Organisations face the same challenges of efficiency and effectiveness in the work they do to maintain competitiveness. Change as always is ubiquitous, both the context and the content of work evolves. The more developed nations are now working in a post‑industrialised society, however much management thinking and methods lag behind the requirements of our day. The reality of an information rich workplace requires different approaches to the classic work of management that of planning, organising, leading etc. A great array of initiatives have been suggested, tried and speculated upon in the name of knowledge management to support managers as they grapple with this emerging organisational reality. Confusion and suspicion remains as we emerge to access the lessons of the early pioneers, the what, how and why of knowledge management is not and will never be a given.
Communities, social networks, learning organisations, creativity, knowledge enabled infrastructures, knowledge work, knowledge worker, knowledge process and practice form part of the evolution of management thinking.
The great binary debate as to whether people or technology is central to knowledge management is not surprisingly, falling into a contingency position. Of course “to know” is a human quality but the amount of explicit knowledge must offer some role for hybrid solutions.
The first edition of this e‑Journal offers a series of papers, which explore questions covering both theory and practice. Here we have deliberately chosen to spread out widely and we take both a broad based position of what actually constitutes knowledge and management as the locus of the subject boundaries.
I believe that the subject of KM is one of the focal issues facing mangers, organisations and society today and will remain so for years to come. Just as scientific management was the focus of attention when the 20th century began, knowledge management has begun to assume that role for the beginning of this period. This e‑Journal welcomes papers that support a better understanding of this subject. Lets enjoy the energy that this topic brings.
Moving on we asked for recommendations for the next issue of E.J.K.M in July 2004. I would like to thank all those that responded with suggestions, most of the recommendations will be included in future issues of the journal. It would appear that Knowledge management has clustering around five main themes, strategic issues of competitive advantage, creativity and innovation, operational management of knowledge issues such as identification, capture and motivating towards the sharing of the knowledge resource, technology and its role in knowledge management including systems design for knowledge and an appropriate methodologies and finally costs and benefits and the risks associated with knowledge initiatives.
Having considered all the submissions and the current state of knowledge management research the theme for the July issue will be “How has knowledge management initiatives affected work practices”. After a decade of interesting research and work on knowledge management I believe it is time to consider how work practices have been changed or modified as a result of our efforts. We look forward to your submissions.
True to its diffuse, elemental nature the field of KM still pirouettes on questions like these.
And it can still spark a good debate in some hallways. But after 20 years of winding its path(s) this field of study and practice is now actually considered as such by a number of academic and business organizations. It is not so considered by others, however, despite the fact that increasing numbers of graduate students are trained every year and the scientific literature is gaining breadth and depth. The industry around KM has gone through its bumps and grinds but seems to have shaken out onto a relatively productive, if subdued, plateau. And the foibles of selective perception and contextual action being what they are, most of us believe we encounter more companies doing KM of one sort or another, in more sophisticated ways. With some actually intoning the prescription, “Well sure … this is the only way to manage things today isn’t it?”
Against this backdrop it is indeed a pleasure to assume the editorial role for EJKM … and many thanks to Feral McGrath for having carried the ball this far. We come to the job fresh from exciting times at ECKM 2004 (130 participants, 32 countries, 6 of the 7 continents) and motivated by having spent too many months administrating academia. EJKM is to Despres and Chauvel as KM is to many of you: a platform for making a difference, a way of molding some of the future that imposes itself.
We have plans. You have plans. One of our plans for EJKM is to actively reach out to you, the KM community, to co‑construct plans and actions that will develop a more robust and exciting community. This is patently reflexive but would you really have it any other way?
This issue of EJKM submits 8 articles that hail from Africa, Australia, Europe, North America and the UK that present some ideas that are genuinely new, and other that deepen our existing literature. Daneshgar & Amaravadi propose an awareness framework for sharing contextual knowledge among office workers in networked companies in order to support collaborative business processes. Durcikova & Everard focus on the issue of knowledge sharing among individuals and develop a typology that has academic and practitioner implications. Péter Fehér investigates the relationship between factors supporting change management and KM processes. Folorunso & Ogunde suggest that data mining and its implementation techniques are useful enablers of KM programs. Andrew Goh provides an empirical assessment of the influence that competence frameworks and utilization exert on innovation and firm performance. Handzic & Chaimungkalanont study the impact of socialization on organizational creativity and suggest that informal mechanisms have a stronger positive effect than formal ones. Hughes & Jackson investigate the world of KM in law enforcement and provide an explanatory sociotechnical model. And Hong Kun Wong argues that a knowledge value chain provides more operational and explanatory power than the conventional business value chain for assessing or managing organizational performance.
We will be in touch with you soon.
KM could be mirroring George Odiorne’s 1960’s MBO movement to come‑and‑go at relative light speed in management – or – it could be taking the Tavistock OD turn to firmly install a scientific sub‑domain complete with new methods, perspectives, body of knowledge and related. In the world of practical reality MBO has been reduced through absorption to a half‑dozen explicative lines in management textbooks while OD has developed libraries of knowledge. And wither the field of KM?
