Successful management of Human Capital is increasingly seen as the differentiating standard by which sustained organisational performance is achieved or faltered.
For DE&S, the strategic goal to improve the skills and capabilities of its people was spawned from the realisation that it needs to get better at managing knowledge across the business and triggered a transformation programme from 2014 to 2017, parallel to the release of the pan-MoD Defence Knowledge Management (KM) Strategy in 2017.
Implementing new policy such as this is significant organisational change such as this is inherently complex often can lead to unexpected outcomes as intended policy passes through a black box on its journey to organisational performance to anticipated and unanticipated subsequent reactions.
This research was undertaken to ascertain the realised practices across DE&S. Several interviews were conducted with DE&S employees to understand this.
The key findings were that there were knowledge management practices that were emerging themes and outside of the policy there were also many opportunities to be exploited
at present the defence KM strategy is not widely known. Although many known issues are being actively managed there are many emerging themes that do not support the defence KM vision.
The significance or implications of these findings are that the KM policy will have challenges to achieving the ultimate vision of improved organisational improvement because the areas within the black box are not currently supported by the human resource management model.
This research has increased understanding of the experienced KM practices of of mid-level delivery Managers within DE&S.
Transformation added a level of complexity as many intended practices are yet to be fully implemented, some have been started which could explain why experienced practices tended to be heterogeneous, and dependent upon individual teams and local ways of doing things.
Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) is a public-sector government organisation that employs over 12,500 civilian and military personnel (Gov.uk, 2017). It is a bespoke arm’s-length entity of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with its headquarters in Bristol and locations both in the UK and abroad (Dunne, et al., 2016). The department has an annual spend of 14 Billion pounds to procure and support a variety of equipment to both current and future operations for the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, (MoD, 2017). Equipment types vary from assets such as submarines and aircraft to supporting services such as food, clothing, medical supplies and accommodation (Gov.uk, 2017), (Gov.uk, 2017).
Between April 2014 and April 2017 DE&S has undergone a major transformation programme aimed at revolutionising the way the business manages its people, processes and decision-making. The significance of this transformation was that it enabled some exemptions to civil service rules that allowed freedoms on recruitment, retention and compensation of staff.
The catalyst for this transformation was recognition through The National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review, but the business needed to improve in key areas:
“Our ability to implement and deliver our vision is underpinned by the knowledge and skills of our people” (HM Government, 2015).
This culminated in the commencement of The Materiel Strategy in 2011, a programme designed to improve the skills and capabilities of the organisation (Gov.uk, 2011).
This fundamentally changed how the business manages its human capital enabling intelligent management of pay, benefits and reward, recruitment of external and internal talent, deployment and training. It also introduced standardised ways of working across the business, ‘toolkits’ with document templates and a new IT system ‘’MoDNET, as well as refining individual employee objective is to focus on the ‘how’ of what they deliver as well as the ‘what’ they deliver. Implementing this new structure aims to leverage of current knowledge assets, that are known to exist but are not currently being exploited in a way that will enable the business to deploy the right people, with the right knowledge into the right posts at the right time, culminating in April 2017 as a ‘‘match fit’ (Morse, 2015 p25) organisation.
The importance of retaining and managing knowledgeable human capital assets is accelerating up governmental agendas (Morse, 2015), however DE&S is not unique in identifying this need. The totality of companies bumping Knowledge Management (KM) to the top of their strategic agenda is increasing as the world moves towards a more knowledge-based economy. A significant proportion of a firm’s competitive advantage is believed to be made up from leverage knowledge capital within the business (Ritika, 2013). As awareness around its importance increases, the efforts applied to understand and better manage knowledge, usually through creation of new policy, processes and frameworks start to rise (Wang, et al., 2016).
For DE&S and improvement in organisational performance lies in freeing up resource through leveraging knowledge assets and improving return on investment through reuse. In June 2017, some two months after Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) passed the milestone to be a ‘match fit’ organisation, the MoD released parts one and part two of a three-part pan MoD KM strategy; the first of its kind to draw together good practices from across the business. The first part of which is a 12-page descriptive policy document setting out the strategic intent, approach, delivery and vision for capitalising on defence knowledge assets (MoD, 2017).
However, turning strategy and policy into reality is often a more complex challenge than the simple completion of document, changes to the ways individuals work require a structured change programme to support and manage the progress of cultural and procedural change.
