If managers want to gain more efficiency in operations, businesses need to better understand their knowledge management systems. In handling short-term matters, many organizations have forgotten the long-term consequences of short changing their corporate knowledge. For today’s businesses, corporate culture along with the massive retirement of Baby Boomers represents a serious concern as it relates to tacit knowledge. Researchers Xiaoming Cong and Kaushik Pandya argue that tacit knowledge, which is often unwritten and less concrete, has become a key asset.
Many employees from the private sector can point to the 80’s as a period of organizational change in terms of downsizing. For federal employees, this reality of potential job lost was not evident until the 90s. In September of 1993, President Clinton set a goal to reduce the Executive Branch civilian workforce. With budget reductions and in some cases base closures, it was apparent to many employees that downsizing was now a reality for federal workers.
New government initiatives, such as A-76, continued to frighten government employees as they saw their jobs outsourced to others. A-76 referred to OMB Circular A-76 (Performance of Commercial Activities) that requires government agencies to determine if its work functions could be done in the private sector cheaper and better.
Research on downsizing efforts in the public and private sectors has found numerous examples of negative impacts on employee productivity, morale, customer service, and product quality. Organizations are relying more on employee involvement to streamline their processes. If you are an employee, do you share information with others that will decrease your value and potentially place you at risks for layoffs?
Employee cynicism of management will make this problematic. According to Maritz Poll, less than 15% of employees strongly agree that their managers show consistency between their words and actions. Additionally, only 7% of employees strongly trust their senior managers to look out for their best interest. Leadership blogger Dan McCarthy argues, “While workplace trust has been dwindling since the Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco scandals of the earlier part of the decade, threats of layoffs and downsizing have only exacerbated the problem.” In this blog, we will discuss knowledge management in operations.
In today’s hypercompetitive environment, knowledge management becomes a vital component for modern organizations. Knowledge management (KM) relates to an organization’s ability to systematically capture, organize, and store information. When dealing with KM issues, many people focus on intellectual capital or technology issues, rather than the human element.
Consequently, many organizations develop their own KM perspective. For example, Lotus Development Corporation defines KM by the following five technology pillars: business intelligence, collaboration, knowledge transfer, knowledge discovery and mapping, and the location of needed expertise. As organizations continue to become more complex, engage in global competition, and operate under uncertainty, disseminating information becomes a valuable commodity. KM has been a core ingredient for most government agencies; it is difficult to separate strategic planning from KM.
Georg Krogh, Kazuo Ichijo, and Ikujiro Nonaka, authors of Enabling Knowledge Creation, maintain that knowledge creation must be supported by organizations in a number of ways if knowledge creation is to happen. In fact, they note the following enablers: (a) instill a knowledge vision, (b) manage conversations, (c) mobilize knowledge activists, (d) create the right context, and (e) globalize local knowledge.
Managing this KM system is not easy after the layoff craze of the 1980s. In fact, knowledge sharing without committed leadership and encouraging organizational culture will only be marginally successful. Researchers Alex Birman and John Risko maintain that an organization can improve competitiveness and adaptability and increase its chance of success with an effective KM process. However, Michael Tushman and Charles O’Reilly, authors of Winning Through Innovation, argue that an organization’s culture can prevent it from undergoing positive change because organizational renewal demands requires mastering both innovation and organizational change.
How do organizations ensure the effectiveness of their knowledge management systems? Can trust be rebuilt with today’s workers after past management failures? If so, how?
© 2010 by Daryl D. Green