required qualifications for a certain job or knowledge of codes or conventions that are required by an organization.

Types of Knowledge

These are skills or expertise that has been gathered through experience and education received for example accounting skills and problem-solving skills. Work competence can indicate this and work recommendations an individual receives in the course of work. The number of years a person has worked in a specific field determines their level of skills and expertise in that area (Polanyi 2010). The experience that an individual receives in an in the course work is important in building tacit knowledge: innovativeness, professionalism, and problem-solving skills. This could also be determined by the attitudes of the employees towards work; it determines the performance of an individual and the overall performance of the organization.

They comprise of technology and information systems management available used in the organization. These systems include storage and retrieval of knowledge that assists in the decision making process and the performance improvement of employees through sharing of information. Communication systems and technologies allow employees to link up and share information through forums such as online networks. Such knowledge can also be in the form of manuals created to help in perform various tasks or procedures within the organization. Intellectual property is crucial for the image of the organization as they determine the capacity of the organization (Levitt, B., and March, J.G. 2010).

This includes culture and image of the organization that forms the basis of the organization existence. This is influenced by the activities that happen outside the organization such as alliances and agreements or other assets within the communities of practices. Societies expect organizations to fulfill their social and environmental responsibilities such as waste disposal and quality of services and products as explained by Polanyi, M. (2010).

The process of managing knowledge requires rigorous steps to ensure that knowledge assets are implemented effectively and improved. These assets may be informed of electronic databases or printed out knowledge that workers can access them efficiently. The knowledge management process includes creation, storage, transfer and acquisition of knowledge that is relevant to a field. These processes are applied in developing of strategies and methodologies that support the knowledge management while motivating employees to take part in the process.

The goals of knowledge management are the utilization and improvement of knowledge assets to ensure that knowledge acquisition is effective and can effectively improve culture, decision-making process, and performance of the organization. For an organization to realize these goals, it has to bring all employees on board to work as a team to ensure collaborative implementation of the knowledge management process.  This requires the effort of communities of practice and social networking this is because for knowledge are reserved within people’s brains. Therefore, such tools are effective in harnessing this knowledge base (Hansen, Nohria and Tierney 2012).

Elements of Knowledge Management

These are computerized information systems that support the implementation of the knowledge management processes. These technologies store knowledge that is designed to assist employees to acquire information that is intended to improve their performance. The knowledge is highly automated and requires individuals to have knowledge on how to retrieve this information. The communication information systems include directories and networks created to automate information access and sharing.

Through this organizational form of managing knowledge has developed over the past decade and radicalized how information within the organization is shared, learned and changed. Communities of practice are groups of people that are brought together by their expertise and are bound together to sharing knowledge, for example, digital marketers in Tech firm. These groups could have regular meetings or connect through social networks. These communities do not have formal scheduling of activities, but the interaction between them brings forth knowledge sharing through experiences, improves creativity and problem-solving skills.

According to research done by Wenger and Synder (2013), they have contributed to organizational performance through promoting new strategies, encouraging best business practices improve problem-solving skills, improve professionalism, and help an organization in recruiting and retaining of talented individuals.

Communities of practice have not been fully utilized as many organizations have limited information on how to integrate it into the system. Few companies have adopted the practice while several others do not recognize the ability of the communities of practice to influence performance. Building and sustain communities of practice fro integration into the organization takes time. They are informal and spontaneous hence cannot be supervised or interfered by the organization. Communities cannot be created as a mandatory practice rather it requires individual’s effort and provision of infrastructure by the organization.

The diversity in the communication of practice is due to the differences in the circumstances that led to their creation. They could result from teams created at work to work on a specific field; they could form communities of practice to maintain connections with fellow team members. The digitalization of activities has led to increasing in communities of practice to aid knowledge sharing and improvement of online skills (Kok 2007). Cross-organization communities of practice allow employees such as managers to discuss nature of relationships between their companies and how they could improve these linkages. It also creates a platform for managers to discuss public policies and how best they could navigate them. These communities of practices are characterized by common interest with stimulating discussions that aim at improving the intellectual capability of a person.

Goals of Knowledge Management

This form of organization is unique and is different from created by managers at work. Team-based structures used by some organizations to perform certain projects are mandatory and require supervision. They get disbanded once a project is done or they could be maintained to perform tasks as a group. Managers have a say on who should be on the team and who should not depend on the nature of the project and skills required. Communities of practice, on the other hand, are informal and require individual effort to build a team. Within these groups, members they choose their leaders and create their schedules. There is a sense of purpose among group members as they have a mutual responsibility in sharing knowledge and before one joins they must consider their role in the group as a person cannot be a recipient only rather must contribute sensibly to the group (Nonaka and Takeuchi 2012).

The HP company adopted communities to ensure that computer downtime for customers is minimized through implementation of Highway Availability. Tech consultants across the US hold teleconferences regularly after realizing that there were numerous problems within the sector and that they need help from people that worked within the sector to brainstorm together for the solutions.