It is no longer sufficient for a business to simply embrace KM frameworks and policies, companies need to have a deep understanding of the immediate environment, the impact of external emerging themes in the macro-economic environment and act upon them to stay ahead of the game (Bachnik & Nowacki, 2016) (PWC, 2016).
Part two and three respectively look to capture the extent of current practices across the business in a live capture document, before a maturity model is produced drawing together best practice activities and making changes to current practices were needed.
1.2. Defence knowledge strategy Part 1
The defence knowledge strategy vision is that:
“Knowledge and expertise is a valued resource throughout defence, sustained by an environment which supports knowledge seeking and sharing, promotes challenge and encourages continuous learning at every level”(MoD, 2017).p4
To achieve this vision four high-level strategic goals are described which are further broken down into 13 outcomes. Although this is a document released for general circulation these four top-level outcomes are in some instances convoluted, hard to decipher and are heavy in Jargon and have assumed reader knowledge (appendix xx), which makes conducting a supporting study to this policy very challenging. Therefore, to enable this research, the strategy has been studied for understanding and interpretation of intent and subsequently the four following key objectives have been formulated, retaining the meaning, but focusing on the simple language used:
- Knowledge is Valued: defence recognises and promotes the value of knowledge as a strategic resource, making it integral to corporate objectives
- Knowledge is Shared: defence practices and rewards knowledge seeking and sharing through providing empowerment and safe to challenge ethos
- Knowledge is Retained: defence captures knowledge through handovers, exit and succession planning, talent management and ensures it is reapplied as explicit knowledge.
- Knowledge is Generated: defence supports continuous learning mentoring shadowing discussion and participation in communities’ knowledge exchange across defence as well as formal training.
It is recognised that achieving these aims will take time and therefore the business will look to measure these over a short, medium and long-term time frame. It is unclear with the move to an arm’s length entity what governance is included, it is unclear who the strategy is directed at and at what level the strategy is targeted. This study looks to understand the environment in the short term, post transformation as a cross-sectional study. This study focuses specifically on DE&S and not any other Defence departments looks to provide a structured analysis that should help implementation of the strategy by understanding the DE&S specific key challenges and themes.
1.3. Defence knowledge strategy Part 2
DE&S does not currently have a working KM model that is universally accepted across the business. The policy recognises that the business hasn’t always been successful in learning from experience and retaining knowledge from previous projects. This has meant that the business often reinvents the wheel, works in silos and reproduces processes and procedures for each department. Resulting in a vast number of locally managed KM initiatives that the strategy recognises need to be pulled together.
1.4. Defence knowledge strategy Part 3
At this stage, the strategy looks to bring together best practice and processes and continue workshops and roadshows to disseminate information.
1.5. The research significance
The purpose of this study is to address a significant management issue for DE&S. This research is unique in its application because it looks specifically to understand the climate and Knowledge Management practices in DE&S. This research looks to support part two of the implementation by investigating practices specific to DE&S to support the most likely chance of success.
It is hoped that through gaining this awareness recommendations for opportunities and threats may be uncovered. It has been said that middle managers are the vertical and horizontal conduits of knowledge sharing in an organisation (Morten T. Hansen, et al., 1999). The mid-level manager level has been chosen as the focus subjects as these are some of the individuals that are at the coalface of delivery and knowledge sharing.
An exploratory study on the current working environment made on the part of the on the part of the researcher there are indications of an impossible misalignment between the intended policy and the realised practices at a working level, as well as wider macro-economic factors that may not be apparent influencers on the successful implementation of this policy for DE&S.
It is not uncommon for a business the size of DE&S to attempt multiple parallel change programmes at the same time, as it is not always feasible to run these one after another, however when a crossover of change programmes occurs it is important to understand them to enable dependencies to be managed. The recent change programme ‘DE&S Transformation’ into an arm’s-length entity adds a level of complexity, in some areas DE&S is self-governed such as freedoms around managing of human resource and another’s it is still managed by MoD governance, such as a pan-Defence KM Strategy. Human resource and knowledge however, are inexplicably linked and sits in the grey lines in between these two areas.
One of these grey areas the performance and reward process, previously this has seen individuals compete against each other for a ‘box 1’marking, in a fixed distribution marking scheme for a minor bonus. However, changes this year now links the grading system directly to pay rises, for the first after a very long period of pay freezes within the civil service. It is unclear the effect that adding this competitive element to performance management will have on individual knowledge sharing practices between peers.
