Business Management: Problem Solving Knowledge Sharing
More and more managers face increasingly difficult problems and challenges in organizations both large and small. One of the most serious problems facing large global organizations and managers today is knowledge sharing. Most managers are still struggling to define knowledge sharing, much less develop a plan for effectively implementing a knowledge sharing program that improves organizational performance and employee morale.
The intent of this study is an examination of knowledge sharing in order to determine what factors can successfully influence a manager’s ability to overcome knowledge deficits and improve an organizations bottom line. Key aspects of knowledge sharing examined in this synopsis include operations management, information management and project management. In addition the researcher defines knowledge sharing as a strategy that contributes to continuous improvement in organizations large and small. For purposes of this study large organizational strategies are considered. However the principles uncovered could be applied equally well to smaller organizations dealing in the global marketplace.
The researcher intends to show through careful evaluation of the literature how other companies are successful overcoming knowledge sharing obstacles by adopting a multi-faceted approach to knowledge sharing. This includes removing traditional top down modes of management in favor of a more team oriented approach to managing employees and strategies. In addition the researcher shows how knowledge sharing is successful when people are placed as a primary consideration in all aspects of organizational operations.
One of the most formidable is facilitating productive knowledge sharing throughout the organization. Knowledge sharing is the process of exchanging or sharing information and knowledge within an organization in a manner that results in the greatest organizational success. There are many factors that can impede knowledge sharing within an organization. These include: lack of partnership, the lack of desire to seek advice from others or uncover new ways of doing things, failure to understand how useful knowledge might be for others, lack of trust and lack of time (Skyrme, 1).
Other reasons managers may not successfully manage and create an environment that fosters knowledge sharing may include inadequate methods for collecting and capturing knowledge, lack of adequate technology and internal competition that makes top-down decision making the primary modus of operation (Skyrme, 1). The manager’s duty in this case is to overcome these obstacles or barriers to success to foster productive knowledge sharing and management. How does the manager do this? By balancing project, operational and information management in a manner that fosters cooperation and learning.
Creating an environment where knowledge sharing is popular often entails organizational change. It is the manager’s job to manage this as he or she would any project. Most people in an organizational context are wary of change, especially change that affects the organization’s culture. If the manager views this change as a project to complete however, the chances for success are greatly improved.
Some steps a manager should take to facilitate this change positively include: (1) conducting a culture audit to ascertain what values and behaviors in the organization currently “conflict with better knowledge sharing” (2) challenge behaviors that do not support knowledge sharing and encourage “knowledge hoarding and (3) establish an environment where everyone including new or inexperienced employees feel their knowledge is valuable and cherished (Skyrme,1).
Knowledge sharing from a project management view also requires involvement (Skyrme, 1). Everyone must participate in knowledge exchange; rewards and recognition programs may be aligned to help support this objective. Consistent team meetings can help ensure everyone is aligned strategically to benefit the organization as a whole. For knowledge sharing to succeed there must be “congruence between objectives, structures, processes, people and supporting infrastructure” (Skyrme, 1). It is the role of the manager to oversee these processes and ensure congruence.
Operations management also contributes to knowledge sharing. One way to encourage or facilitate knowledge sharing and overcome obstacles to its barriers is by encouraging a healthy competition among employees, especially during the early stages of product development (Skyrme, 1). This can help encourage knowledge and people sharing and reviews of others work.
A collaborative culture is necessary for knowledge sharing to work efficiently in an organization (Burk, 1999; Skyrme, 2002; Han, 2001).
Operations management must include continual process evaluation that help managers focus on business performance improvements “that center on people and not technology” (Han, 34). Effective operational leadership is vital to securing knowledge management not just in departments, but between departments.
Varying departments in an organization must have knowledge of organizational strategic goals and subsequently share their plans to pursue goals and strategies for success with other organizational lines. This will result in The primary focus of operations management is designing, operating and improving organizational systems in order to deliver an organizations primary products and services to customers (Lowson, 4). Operations activity is not exclusive to any one organization, but rather a critical component of all organizations. Operations management is also involved with the improvement of internal and external systems and resources (Lowson, 5). Operations activities cut across an entire organization and revolve around department’s “knowledge, know-how, experience, innovation and information use” (Lowson, 50).
The problem most organizations have with this piece of the knowledge sharing puzzle is they work too hard to retain information within their individual department or operations area. For knowledge sharing to be effective however, operations activities must span an entire organization. Varying departments have to understand one another’s goals, strategies and directives.
Information management and knowledge management are virtually the same terms. The challenge is deciding effective ways to share information across an organization. Burk (1999) points out that “large organizations know a lot of things, but they don’t always know what they know.” Knowledge management is simply an organizations capacity to capture and share information from all members of an organizations staff to gain from the collective expertise that exists within an organization. Gathering such information enables an organization to fulfill its mission by taking advantage of its most valuable asset, which Burk describes as the “expertise of employees and partners” (Burk, 1999).
