The following need to be addressed in developing knowledge management processes.
The pace of change
How can the strategy ensure that knowledge management processes keep up with the pace of change and identify what knowledge needs to be captured and shared?
Relating knowledge management strategy to business strategy
Hansen et al (1999: 109) contended that it is not knowledge per se but the way it is applied to strategic objectives that is the critical ingredient in competitiveness. ‘A company’s knowledge management strategy should reflect its competitive strategy: how it creates value for customers, how that value supports an economic model, and how the company’s people deliver on the value and the economics.’
Technology and people
Technology is central to organizations adopting a codification strategy. But for those following a broader and potentially more productive personalization strategy, IT assumes more of a supportive role. As Hansen et al (1999: 113) commented: ‘In the codification model, managers need to implement a system that is much like a traditional library – it must contain a large cache of documents and include search engines that allow people to find and use the documents they need. In the personalization model, it’s more important to have a system that allows people to find other people.’
Scarborough et al (1999: 35) suggested that ‘technology should be viewed more as a means of communication and less as a means of storing knowledge’. Knowledge management is more about people than technology. As research by Davenport (1996) established, managers get two-thirds of their information from face-to-face or telephone conversations. There is a limit to how much tacit knowledge can be codified. In organizations relying more on tacit than explicit knowledge, a person-to-person approach works best, and IT can only support this process; it cannot replace it.
The significance of process and social capital and culture
A preoccupation with technology may mean that too little attention is paid to the processes (social, technological and organizational) through which knowledge combines and interacts in different ways (Blackler, 1995). The key process is the interactions between people. This constitutes the social capital of an organization, ie the ‘network of relationships [that] constitute a valuable resource for the conduct of social affairs’ (Nahpiet and Ghoshal, 1998). Social networks can be particularly important to ensure that knowledge is shared. What is also required is another aspect of social capital, ie
trust. People will not be willing to share knowledge with those whom they do not trust.
The culture of the company may inhibit knowledge sharing. The norm may be for people to keep knowledge to themselves as much as they can because ‘knowledge is power’. An open culture will encourage people to share their ideas and knowledge.