Therefore, the timing of this research is important as the implications for DE&S are not yet known, initial indications are that the current KM Strategy does not make clear the distinction. This study looks to assess cross-sectional point in time to establish the success or otherwise of implementation of the knowledge strategy at the DE&S level (Saunders, et al., 2016). The implementation of the new human capital management model has taken effect from April 17 providing the perfect opportunity to baseline the initial stages of the transformation.
1.7. Aims and objectives
The overarching aim of this research is to understand the experienced KM practices of Mid-Level Delivery Managers in DE&S. The experience sought is the perspectives of the individuals themselves, as it is the experiences of the individual that ultimately lead to behaviours and eventually a change in organisational performance for the better or for the worst.
The research objectives are to seek answers to the following four questions:
- How is knowledge valued in DE&S?
- How is knowledge generated in DE&S?
- How is knowledge shared in DE&S?
- How is knowledge retained in DE&S?
1.8. Dissertation scope
The structure of this dissertation is as follows. Each section will be introduced to describe its intent and summarised before the next section is commenced.
- Introduction, setting the strategic context, the management issue and the research questions being investigated.
- Literature Review, which looks to conduct a critical systematic review of key academic theories
- Research Methodology, what approach has been taken and why.
- Findings, from secondary and primary data sources. Identification of key facts and findings.
- Discussion of the findings, where insights and emerging themes will be discussed
- Conclusion of the research and recommendations for my organisation at present and in the future making the connection between KM literature where appropriate
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
The topic of KM and the network of other management disciplines in which it overlaps is vast, to explore the literature in its entirety would be a significant undertaking, if possible at all (Heisig, 2015). As Albert Einstein said:
‘’As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it’’.
which highlights the challenge, the more we think we begin to understand the more we realise exists to be understood. It is difficult to create taxonomies, the topic is not bound by a clear set of simple principles to get to point b from point a, as such it is important within this literature review define the scope of what will be reviewed, and what won’t. Supported with the information that can be rationalised; the justification for its inclusion and exclusion.
Key models will be selected and reviewed to help the reader frame and understand possible approaches to knowledge management, with appropriate critique to highlight the limitations of these models.
2.2. What is knowledge?
It is not as simple as discussing what scholars believe to be the true definition of knowledge, this is up for debate. The reason it is challenging concept is because it relies on our ability to define something that is highly qualitative, subject to individual interpretation and is made up of intangible and hard to describe elements.
Many researchers support the idea that knowledge is made up of two distinct building blocks:
- Explicit knowledge; this is described as knowledge that is recordable, can be written down and articulated to other people or organisations and is made up of facts, routines, theories, culture and can be transmitted to others (Mackenzie, et al., 2007).
- Tacit knowledge, which is the know-how, built up from practical experience (Lubit 2001) and resides in individuals, it is the ability to be able to do something without necessarily even knowing how you did it, tacit knowledge is hard to quantify, to write down and transfer to others and is heavily dependent on context and interaction with others. It’s consistently developing and costly and slow to transfer between individuals (Grant, 2006).
However other researchers believe that Knowledge doesn’t sit strictly within these two pillars, but everywhere in between as well. Meaning that knowledge can have a degree to which it is tacit or explicit, which further defines the degree to which it is tangible and transferable (Marchington, et al., 2012).
(Puusa & Eerikäinen, 2017) argue the lines between these two types of knowledge are complex, furthermore that there are different types of tacit knowledge, tacit knowledge that can be made explicit and true tacit knowledge such as emotions and intuition that are not possible to transfer. As (Alavi & Leidner, 2001) points out, there is disagreement amount the research as to which is more valuable, explicit because it is readily available and can be utilised, or tacit because this is where unique abilities necessary for competitive advantage may exist.
