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Knowledge Management An Action Research Project Prof Hanifa Shah Professor of Information Systems Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Technology Staffordshire.

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Presentation on theme: "Knowledge Management An Action Research Project Prof Hanifa Shah Professor of Information Systems Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Technology Staffordshire."— Presentation transcript:

1 Knowledge Management An Action Research Project Prof Hanifa Shah Professor of Information Systems Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Technology Staffordshire University

2 Introduction Research took place in a major UK FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) manufacturer and distributor Makes and distributes FMCG branded goods Several brands in the 20 top-selling grocery brands in the UK Holds major UK franchises FCMG selected as: Little reported KM work applied to manufacturing firms in UK KM software was already being introduced in this company The FMCG organisation was already quite knowledgeable about the domain and its technologies What was missing was an understanding of what knowledge was in their own context and what was required of the KM technologies Implications for IS planning and development strategy needed to be understood

3 FMCG KM Study: Action Research Approach My research showed that many organisations were having knowledge management technologies ‘sold’ to them without a proper understanding of what KM meant for them The KM project was formulated by me as a response to an actual problem that had the potential to be addressed by academic ideas that needed to be made available for practical use. Key aspect of the KM project was this processing of academic theory and terminology into ideas and language that was appropriate to the business world The work was conducted as an Action Research project which included a series of meetings, proposals, workshops and interviews involving a wide range of personnel at the FMCG organisation including a number of senior managers

4 Action Research Combines in-depth theoretical ideas and learning with practical benefits and change for the organisation Action research characteristics  Researchers are actively involved and collaborate on the project  Researchers and practitioners intend to bring about change and improvements  A conceptual framework for the research  Susman & Evered’s 1 form of action research involves Problem analysis Planning of activities to address the problems Executing the activities Evaluation of the work (reflection on what has been achieved) Capturing the learning  The learning leads to a further, improved action and reflection cycle 1Susman, G I and Evered, R D (1978), “An assessment of the scientific merits of Action Research”, Administrative Science Quarterly, 23:pp

5 An Action Research based model for University-Industry collaboration Incubating Virtual Enterprise Networks in Yorkshire – An Action Research Approach Loh et al.,

6 Explicit vs tacit knowledge  Explicit knowledge can be precisely and formally articulated Codified in organisational procedures, policies, manuals and programs  Tacit knowledge Non-articulated and cannot be manifested as rules Subconsciously understood and applied, difficult to articulate, developed from experience, beliefs, perspectives & values Exists in domain expert’s skills, minds of employees, in established but uncodified organisational practices  FMCG Study To understand and elicit as much of the tacit knowledge as possible To facilitate change To foster a knowledge management culture To develop KM academic ideas

7 FMCG: Key elements of research Agree project context Define knowledge for the project context Identify knowledge sequences Prioritise with senior managers Determine impact on IS development Recommend plan of action

8 Agreeing context and definition Before agreeing a definition – need to understand context After various discussions the context was agreed as:  Management of Brand X across marketing and sales functions for one year Numerous definitions of knowledge in the literature Many refer to the importance of the human element in creating, defining and understanding knowledge Definition of knowledge recognised as being  Multi-faceted  Variable over time  Variable according to context  Shareable, reflectable if articulated Increased in relevance by engaging users in defining knowledge for their context In practice this can be done by a facilitated workshop

9 KM definition for FMCG study Context  Management of Brand X across marketing and sales functions for one year Definition - Knowledge in the above context is: “The integration and reuse of ideas, experience, skills, intuition and lessons learned that influences our problem solving, decision making and the way we work to continually create tangible outcomes of brand value and business worth”

10 Knowledge Sequence

11 Identify Knowledge Triggers/Requirements This elicitation is facilitated by questions of the form  What knowledge does the organisation need?  What knowledge does it need to use better?  What are the triggers for subsequent knowledge activities? Employees are asked to prioritise the top five knowledge requirements These top 5 are then considered further

12 Identify Knowledge Resources For each knowledge sequence in its order of priority- what are the knowledge resources that need to be manipulated? The employees are asked to consider a number of aspects of the organisation:  Purpose, strategy, culture, structure, knowledge contained in computer systems, employee knowledge, knowledge contained in other forms eg books, reports

13 Identify Knowledge Manipulation Activities For each knowledge sequence – what are the knowledge manipulation activities that need to be carried out? HOW produced By WHOM WHAT produces artifact HOW used by WHOM WHEN The manipulation activity areas that need to be considered are  Acquisition  Selection  Generation  Internalisation  Externalisation  Other

14 Identify Management Influences What are the management influences that would facilitate the knowledge manipulation activities?  Leadership Effective management of knowledge resources & knowledge manipulation skills Creation of conditions conducive to sharing relevant knowledge  Coordination Scheduling knowledge flows and activities Alignment with strategy Development of integrated reward & incentive systems that encourage knowledge dissemination  Control Managing the provision of knowledge resources (quantity, quality, security, constraints)  Measurement Assessing and evaluation knowledge Resources, manipulation skills and activities and the results of KM

15 Identify Environmental Influences  What environmental influences constrain or facilitate the knowledge manipulation activities?  Areas to facilitate elicitation are GEPSE (Government, Economic, Political, Social, and Economical) Markets Competitors Suppliers Customers Other

16 FMCG Study – Knowledge Target Improve awareness of potentially useful information/knowledge  Finding relevant databases and data in databases  Finding relevant work people have done  How other employees can help others do their jobs  Data that brand managers have that could be used to help channel marketing (eg create better sales presentations)

17 Improve awareness of potentially useful information/knowledge

18 Implications for IS development Strategy Better Identify analytical capabilities of employees providing improved training in using the databases and provide better introduction to roles of current staff Improve induction programme Integrate systems so retailer and accounts systems data is consistent and finance provide marketing and sales with the same set of figures Successful integration across the organisation of the KM system being piloted

19 KM - Learning Facilitation of  Contextual definition of knowledge  Articulation of knowledge requirements  Prioritisation of knowledge requirements  Summary of Knowledge Resources People, Computer Systems, knowledge in soft form etc  Understanding of knowledge manipulation activities  IS development strategy  Identify problems  Focused investment

20 Collaborative research with industry - Learning University-industry collaboration of this nature requires very careful negotiation of exactly what is involved Expectations for both sides must be discussed and a realistic set agreed Project contact points in both organisations must be agreed Suitable context for study  Eg department, group of employees related to a project, a group of heads of departments  Sample of employees that are representative of the diversity and balance of the chosen context Suitable decision maker(s) at senior level Cooperation of participant employees for period of study  Awareness of the project and its purpose must be cascaded down the organisational structure Practical support in terms of scheduling various interviews and workshops


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