Through the community created, HP salespeople have benefited from the development of a software standard sales and installation network and pricing consistency. The monthly teleconferencing has increased in attendance over the years, and members have gained a lot of insight into the business through contributions of the members. Through the interaction, learning is increased, and new skills and expertise are created in different fields.

Communities of practice require nurturing by members to ensure its growth and success. For the success of these communities, managers need to identify communities and how best they could be integrated into the organization, provide relevant resources for effective production, and also formulate strategies to assess the contribution and benefit of these communities on to the organization.

The identification process of communities of practice requires individuals to have a purpose and common interest. There must have a base for the formation such as challenges within the field and ability to build linkages to be integrated into the organization. The organization is tasked with the identification of these commonalities and provides them with an infrastructure to come together. For example, HP created an opportunity for the development of communities of practice due to the challenges that distributors faced in the market. The shell company also has an active base that allows employees to identify the need for communities of practice. The company provides relevant infrastructure such interviews in which an individual interviews potential members. Creators of communities of practice can generate content from interviews while also arousing curiosity among employees as argued by McDonald and Ackerman (2009). Members are identified and contacted, and a community of interest is created, and the agendas are formulated.

Systems Used in Knowledge Management

Infrastructure is a crucial element that enables a community of practice to perform its activities. Therefore, companies need to provide necessary resources to these groups to realize their goals and objectives. Communities of practice lack budgets due to their informality although they could be a major contributor to performance improvement of an organization. Companies need to accommodate these communities to maximize their potential benefits to the organization. They could also be sustained by providing them with sponsors or support teams to provide needed resources and coordination of activities.

Contribution and benefit of communities of practice cannot be realized within a short period rather it takes time to develop (Kane, G.C., and Alavi, M. 2007). Due to the informality ideas take time to be implemented as managers have to determine their success rates and how best to integrate them into the organization. It is difficult to assess the complexity of relevance of communities of practice to the organization. This requires managers to assess their value by paying attention to the contribution of the communities to individual skills. Through a collection of stories from the community members, the managers can determine the value of the group to the organization. This can be in the form of skills acquired in marketing and could be published in companies’ reports and newsletters.

Companies that rely on knowledge management have adopted these form of organizational knowledge and become a frontier in managing arising issues. Organizations need to realize the pool of knowledge that can be generated from these communities and their potential benefits to the organization (Nahapiet and Ghoshal 2008). These communities require effort from the organization to develop and integrate their functions into the organization. Many organizations are yet to realize the potential benefits that communities of practice could have on its performance. From various researchers in the field, researchers have expressed their positivity on the expected rise of the integration of the organizational form of knowledge to the systems present.

Measuring of performance is a difficult task that managers are expected to perform. Managers are expected to strategize the assessment of the performance of a program to determine whether the expected results have been achieved. Through assessment of programs, managers can acquire information that could be useful in allocating resources. Decisions are based on the current performance of the organization; managers have to analyze performance and understand the scope of operations carefully. Performance measurement seeks to address whether a program or activity is worth being integrated into the organization.

Communities of Practice

Some of the key concepts in performance management include strategic goals which are the mission and vision of the organization which can be achieved through a strategic plan. These are specific plans that an organization seeks to achieve through their operations. Performances goals are also part of performance management are expressed in the form of outcomes of an activity or programs by outlining target levels and timeframes. Outcomes are achieved through the integration of activities and programs and how recipients have benefited from them. These include a means to an end results in which the process do not matter, but the consequences are of huge importance. Outputs include processes, attributes, and efficiency in which programs implemented can be measured. Inputs are determined using the amount of money used in the production process (Van de Ven 2015). Performance can be measured by determining the ratio of input to output and outcomes of a program.

Measuring performance is challenging and requires strategies to mitigate these issues. The common performance measurement issues include:

The complexity of programs makes the measurement of results difficult. Programs with broad scopes such as foreign policy are hard to determine their importance and their benefits to the society. The process of performance measurement can be used to identify the difficulties in measuring outcomes and how they could be mitigated. This challenge could be addressed by seeking fundamental information on the existence of the organization. Managers can be identified the main cause of the challenges such as clarity of the program, identification of target beneficiaries of the program, opinions, and views about the program by the stakeholders, and the availability of data.

Desired results are delayed for years which make measurement difficult to perform as managers cannot identify the right to measure. This can be addressed by identifying short and long term expected results through steps that are output-oriented goals. For example, NASA exploration activities require longer periods for results to be achieved; it could even take decades to get the results. Most of these programs have uncertainties; therefore, managers develop measures to monitor progress. These uncertainties can be addressed by integrating different strategies such inclusion of external experts analyze the programs and give their knowledge contribution on how the program can be improved. This challenge can also be mitigated by using computer applications to estimate results for example cancer can be detected using this approach, and they could be avoided in time.