Even with boundless research to understand knowledge types there is still the question of what knowledge is, a capability? An object? In their research (Alavi & Leidner, 2001), collate various perspectives of knowledge, these are outlined in the table below, what knowledge means for a company is context dependent, it could be one of these perspectives or perhaps all of them.
|State of mind||…learning, a state of knowing and understanding|
|Object||…a stock to be stored and manipulated|
|Process||…a process of applying expertise through knowledge flows. Creation, sharing, distributing|
|Access to information||…the retrieval and access to information|
|Capability||…strategic know-how and potential to influence action|
Table 1.0 Adapted from: (Alavi & Leidner, 2001)
2.3. Why is knowledge important?
For today’s organisation, its total ‘book value’ is often made up more than just physical assets such as infrastructure, equipment and financial capital. Significantly growing in interest, is the ‘Knowledge Based View’ (KBV) of the firm (Grant, 1996) (Lepak, et al., 2003), which has developed with the ‘Resource Based View’ (RBV). These management views suggest that it is intangible elements like brand value and the capability of the human capital that can be leveraged to create sustained organisational performance (Alavi & Leidner, 2001), (Lepak, et al., 2011).
The RBV describes the human capital, or resource of the business, to be the most fundamental element. The KBV takes this a step further to suggest that it is in fact the knowledge, social networks and management through structured processes and procedures that is vital. For some it is the ability for organisations not only to have knowledge existing within the businesses human capital but to be using it intellectually through relationships and processes to make it a valuable resource to both the business and at an individual level. Intellectual capital and knowledge are inextricably linked (Hsu & Sabherwal, 2012). The model below shows six areas that make up intellectual capital (Swart, 2006), knowledge is resident in all of these areas.
Fig 1.0 Adapted from Swart, J. (2006)
Although there is much research into how intended policy effects organisational performance, there is limited empirical research investigating the impact specifically of KM capability on organisational effectiveness and even less research concentrates specifically on public sector KM (Chiu & Chen, 2016). Furthermore, although a relationship exists between organisational performance and KM this does not guarantee success (Almutawa, et al., 2015). When it is considered that the management of knowledge is core to successful organisational performance, this makes it quite a relevant topic to understand for any business. Three key areas for knowledge are discussed in more detail below as this adds the contexts by which to discuss knowledge management models.
Human Capital – is embedded in the employees within a business, consisting of tacit and explicit knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviours as well as an enquiring nature and capacity to innovate (CIPD, 2017).
Social Capital – Reciprocity and network connections and social obligations that may be turned into economic capital. Social capital is where both explicit knowledge sharing such as emailing a document template and sharing of tacit knowledge such as suggesting a particular communication style with a particular stakeholder can be shared. This describes in-kind activity whereby having established social networks employees can leverage knowledge from others within the organisation, which can act as a great source of competitive advantage for individuals who will not need to source the information themselves and the business as the more times the investment the business has made in the knowledge is shared the higher the return on investment.
Structural Capital – This refers to the supportive infrastructure which enables the sharing of explicit knowledge these are things like computer information systems and software, the procedures, processes and policy, (Swart, 2006). Although Technology enables the sharing of explicit knowledge , tacit knowledge still remains within the individuals of the organisation (Holste & Fields, 2010) providing structure that enables tacit sharing is more challenging, at the individual level as knowledge generation and transfer is a function of willingness (Yi‐Chun Huang & Yen‐Chun Jim Wu, 2016).
2.4. Whose knowledge is it anyway?
Swart J (2006) (Swart, 2006) suggests that the degree of uniqueness of human capital can be firm specific or generic, or anywhere in between. How a firm chooses to position itself will either lean towards firm specific specialist, deep, embedded knowledge or generic, multi-skilled and broad-based, as shown in figure XX.
|Dimensions of Difference||Generic||Firm-Specific|
|Knowledge Development||External to the firm||Within the firm|
|Where Costs are Incurred||By the individual||Firm investment|
|Transferability of Knowledge||Highly mobile||Non-transferable|
|Type of knowledge||Explicit||Mainly tacit|
|Measures of Knowledge||Education, years of work experience, managerial experience||Years of firm experience, unique projects,
unique operational procedures
Table 2.0 Adapted from Swart (2006). The degree of Uniqueness of Human Capital
Firm specific knowledge could be an understanding of maintenance procedures for specific piece of equipment, this type is prevalent in organisations where there is a strong engineering background (Parcell & Collison, 2009). Generic knowledge could be a nationally recognised project management qualification. For firm specific knowledge there is a heavy firm investment in managing the human capital of the business, which makes the cost of losing these individuals very costly, it does however have its benefits as this knowledge will be less transferable to the competition and acts as ’mobility barrier’ so that employees are retained (Swart et al., 2003, cited in (Swart, 2006) p141). .
