1 September 2005
It's four pm in a packed mall. Suddenly, a four year old whose parents refused to buy him/her a toy lies down on the floor and throws a tantrum, screaming "it's not fair". We have all witnessed a similar situation at some point in our lives. Research shows that a factor which greatly affects our behavior, especially as individuals in an organization, is our subjective feeling we have been treated justly.
It is customary to refer to three different aspects of the term 'organizational justice':
Distributive justice- a worker's feeling that the decisions made in the process are just and correct.
Procedural justice- a worker's feeling that the processes that lead to the decision making were performed fairly.
Interpersonal justice- the worker's feeling that the organization treats him/her sensitively and fairly and updates him/her on the relevant issues with the required information.
In recent years it seems clear that those involved in the field of process management, a field which includes managing Knowledge Management processes, need to enhance the worker's sense of procedural and interpersonal justice since it seems that they are more meaningful than distributional justice. Undoubtedly, every process we wish to lead in the field of Knowledge Management, whether it is setting up a community or implementing lesson learning processes in the organization, requires us to consider the worker affected from said process. How can we apply the principles of procedural and interpersonal justice in Knowledge Management processes?
A voice in the process: the worker should be allowed to respond, get involved and express his/her opinion. Thus, although the worker might disagree with the outcome- he/she had been given a chance to affect it. Establishing a steering committee comprised of interested workers, appointing "knowledge trustees" and even the simple sentence "your opinion matters to us" are only some of the ways the organization can provide the worker with a sense of partnership.
A reasoned explanation: it is important that the worker understand that the decision made is not merely a result of caprice and is exposed to the relevant considerations leading to the decision being eventually made. It is recommended to link the performed process to the organization's overall strategy and explain how it is incorporated into it. Explaining can be performed in various ways, including an impressive convention in which the organization will present the reasons leading to the decision regarding a specific Knowledge Management project or updating those present at the weekly staff meeting. In any case, it is important to keep the worker informed.
Timing: The quality of the received information is critical, yet the timing in which it is delivered is equally vital. Rumors can be harmful to the process and therefore it is important to provide the worker with updated information during the entire process. Defining milestones, at which the information on the knowledge process will be presented not only to the limited staff but to all workers affected by it, will make its acceptance substantially easier.
Representation: sharing with people from the entire organizational range indicates to the worker that the process indeed correctly represents all workers (and not only the members of a select group).
So, next time you are wandering around the mall and see a child screaming "it's not fair", fight the urge to walk over there and explain the reasons behind his/her parent's decision. From personal experience, once you start you just can't stop…