Information management can be successfully established to facilitate the sharing of knowledge. There are various information sharing tools and methods available within an organization. Some of these include conversation and project team communications. Traditionally, information is handled from a top down perspective along organizational lines (Burk, 1999). This pattern isn’t ideal however for solving the problem of knowledge sharing.
Usually when a top down managerial pattern is adopted, knowledge simply isn’t available soon enough in areas of the organization that need knowledge. If knowledge management however is handled in a way that according to Burk (1999) allows “information to flow across organizational lines” the people that need it will have it fast enough to “promote the organization’s goals” and “enhance customers service” at once.
Much of the research cited suggests that information management is most often successful when a single individual is appointed as a knowledge manager. This person has the responsibility for monitoring and recommending practices that encourage knowledge sharing throughout the organization (Burk, 1999).
Too many on technology as the primary means of sharing and managing knowledge. Time and time again however successful companies have learned that knowledge management work best when information is exchanged through networks within an organization, shared visions and approaches and communication avenues that allow information to be passed efficiently across organizational lines (Burk, 1999).
Combining Operations, Information and Project Management To Foster Knowledge Sharing
Much of the research investigated suggests that knowledge sharing is a complex task facing organizations. In this case defining knowledge and deciding the best ways to disseminate and collect knowledge is the primary obstacles facing managers in the organization. Multiple studies suggest that successful knowledge sharing can benefits organizations in a variety of ways. Despite this many managers continue to promote a top down philosophy of management where information often reaches lay people too late to be of significant value or use.
If knowledge sharing was a simple task to accomplish, then thousands of organizations would report doing it correctly. More often than not however organizations find themselves struggling to develop effective and efficient methods for knowledge sharing. This is the problem facing this organization. Fortunately as discovered in the research, knowledge sharing can be effectively understood and implemented through a combination of techniques, including project, operations and information management.
Project management must focus on techniques that will enable mangers to disseminate the maximum amount of information to as large a group as possible. In addition project managers must focus on collecting information from all employees, no matter how experienced or how man years a person has been on the job. This in and of itself will create an environment that fosters knowledge sharing. Information from the literature review suggests that knowledge sharing can be accomplished by creating a competitive albeit friendly environment where friendly teams are encouraged to develop different models of success.
Operations management is a key factor of knowledge sharing. Traditionally departments have retained information as confidential or proprietary. This practice however inhibits knowledge sharing. An organization must open the lines of communication not only between members of a department, but also between departments in order to adequately share knowledge and improve organizational productivity.
Information management is by far the most critical factor related to knowledge sharing. Information management may also be termed “knowledge management.” It includes the process by which managers manage the knowledge they are learning to share. The literature strongly supports election of a knowledge manager to facilitate this process. It is important to note that in the past most organizations have considered information management a purely technological process. There is adequate evidence however, supporting information management as a people directed or people led process. Organizations should aspire to uncover ways to share and manage knowledge by using the resources available within from people rather than from instruments or technology.
Mangers working in today’s global marketplace face multiple challenges every day. One of the primary problems or challenges facing managers is discovering new ways to facilitate knowledge sharing. More and more research supports knowledge management and sharing as a vital component of success in the global marketplace. Some organizations however are still trying to define knowledge management and knowledge sharing.
As this study shows, knowledge sharing can be successfully adopted in an organization when the basic principles of operations management, information management and project management embrace knowledge dissemination throughout the organization.
The ‘problem’ of knowledge sharing can be overcome successfully if managers first (1) eliminate barriers to knowledge sharing including top down management, (2) invite all employees and staff including newcomers to share their knowledge and vision for the organization and (3) if managers remember that knowledge sharing has more to do with people than technology. Any organization can adopt a successful culture filled with knowledge sharing employees if they adopt these principle and align organizational objectives with these principles.
Burk, M. (1999, Nov-Dec). “Knowledge management: Everyone benefits by sharing information.” TFHRC, 63(3). Retrieved August 1, 2005: http://www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/novdec99/km.htm
Han, F. (2001). “Understanding knowledge management.” Public Manager, 30(2): 34.
Lowson, R.H. (2002). “Strategic operations management: The new competitive advantage.” New York: Routledge.
Skyrme, D. (2002). “The 3Cs of knowledge sharing: Culture, co-opetition and commitment.” I3 Update. Retrieved August 1, 2005: http://www.skyrme.com/updates/u64_f1.htm
Tiwana, A. (2000). “The knowledge management toolkit.” New Jersey: Prentice Hall.