The degree of Uniqueness of HC model describes where the costs are incurred and many support the idea that knowledge exists primarily in individuals and should be considered an ‘asset’ it is unclear about whether knowledge exists as a personal or corporate asset, which is interesting as the cost may be incurred by the firm but be considered an individual asset, particularly if it’s tacit knowledge which relies on the motivation and willingness for the individual to share. (Chadwick, 2017) expands on the concept of where this value lies. Chadwick believes that there is a current trend for employees to be the primary beneficiary for value creation through being able to negotiate the best prices for their services by changing companies (discussed in section 7.7), and through businesses not driving up and leveraging the value the human capital creates (discussed in section 7.5).
2.5. What is the value of knowledge?
This could come down to who benefits most from knowledge, however this is hard to define and begs the question of if ‘value’ means both the same thing to the individual and a perspective onlooker. (Saunders, et al., 2016) suggests that we could challenge our core assumptions and views around how knowledge is developed. Some believe that all human knowledge is a product of epistemological relativism and exists simply as something internal to individuals, and agreed social constructs, this would mean that the value and believed extent of knowledge is created only by the perspective of the individual.
For an organisation, the value of knowledge is usually dependent upon the ability to leverage this in a way that supports sustained organisational performance. However as described by the Human Resource Management (HRM) performance link framework created by Purnell Et al. (Cited in lecture notes. Swart, J., 2016) when making a change to organisational practices, for example the way knowledge is managed, it is important for businesses to realise that between implementation and outcome there is an invisible ‘black box’ where there is potential for initial unintentional misinterpretation, followed by action based upon this interpretation, formulation of attitudes about these practices and subsequently new behaviours which may or may not result in the intended performance. Some studies indicate that some introduced new practices have an overall negative affect on organisational performance meaning the business would be better off had they not been introduced at all (Bersin, J. 2013).
Fig 2.0 HRM Performance Link Adapted from Purnell Et al. 2009 (Cited in Swart, J., 2016).
The success or otherwise is dependent upon how well the policy is implemented to reduce misinterpretation and how well it’s monitored through the life of the change and although the black box is considered very much an unknown the business does have some influence over what happens in this area for example, the competency of line managers affects the experience by the individual.
It is also important to consider external factors that may influence interpretation or effect employee attitudes such as wider HR changes that may conflict or support or change fatigue which can happen when lots of change is enforced within a short period
Kurt Lewin’s three stage theory of change, Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze (1947, cited in Schein 2010) (Schein, 2010), suggests that to conduct change successfully change should, be conducted in three stages. The first stage, argued by many as the most significant is to prepare people for the change and gain their buy-in, before the subsequent change can be implemented and refrozen. The release of the defence KM strategy represents the unfreeze part of this process whereby the business initiates an initial awareness that changes required across defence, ensures a common understanding of the importance and necessity of the change resulting in the implementation of new ways of working.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports on the challenge of turning new policy into practice, reiterating a widely held statistic in literature that as much as 70% of change initiatives fail (Balogun & Hope Hailey, 2014). Some of these failures are attributed to a lack of change monitoring and of follow-through with intended policies. With them being implemented but the progress not being monitored. Other instances showed some businesses aligning their strategy to a perceived or aspired business culture , instead of recognising the lived culture of the business (Balogun & Hope Hailey, 2015).
2.6. How is knowledge shared?
2.6.1. Mechanisms for knowledge sharing
Price (2011) (Price, 2011) argues that that to make tacit knowledge explicit organisations should follow four key steps.
- formerly acknowledging that knowledge is key to competitive advantage,
- that explicit and tacit knowledge are distinguishable
- That tacit knowledge rests within individuals,
- is exchanged in unstructured environments and can be made into tangible capitals
these instructions given initial direction for a business but does not explain how to best exploit the knowledge assets within a business. The ‘SECI’ model by Nonaka and Konno (1998) describes a four-stage process of organisational learning and knowledge generation, Socialisation, Externalisation, Combination and Internalisation. The “SECI Model” is a circular model that suggests how knowledge can be managed in a cyclical way by building on and exploiting previous experiences.
|Tacit Knowledge||Tacit Knowledge|
|Explicit Knowledge||Explicit Knowledge||
Fig 3.0 Spiral Evolution of Knowledge Conversion and Self-Transcending Process (Nonaka and Konno, 1998: 43)
A useful facet of this model is that it acknowledges both tacit and explicit means of knowledge and recognises that with the right context and conditions knowledge goes through different stages of development. This model suggests that is not only the explicit knowledge that the business holds that is important, it is the tacit knowledge that truly leads to organisational performance. It describes how it would be possible to gain insights into individual known and use it to the benefit of the organisation.