There may be some hints in this issue. Herein Delany & O’Donnell explore the continuity management (CM) of intellectual capital, replacement strategy, knowledge transfer to successors and related in a large Irish organization. All met with difficulties that are reportedly cultural in nature.
Westelius & Mårtensson suggest that successful KM initiatives can lead to problems. Their case study points to problems experienced by a consulting firm when its KM program achieved objectives but led to unforeseen, undesired consequences
Mahesh & Suresh examine how technology adds value to KM solutions by focusing on a context’s knowledge attributes. The suggestion is that KM solution effectiveness can be enhanced by managing knowledge attributes, system requirements and contextual differences.
John Politis examines the relationship between leadership dimensions and creativity / innovation. His findings suggest that transformational and transactional leadership behaviors are generally supportive of creativity and thus innovation, with transformational leadership being preferred.
There is a call to arms lurking in the above ‑ launched by the question, “What’s new?” These contributions have been selected for publication through a peer review process and editorial oversight. They are respectable and sound. The issue is otherwise framed:
§ Does KM add anything of value to the idea of continuity management that HR / human capital management do not?
§ Are OD professionals surprised when an organizational initiative (KM or otherwise) leads to unforeseen, undesired consequences?
§ Is the integrated management of knowledge attributes, system requirements and contextual differences most properly classed as KM or IS/IT?
§ Have we not already crossed the bridge as concerns transformational leadership and creativity?
It is true that paradigms evolve rather than erupt nowadays. Usually, a community’s fringe elements will muster the support they need to convince onlookers that a different perspective / formulation / construction of things will improve matters held dear to all. The field nudges one way or another and Khunian revolutions remain an experience‑distant concept. The alternative is to import received truth from other fields and cobble together a new mosaic.
And wither the field of KM? If this world is passing from one Age to another and KM be the standard bearer, it can be considered high time indeed that a distinctive body of knowledge is brought into focus. Or is this useless polemic? Or are we simply an example of that case study in frustration and elusion, the multidisciplinary field? Your feedback is solicited on this matter and look for a special issue on the subject in 2005.
These topics are robust and ambitions and denote increasing sophistication of the field. We would like to turn your attention to a somewhat more fundamental issue, however: How can one determine the value of KM in a company? Metrics and measurements are at the heart of this issue and despite a decade of work it is surprisingly hard to provide a simple answer.
Even a brief review shows a disturbing variety of opinions and approaches in the literature. Academic treatments assemble (a) a loose set of economic indicators around the concept of “intellectual capital” and its measurement; (b) a set of effectiveness / efficiency approaches that are largely borrowed from the IS domain; or (c) a cluster that cobbles together ideas from the strategy, organizational, cognitive systems and systems engineering disciplines. The practice literature provides (d) anecdotal evidence (cases); (e) activity‑based measures of results (clicks); (f) intermediate measures of effectiveness (time savings); and (g) a large set of “soft” methodologies, and stories, that rely heavily on the perception of users and proponents.
Is it possible to extract a valid and reliable set of measures from these bodies of work? Hopefully so, because the future of KM will turn significantly on its ability to demonstrate value‑added to businesses and organizations. There are at least four issues in play:
1. Survival of the field. This issue is rooted in a sociology of knowledge. KM may well have moved from an introductory phase to a second, third or later stage but unless it can demonstrate concrete results, the sociology of knowledge would anticipates its demise … most probably by folding into the next “good idea” on the business horizon.
2. Intellectual development of the field. This issue is rooted in theory development. A field of intellectual endeavor is constrained to the extent it lacks the problem sets, methodologies and techniques that assess its outcomes, and distinguish it from competing fields. KM is so constrained because its assessment technology is either insufficient or borrowed from other, more established domains.
3. Perceived value of the field. This issue is rooted in resource dependency and/or “no‑nonsense business” perspectives. A field of practice in our universe commands resources and enjoys rewards to the extent it is perceived as providing economic advantage. Determining the nature and extent of such advantage is therefore essential, and economic affairs privilege quantified measures. KM is deficient in this regard, struggling with the difficulty of separating activity‑based accomplishments from hard outcomes (intermediate, moderating and dependent variables).
4. Establishment of a profession. This issue is rooted in professionalization. Professions are characterized by a practice‑based body of knowledge, norms, standards, governing bodies and competency sets that distinguish their offer from other professions. Assuming one exists, the KM profession is young and struggling for legitimacy. This profession will stagnate to the extent its practitioners recite “lessons learned,” utilize soft measures and point to intermediate or activity‑based results. Our field of practice has a clear need for demonstrable results that repose on technologies and assessment methodologies it can claim as its own.
But alas I have said enough about these issues. I trust you will find this issue interesting and stimulating and challenging.