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Case Studies in Knowledge Management - Book Review

1 October 2012

Dr. Moria Levy

"Case Studies in Knowledge Management," edited by Kenneth A. Grant and published in 2012, marks the inaugural volume in a series of case studies, with forthcoming publications already in the planning stages. Simultaneously, an academic article book on the same subject is slated for publication. With the curation of authors and articles, the editor aimed for a diverse selection, ensuring a comprehensive perspective. This diversity extends to the types of organizations featured, their global positions, the knowledge management solutions implemented, and the writing styles employed.


The book explores the following topics:

  1. Is knowledge management a trend?

  2. Failure analysis in knowledge management in customer and service management

  3. Knowledge Communities (India)

  4. Knowledge Communities (South Africa)

  5. Trial groups

  6. Intellectual capital

  7. Strategic Collaborations

Additionally, an appendix containing an index of articles is included.


Is knowledge management a trend?

The term "knowledge management" has been circulating in the market for approximately 15 years. The study presented in this article aims to investigate whether it is merely a passing trend, as claimed by some critics, or a sustainable and enduring issue.


Guided by the Theory of Diffusion of Innovations, a management theory, the study on knowledge management comprises two sub-studies: a literature review and an organization survey.


Literature Review:

The examination involves a graph defining the successful adoption of an innovative idea or theme, with the insertion time divided into five relatively uniform phases. The study surveys terms related to knowledge management in academic and business literature.


Findings from the literature review include:

  • Significant evidence of the introduction of knowledge management, primarily led by model managers and consultants.

  • An overall increase in the introduction of the subject and its consistent mention, with no regression observed in any terminology.

  • Initial lagging in academic occupation compared to the industry, but later catching up.


Survey of Organizations:

The survey indicates significant aspects where the introduction of knowledge management is noteworthy:

  • Personal and social importance of knowledge.

  • Utilization of information technology.

  • Recognition of the importance of processes.

  • Need for a strategic management focus.


However, challenges persist, as revealed by the survey:

  • Issues with knowledge assets.

  • Limited penetration in utilizing knowledge management models.

  • Complexity associated with knowledge.


Despite challenges, most interviewees emphasized the strategic importance of knowledge and knowledge management.


Conclusion:

The study concludes that engagement with knowledge management extends beyond a managerial trend. Interest in the field surpasses what has been observed in other managerial domains over the past thirty years. There is no evidence of diminishing interest over time, affirming that knowledge management is a sustainable field—an enduring management approach.


Failure analysis in knowledge management in customer and service management

Organization:

Danwood Group - A print solutions group


Activities:

Analysis of knowledge management activities within the organization


Key Takeaways:

The article presents research on knowledge management as part of a broader initiative to enhance organizational processes. The study explores why previous knowledge management efforts were unsuccessful despite prior activity and research in the field. The focus is on the service system within the organization and the initial recommended solution - the Customer Query Logging System (CQL). The primary reason for the lack of success in implementing knowledge management was the absence of allocated budgetary resources, preventing its realization. Importantly, this organization is dynamic, with a culture open to regular changes, minimizing principled resistance.


Analysis of Reasons for Non-Implementation of Knowledge Manager Recommendation:

  1. Senior members of the organization viewed "knowledge management" as a transient and unnecessary trend.

  2. Initial knowledge management recommendations lacked a backed-up ROI demonstration, leaving managers unsure of their benefits.

  3. The core reason was the organization's lack of "ownership" of the problem. Awareness of the issue was confined to the service until an external body identified it, making it seem manageable within the organization.


Adapted Methodology for Renewed Knowledge Management Activities (Seven Stages):

  1. Knowledge Needs Test

  2. Evaluation of the effects and significance of arising problems

  3. Solution Design

  4. Cost Justification

  5. Realization

  6. Savings Assessment


Leveraging the profits achieved is a tool to promote knowledge management within the organization for additional needs.


Knowledge Communities (India)

Organization:

Wipro Technologies - A global Indian company with a 25-year history, specializing in consulting and software projects.


Activities:

Knowledge Communities


Key Takeaways:

The study on knowledge management within communities focused on three main aspects:

  1. People: Assessed employee reference, organizational culture, and perceptions about knowledge management.

  2. Processes: Explored knowledge management integration into the organization's work processes.

  3. Computing: Examined information systems supporting the capture and use of knowledge.


Main Findings:

  • Awareness exists regarding the concept and importance of knowledge management.

  • Formal rewards for knowledge sharing are absent.

  • Significant employee participation in knowledge-sharing activities was observed.

  • Managers actively encourage and nurture knowledge sharing.