Socialisation – is the first stage that describes the tacit to tacit interactions that are informal and unstructured networks and shared experiences. This part of the circular process includes things like chat facilities, face to face meetings, learning groups and best practise sessions. This is the kind of engagement where a master and apprentice meet and the master is shadowed by the apprentice. This is supported by Scott and Storper (2003) who believe that social interaction is fundamental to the transfer of tacit knowledge.
(Nonaka, 2007) suggest that using the power of language to encourage the first step between tacit and explicit through using language that optimises the goal, they suggest the use of metaphors allow for individuals to use their imagination and combine two concepts to rationalise into one. Following this with the use of analogy to define the concept. The final stage in knowledge generation is to refine this into a model that can be defined.
Fig. 4.0 Adapted from (Morten T. Hansen, et al., 1999)
The model suggests that at a point of change where there are high levels of uncertainly and fluidity individuals are more susceptible to create new knowledge as they have to deal with ambiguity that they need to rationalise in their own minds. It is believed that this is a great way to create innovation and new ideas (Nowacki & Bachnik, 2016).
Externalisation stage describes how tacit knowledge is turned into explicit knowledge, for example taking the discussion, learning something new and translating it into a new tangible format that can be shared, for example the apprentice could write up a report with an interpretation of what they have learned, this talks about people coming up with ideas and putting them down on paper.
Combination stage is the sharing of this explicit knowledge to other explicit means, for example sharing the report from group to group. This would be what many would consider how learning is conducted. Sharing of written processes and procedures, like an instruction manual.
Internalisation stage is taking the knowledge learned from this report and learning new knowledge for the individual, it becomes ‘the way we do things around here’ to subsequently be taken forward for informal discussion with new individuals. Thus, completing the circle and continuing exchange of knowledge (Simmonds, et al., 2008).
Konno and Nonaka 1998 (Konno & Nonaka, 1998) , suggest through their model that it individual commitment of employees and alignment of strategic goals with the organisation that is key to being able to extract tacit information, a high level of involvement all levels of the organisation Senior managers, middle managers, and administration levels. Further to that that that the interaction amongst these three levels of colleagues is vital, given that the managers at the coalface of project delivery are often immersed in conducting business as usual and really refining the details and miss the broader context Nonaka and Konno, (1998). (Nonaka, 2007) believes that middle managers are the vertical and horizontal conduit between senior managers and the working level, the true “knowledge engineers” as they describe it.
Managers play a vital role in facilitating the generation of new knowledge, it is suggested that managers do this well when they prepare an environment for self-organising teams and networks, or more formally through ‘Communities of Practice’, which are groups that are set up specifically to share in ways of working (Bolisani & Handzic, 2015).
This certainly shows a process by which to make the sharing of knowledge possible, however as (Konno & Nonaka, 1998) described so much of this is a process of willingness and the level of engagement in this process to continuously share seems idealistic at best and does not necessarily acknowledge the various cultural blockers ‘Real Men Don’t Ask for Directions is a concept suggested by Collison and Parcell (2009) (Collison & Parcell, 2009) that suggests that people don’t like to ask for help believing that people are rewarded for being self-sufficient. So, in this example people don’t necessarily add value to that of their colleagues or don’t want to ask. ‘Not Invented Here’ Syndrome refers to attitudes around knowledge sharing, particularly evident in organisations where there is a strong engineering background (Parcell & Collison, 2009), that suggests individuals believe you could only fully understand what you’re doing if you’d worked there a long time, these sorts of cultural attitudes encourage a lack of curiosity, arrogant self-belief and fear of consequences of being vulnerable and bring challenges for (Nonaka, 2007) around that of ‘redundancy’ which is a way of creating overlapping knowledge so that businesses may come to a common understanding of knowledge, a way to do this as suggested by them is through strategic rotation of individuals to different teams to broaden their experience, this doesn’t however consider that many organisations endeavour to work to lean model where any excess activity is seen to be wasteful. So, this may not be applicale to all organisations.
