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Continuous Change and Communication in Knowledge Management - Book Review

1 October 2021
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

The book 'Continuous Change and Communication in Knowledge Management' was written by Jon-Arlid Johannessen, a Norwegian lecturer and researcher on leadership, and it was published in 2021. Interestingly, I received the book twice in the mail, even though I never ordered it, which suggests that someone may have known my interests.


This book provides a combination of theoretical frameworks and practical managerial tools in the fields of change management and knowledge management. I was particularly delighted to discover new suggestions for change management practices that incorporate the teachings of Tversky and Kahneman. While I was already familiar with their work, seeing it applied in this context was a novel experience.


The book covers various topics, including:

  •  Theory: Proposals for models on the subject of change management, such as an organizational model for leading strategic change and a model for managing systems change.

  • Practical tools for leading change: Reducing resistance, increasing motivation, and communicating global change processes.


The summary offers an overview of the book's contents, focusing on practical applications. Alongside a comprehensive review of theoretical literature, the book includes a chapter that explains key terms and concepts related to the content. I found it intriguing to encounter two definitions that have always posed a challenge for us: Knowledge management is defined as the governance, control, and communication within social systems, while a knowledge worker is defined (based on the OECD definition) as someone whose primary task is the production and implementation of knowledge.


Overall, the book is interesting, providing valuable insights into the dynamic fields of change management and knowledge management.



Organizational Model for leading strategic change

The organizational model proposed by Johannessen for leading strategic change is known as the Beer model of an ambidextrous organization. This model describes an organization that can adapt to external conditions while proactively initiating modifications to enhance performance, growth, and innovation.


Operating within a complex and ever-changing environment, the organization must maintain synchronized systems. These systems include:

  1.  System for managing the operational environment: This system aims to maximize performance in the current reality, utilizing qualitative and quantitative goals and indices as key components. Establishing autonomous subsystems within the organization (e.g., finance, research, and pedagogy) and continuously monitoring relevant indices is essential.

  2. Voltage monitoring system in the operational environment: Alongside the metrics used in the first system, this system monitors performance gaps between subsystems and compares them to an external standard. It provides valuable insights into the organization's overall performance and is a reference for System 3 - Leadership in the present.

  3. "Yes and now" leadership system: Middle management plays a crucial role in this system by addressing problems within subsystems, bridging performance gaps vis-à-vis the standard and the overall organization, and resolving tensions between different subsystems.

  4. Future-oriented system: This system is responsible for fostering organizational flexibility. It operates independently to ensure ongoing performance within internal functions while evaluating existing processes internally and exploring external trends and valuable developments. It takes a dual perspective, combining statistical analysis and historical information to anticipate the future of knowledge, relying on early forecasting systems, scenarios, and assumptions for both short- and long-term unknowns. This system can create the necessary models for implementing proposed changes.

  5. Overall management of the organization: This system promotes a common identity among the various methods and subsystems of the organization, facilitating coordination and alignment across the entire organization.


Implementing this organizational model enables an organization to navigate dynamic environments effectively, adapt to change, and drive performance, growth, and innovation.


Model for managing systems undergoing change

Goals serve as the foundation for enhancing productivity, quality, competitiveness, and cost savings, making them a crucial aspect of initiating organizational change. When setting goals, it is important to consider the interconnection and balance among these factors to establish clear and challenging goals that truly improve the organization's performance and achievements.


Managing systems changes at the enterprise level requires attention to four key components, as identified in the study:

  1.  The management system takes responsibility for developing goals and guiding the organization toward their implementation. It emphasizes employee participation, continuous goal development instead of one-time processes, and a systematic approach. Synchronizing this process with the previously mentioned model is recommended to ensure integration, alignment, and progression.

  2. The control system plays a critical role in stabilizing change progress. It encompasses self-control, lateral control with parallel peers, and hierarchical control processes. Effective management is based on standards and organizational objectives, incorporating feedback mechanisms and facilitating decision-making and behavior. Power can be applied during process execution, as stopping points between stages, or after completing a process.

  3. Metrics are essential for defining indices that measure progress. These metrics consider measurement standards, designated measurement times, and prioritized aspirational and measurable targets.

  4. Key critical factors, vital indicators for change success, require continuous attention from management.


By incorporating these components into the management of systems change, organizations can establish effective goals, maintain stability through control mechanisms, utilize meaningful metrics, and focus on key critical factors. This comprehensive approach enhances the likelihood of successful change implementation and its positive impact on the organization.


Practical Tools for leading change

Reducing resistance

Johannessen presents a range of practical tools, drawing upon models developed by Kahneman and Tversky, to effectively address objections and mitigate resistance to change, fostering a pro-change mindset. These tools include:

  1.  Decision-making under uncertainty: Recognize that individuals prefer certainty and are more likely to take risks when they perceive the potential loss of something they already possess.

  2. Framing: Understand that partial information and observed patterns often influence decisions. Individuals can better understand and accept the proposed change by presenting information that aligns with existing practices.

  3. Anchoring and Availability: Consider the biases of anchoring (relying on initial information) and availability (giving more weight to readily available information). These biases significantly impact decision-making. Leveraging these biases can help create a positive attitude toward change.


Based on these concepts, the following practical tools can help reduce objections:

  1.  Address the fear of losing something by acknowledging that people resist change because they perceive a risk of losing what they currently have. Address this concern in the change management process.