  • Different roles exist concerning the willingness to assist with knowledge, with senior officials showing less inclination.

  • Perceived improvement is attributed to knowledge management, especially in work processes and customer knowledge.

  • Key knowledge bases are present, but their utilization is poor.


Portals

Organization:

Ministry of Justice of Catalonia - Hosting 15 communities of social workers across various fields.


Activity:

Portal (for assistance in writing professional reports)


Key Takeaways:

Capacity:

  • Established templates to define critical reports.

  • Created a database of best practices/

  • Prepared a guide for interviews serving as input for report writing.

  • Defined knowledge communities, including face-to-face meetings.

  • Appointed officials as moderators for each community.


Components of the Portal Set Up to Support Communities:

  • Document environment

  • Collaborative calendar

  • Photo album

  • Forum Blog

  • Mailing list

  • Wiki for co-writing principal documents


Knowledge Communities (South Africa)

Organization:

Anglo-American Corporation - A prominent international mining company


Activities:

Knowledge Communities


Key Takeaways:

The article presents a study investigating the success components of knowledge communities within Anglo American Corporation, categorized by community type and establishment timeline.


Types of Community Examined:

  1. Communities to advance strategic goals

  2. Communities focused on ongoing processes (tactical and operational)

  3. Project Communities

  4. Communities of interest for sharing disciplinary professional knowledge (development of knowledge bodies)


Timelines Examined:

  1. New communities started

  2. Emerging communities

  3. Stable (mature) communities

  4. Communities that have already achieved their goal and ceased to operate


Main Findings:

General:

Overall, the quality of content and the user-friendliness of the technological interface were identified as critical success factors for knowledge communities.


Types of Communities:

  • For strategic knowledge communities, success requires a combination of components: content quality, friendliness, middle manager support, facilitator, clear goals, sponsor, and community leader.

  • Ongoing process communities thrived most with a focus on user-friendliness.

  • Project communities found success through content quality and interface friendliness.

  • Professional interest communities succeeded with content quality, user-friendliness, and effective community leadership.


Timeline:

  • In new communities, success relies on content quality, user-friendliness, and community leadership.

  • Developing communities thrived with quality content and user-friendliness.

  • Stable/mature communities sustained success with a focus on content quality.

  • Communities that ceased operation lacked relevant success components.


Trial groups

Organization:

VP. Tech Consulting Group Italy


Nature of Activity:

Experience groups – a combination of knowledge community and project teams (5 groups)


Key Takeaways:

  • Rationale: Developed a tailored methodology for community management in project companies by combining project team management and knowledge of community management concepts.

  • Defined officials are responsible for coordinating and promoting experience group activities, ensuring flexible work processes subject to each group's participation, communication, and knowledge transfer decisions.

  • Experience groups significantly enhanced the company's professionalism and competitive capabilities.

  • Contributions primarily focused on market development, innovation, acquiring new technological capabilities, and troubleshooting.


Main Characteristics of Experience Groups (Contrasted with Typical Knowledge Communities):

  1. Small teams

  2. Always intra-organizational

  3. High level of support

  4. Support from senior management – at least in initiation


Conclusion: This organizational solution is suitable for knowledge management in project-based companies.


Lessons Learned:

Organization: French Air Force Squadrons


Activities: Post-fly reviews; Use of knowledge in briefings before flights.


Key Takeaways:

  • Flight debriefings integrate three types of learning:

    - Learning from experiments, primarily individual.

    - Learning from others is derived from the connection of individuals and constructive criticism among colleagues.

    - Learning from failures and focusing on analyzing gaps between expectations and actual outcomes, creates new knowledge.

  • Debriefings generate learning at both the single loop and the second level (double loop) by altering perceptions of work.

  • Informal learning occurs in squadron discourse beyond the formal context of debriefings, crossing hierarchies.

  • Learning from failures, more than other processes, aids in making tacit knowledge visible.


Intellectual capital

Study Overview:

The article presents a study conducted in China among investment consulting firms, focusing on intellectual capital.


Key Findings:

While most companies believe they understand their intellectual capital, they need more awareness.