Cross-Organization Communities of Practice

The scope of the purpose of a program can be challenging to determine as they may be designed to address multiple functions. The organization can fund various activities while others may not be given priority. Therefore, program leaders are expected to prioritize their activities and become accountable for their expenditure (Kok 2007). These programs may not achieve their goals and objectives; therefore, it may be complex to establish performance measures.

Determining outcomes and outputs is difficult to find a balance since programs have different approaches in seeking the expected results. Output measures are determined by how efficient are the processes implemented while outcome measurement is informed by leadership and decision making processes. The results are determined by the administration of the program or the processes involved in the program, members of the program determine the approach depending on the nature of operations. It is difficult to measure performance if the managers cannot identify the approach utilized in the course of the program implementation.

These two elements have a complementary relationship and can be integrated with the organization's systems. Intellectual capital is the organizational knowledge that increases the fundamentals and the value of the goals and objectives of the organization. These include human, structural, and network capital that from the intangible capital. Sarracco  (2011), explains that the process of intellectual management involves analyzing the existing knowledge assets, creating an environment that the knowledge can be fully utilized, optimize the opportunities provided by the program and also assess the risks involved in the process.

Social networking integration to organizational systems is crucial in knowledge sharing and learning.  This could help in marketing and public relations strategy apart from these external communications; they also help in private interactions within the organization. This allows the different stakeholder in an organization to collaborate while reducing risks of public social networking as pointed out by Johnson, Whittington and Scholes (2011). This includes the use of networks that are specific to the organization such as social intranets or digital communities.

Intellectual capital has grown over the decades with the advancement in social networking. This has resulted from the generation of intellectual properties through the generation of knowledge on online platforms (Mortensen 2007). Social networking has revolutionized innovations and knowledge sharing as content creation has increased due to varied knowledge pools. Through immediate feedback from users have improved intellectual capabilities of individual users. The responses that an innovation receives on social networks equates to the success of knowledge buildup or failures in the system.

Team-Based Structures vs. Communities of Practice

Conclusion

Knowledge management is complex and requires attention from the management for optimization of their benefits. In the coming years, there is an expected increase in the use of organizational management basis to determine the success of the organization. This organizational knowledge form has been recommended by various researchers who have done extensive works on the field.

References

Easterby-Smith, M and Lyles, M 2013, The Blackwell handbook of organizational learning and knowledge management. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hansen, MT Nohria, N and Tierney, T 2012, What’s your strategy for managing knowledge? Harvard Business Review 77(2): 106–116.

Johnson, G Whittington, R and Scholes, K 2011,  Exploring Strategy. Text & Cases, London: Prentice-Hall.

Kane, GC 2009, “Community Relations 2.0: With the rise of real-time social media, the rules about community outreach have changed”, Harvard Business Review 87, 11, p. 45–50.

Kane, GC and  Alavi, M 2007, “Information Technology and Organizational Learning: An Investigation of Exploration and Exploitation Processes,” Organization Science 18 (5) p. 796–

812.

King, WR 2015, Communications and information processing as a critical success factor in the effective knowledge organization. International Journal of Business Information Systems 10(5): 31–52.

King, WR 2016, In “Knowledge sharing”: The Encyclopedia of knowledge management, D.G. Schwartz, 493–498. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.

Kok, A 2007, ‘Intellectual Capital Management as Part of Knowledge Management Initiatives at Institutions of Higher Learning,' London: Prentice-Hall.

Levitt, B and March, JG 2010,Organizational learning. Annual Review of Sociology 14: 319–340.

Martínez García de Leaniz, P and Rodríguez del Bosque, I 2013, ‘Intellectual capital and relational capital: The role of sustainability in developing corporate reputation,' Intangible Capital, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 262-280.

McDonald, DW and Ackerman, MS 2009, Collaborative refinery: A collaborative information workspace for the World Wide Web ., Technical Report 97-03 Irvine: Information and Computer Science Department, University of California.

Mortensen, J (2007), “Intellectual Capital: Economic Theory and Analysis.” Pearson

Buige  P Jacquemin, A  Marchipoint, FJ Elgar, E 2011, Competitiveness and the Value of Intangible Assets, UK: Cheltenham.

Nahapiet, JS and Ghoshal, 2008, “Social capital, intellectual capital, and the organizational advantage,” Academy of ManagementReview 23 (2), p. 242–266.

Nonaka, I and Takeuchi, H 2012, The Knowledge Creating Company. How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, New York: Oxford University Press.

Polanyi, M 2010, The tacit dimension. New York: Doubleday.

Van de Ven, AH 2015, Running in packs to develop knowledge-intensive technologies. MIS Quarterly 29(2): 365–378.

Sarracco, C 2011, “Intellectual Capital in the Information Society”, [online at:

https://www.itu.int/osg/spu/visions/free/ITUIntCapitalpaper. pdf accessed 31.10.2012].

Sheremata, WA. 2010), “Centrifugal and centripetal forces in radical new product development under time pressure” Academy of Management Review 25 (2), p. 389–408.

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