  2. Emphasize the opportunity for individuals to gain more than a 100% advantage over the current situation when presenting a change. Higher perceived benefits are more likely to generate positive reactions. Note that when the edge is lower, people may be less inclined to embrace the difference as they perceive losing something compared to the existing situation.

  3. Identify and recruit optimistic individuals within the change leadership team as change agents. Innovators and entrepreneurs who embrace challenges and take risks are vital in driving successful change.

  4. Frame and present change-related information by highlighting the benefits for all relevant populations affected.

  5. Establish an anchor by linking the proposed change to a situation or previous change that has already been perceived as positive. This association can enhance acceptance and willingness to embrace the new change.

  6. Repetition of key messages is valuable. Messages repeatedly captured in our memory are perceived as more reliable and easier to receive.

  7. Emotionally engage employees in the change process to help them perceive the risks associated with change as less threatening.

  8. Incorporate information that emphasizes the importance of change, psychological security (highlighting that no one will lose anything about the change), and the expected benefits resulting from the change. This information will help reduce resistance to change.

  9. Involve employees at an early stage of the change process, emphasizing the benefits and minimizing risks. This engagement enables individuals to reduce uncertainty and alleviate concerns about the change.


By utilizing these practical tools, organizations can effectively address objections, minimize resistance, and promote a positive attitude toward change among employees.


Increasing motivation

Jannessen presents a mini-theory that focuses on managing knowledge workers and motivating them in favor of changes and their overall management approach. This concept applies to knowledge workers who are constantly subject to change.


According to the literature, several motivational factors for knowledge workers include independence, self-realization, the influence of colleagues at work, and a focus on professional themes, challenges, and problem-solving rather than bureaucracy.


The mini-theory offers a conceptual model to increase productivity and encourage knowledge workers to embrace changes. It encompasses the following key elements:

  1.  Emphasis on the initial task: Highlight the vocational aspect related to their profession and the role they fulfill. Minimize other activities and processes as much as possible.

  2. Outcome-oriented: Clearly define desired outcomes for both teams and individuals. Recognize and reward work based on meaningful feedback that ensures progress in the right direction. Evaluate performance based on goals and results, making decisions accordingly.

  3. Innovation-oriented: Acknowledging that innovation is a complex process, the mini-theory provides several recommendations. These include involving as many employees as possible, encouraging multiple ideas, considering the adoption of good existing ideas from outside the organization, and selecting ideas for implementation based on their potential added value.

  4. Recognition of knowledge-sharing processes: Acknowledge and appreciate effective knowledge-sharing within the organization. Recognizing and acknowledging employees for their contributions to knowledge sharing directly impacts the level of sharing and resulting productivity.

  5. Self-management: Self-management represents a significant change for employees compared to the past. Employees must understand how to manage their strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities. Feedback is suggested as a permanent tool for employees to reflect on their progress, focusing on developing and leveraging their strengths. Employees who effectively manage themselves should evaluate their potential contributions to the organization and take action to implement them as much as possible.

  6. Continuous capacity development: Managers should have situational awareness by clarifying employees' abilities and identifying barriers that hinder performance. They should strengthen employees' strengths and harness them to enhance performance. Developing employees' learning ability, or the ability to learn how to learn, is also crucial. Organizations can assess the extent to which they align with this model and initiate changes to align more closely with it.


By implementing these elements of the mini-theory, organizations can effectively manage and motivate knowledge workers, leading to increased productivity and adaptability to change.


Communicating global change processes

Effective communication of global change processes is a crucial responsibility for leaders in knowledge-based organizations. This entails coordinating the flow of information among specialists, employees, customers, end users, and other stakeholders. It is recognized that knowledge is a valuable resource and a central asset in the organization's operations, contributing to the creation of added value for its products, activities, and services. Several key elements should be considered in this regard:

  1.  Information infrastructure (infostructure):

    a) Processes involve transferring, analyzing, maintaining, coordinating, and managing data, information, and knowledge.

    b) Application of policies to individuals, teams, the organization, and other stakeholders. To effectively manage changes and enhance effectiveness, it is recommended to analyze each knowledge-handling process, exploring how they can simultaneously facilitate change and improve performance. Additionally, focusing on frontline workers who have direct contact with customers and end consumers is essential.

  2. Flexible modularity: Modularity refers to the ability to include processes and adapt them to global implementation. It encompasses the logic of production processes, coordination, and competitive value creation. To manage change and increase effectiveness, it is important to balance alignment, coordination, and competitive value while maintaining flexibility. Moreover, prioritizing the needs and perspectives of frontline workers is crucial.

  3. Global Competitive Value Portfolio: The development of global competitive value relies on two main aspects:

    a) Integration of new technologies and innovative solutions developed based on the flexible information and modularity infrastructure mentioned earlier. This integration should particularly emphasize the role of frontline workers.

    b) Formulation and implementation of co-creation mechanisms that balance competition and cooperation.


In summary, innovation serves as the driving force behind the new global economy, acting as the foundation for value creation. Continuous innovation and effective change management are key to success in this dynamic environment.


It is important to embrace innovation and change as integral parts of organizational strategies, enabling organizations to thrive and remain competitive in the ever-evolving global landscape.


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