Additional Findings on Intellectual Capital Components:


Structural Capital:

  • Management Philosophy

  • Organizational structure

  • Organizational culture

  • Information Systems

  • Patents and Capital Assets

  • Management processes

  • R&D


Relationship Capital:

  • Customer Relations

  • Supplier Relations

  • Financial Relations

  • Preferred contracts

  • Distribution channels

  • Community Relations

  • Franchising / Licenses

  • Partnerships

  • Name and branding


Human Capital:

  • Diversity of employees

  • Expertise and Knowledge Know-How

  • Employee demographics

  • Employee innovation

  • Ability to learn and develop

  • Learning and experiential skills

  • Leadership and leadership of senior managers


R&D Centers:

The article discusses a significant shift in pharmaceutical companies in India, moving from reverse engineering-led R&D to innovation-driven R&D due to international agreements (TRIP Agreements). This transformation is crucial for the sector's survival. The success of this change is measured by examining the number of patents and licensing agreements. Critical actions for successful change include increasing R&D employment, fostering collaborations, establishing knowledge-intensive environments, encouraging publications, and investing in supporting information systems. The article concludes that the sector has transitioned from leading and copying to leading, marking a unique change in the knowledge landscape.


Strategic Collaborations

Enterprise Overview:

Polyethylene Malaysia, an industrial company, engages in international subsidiary collaborations with its established parent company as a learning tool.


Impact of Collaboration with BP:

The article explores the influence of strategic cooperation with British BP on enhancing the organization's learning ability.


Categories Reflecting Learning:

  1. Culture and Learning Climate:

    a) Goals aligned with the parent company.

    b) Senior management commitment to subsidiary success.

    c) Staff knowledge development and role definition.

    d) Sharing covert and overt knowledge.

    e) Regular communication and forums.

    f) Supportive technology.

  2. Knowledge Acquisition, Development, and Transfer:

    a) Technical training from the parent company.

    b) "Shadow" accompaniment.

    c) On-the-job guidance.

    d) Gradual development of an independent development plan.

  3. Systematic Thinking Ability: Developing the subsidiary's ability for systematic thinking.

  4. Shared Mental Models: Creating shared mental models for better decision-making and learning.

  5. Learning Relationships: Developing learning relationships between companies.

  6. Practical-Level Programs and Objectives: Joint learning activities and programs.


Factors for Success:

Achieving learning goals through collaboration is attributed to managerial leadership, communication channels, managers acting as change agents, a learning-promoting culture, willingness to admit mistakes, openness to learning, and a readiness to take risks in uncertain situations.


Learning Organization - Maasland Hospital:

As a model for the Dutch Ministry of Health, Maasland Hospital focuses on developing a hospital concept for the 21st century centered on customer-centered care.


Learning Channels and Activities:

  1. Formal Learning: Defined through the hospital's central values.

  2. Experiential Learning: Emphasizes practical experiences.


Accompanying Tools:

  1. Examples of conduct and problem-solving.

  2. Marketing tools (posters) to promote organizational values.

  3. Encouragement for reading articles, internet browsing, and team learning activities.

  4. Collaborative analysis of case studies for assimilating new topics.


Appendix: Index of Articles

How Organizations Learn to Develop Capabilities: The Case of French Fighter Squadrons

Organization: Air Force

Region: France

Main subject: Lessons learned


What Problem Are We Trying to Solve? – A Case Study of a Failed Knowledge Management Initiative

Organization: Print

Region: United Kingdom

Main subject: Failure Analysis in Knowledge Management in Customer and Service Management


Knowledge Management- An Enduring Fashion

Organization: General

Main subject: Analysis of knowledge management in research according to a theory that examines trends and fashions


A Case Study of Knowledge Elicitation on Intellectual Capital Performance in the Fund Industry Service

Organization: Investment Consulting

Region: China

Main subject: Intellectual Capital Management (IC)


KM Effectiveness Gap Analysis: The Case of an Indian IT Firm

Organization: Software House

Region: India

Main subject: Knowledge communities


Reconfiguration of Knowledge Management Practices in New Product Development- The Case of the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry

Organization: Pharmaceutical Company Sector

Region: India

Main subject: R&D Centers


International Strategic Alliance and Organizational Learning: Factors for Promoting Learning: A Malaysian Case

Organization: Chemicals

Region: Malaysia

Main subject: Strategic collaborations for learning


Enabling Knowledge Creation in Judicial Environments: The Case of Catalonia's Public Administration

Organization: Ministry of Justice

Region: Catalonia

Main subject: Portals


Critical Success Factors for Communities of Practice in a Global Mining Company

Organization: Mining (minerals)

Region: South Africa

Main subject: Knowledge communities


Practice-Based Research and Action Learning in a Learning Organization- The Case of Patient-Centered Treatment in a General Hospital

Organization: Hospital

Region: The Netherlands

Main subject: Learning organization


Balancing Learning and Efficiency Crossing Practices and Projects in Project-Based Organizations: The Case History of "Practice Groups" in a Consulting Firm

Organization: Consulting company

Region: Italy

Main subject: Experience groups* (a kind of knowledge communities)


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