The model does necessarily aid the reader in understanding the complexity of knowledge transfer between these four stages, (Allal-Cherif & Makhlouf, 2016) argue that this transfer needs to be much more structured through the use of things like ‘serious games’, work-based games which are essentially learning from experience activities but that are interactive and enjoyable to make that transfer easier and more entertaining.
Individual interpretation is also not considered here, when individuals do gain ideas these can often be hard to translate into other contexts and be re-utilised, this is supported by Klein G (2017) (Klein, 2017)who suggests that gaining insights are context dependant. In his book Klein describes that to be able to achieve a greater number of insights individuals must compromise on the number of errors, essentially must have higher risk of errors to enable insights (Klein, 2017).
It is possible for the cycle to be broken at any time and knowledge to be lost, for example if an individual departs the business has not made any forward planning for retention of their knowledge, or if explicit knowledge that is stored cannot be found from the use
2.6.2. Motivation for knowledge sharing
According to (Purcell, et al., 2009) there are three contributing factors that are needed to influence behaviour: Ability, Motivation and Opportunity (AMO). Ability includes things like knowledge and skills, Motivation includes both intrinsic rewards (the feel good of doing a good job) and extrinsic rewards (financial, for example) and finally Opportunity describes the accessibility an individual will need do their job. Both from an empowerment point of view and infrastructurally.
Fig 5.0 Adapted from (Purcell, et al., 2009)
These are all important factors as (Purcell, et al., 2009) suggests that this are the primary influencers of three stages within the ‘black box’: employee experiences; employee attitudes; employee behaviours. Understanding that these influencing factors exists allows onlooks to have a potential impact on employee behaviour by through close management of these areas.
When executed well, it can result in what’s known as Organizational Citizenship Behaviours (OCB’s) are the actions of employees that are optional, in addition to their terms of reference and are essentially the ‘extra mile’. These activities take place when an individual is engaged with the goals of the organisation (Purcell, et al., 2009). This flourishes in organisations where there is or organisational climate of trust (Luo & Lee, 2015), a safe to try ethos (Hope-Hailey, et al., 2012), individual empowerment and are rewards on par with the level of their perceived effort, in other words the unspoken ‘psychological contract’ made between employee and employer is in equilibrium (CIPD, 2017).
Ultimately individuals drive developments, (Ahmed, et al., 2012) suggest that the trick to knowledge sharing is to create generate ideas that people can’t resist sharing. It is believed that fundamentally willingness of individuals to take part and engage in knowledge management.
Wilkinson a et al 2017 suggest that employees of the business should be rewarded for behaviours that exhibit knowledge sharing and different business find different ways to create good knowledge sharing practices, although as identified by (Marston, 2007) this can be difficult when what reward means differs per generation, of which there are very often numerace generations in a single business. An initiative created by BP to try and encourage sharing. The BPS steal with pride award was invented to encourage employees to share information outside of their current operating centres, if fact the award was only given for idea taken from other teams. When someone could demonstrate that a stolen idea had been implemented and used in their team they would be awarded with a parrot and gold doubloon worth $250. This was a small investment for the company whom handed out just 12 of these awards totalling $3000 (Parcell & Collison, 2009). However, getting employees to compete against each other can cause undesirable behaviours, such as unwillingness to give up knowledge that would help others though fear of losing a perceived competitive advantage (Holste & Fields, 2010).
Because of epistemological views on knowledge it can sometimes be hard to align individual perceived contributions with perceived business outputs, and the BP example doesn’t quantify the value of the idea or doesn’t consider individual effort, in this example it was made up of individual judgement and neutral of whether it added significant value for only a small amount.
Social exchange theory is a concept suggests that only the relationships individuals find the most rewarding are the ones that they keep. Individuals weigh up the perceived effort of forming and maintaining the relationship through a cost-benefit analysis, this is true consciously or subconsciously for the employee-employer relationship where employees will continuously assess what information they do and do not want to share with others (Gergen, et al., 1980). And in an organisation where it is difficult to align individual sharing instances with organisational output the extent to which an individual could share or not would go unnoticed.
2.7. How is knowledge retained?
A CIPD (Hesketh, 2014) p(6) report suggests that the health or ‘operational momentum’ of an organisation depends on the extent to which individuals want to exit or stay. And since the retention of knowledge usually comes down to the retention of the people with the knowledge, losing staff to the competition is costly. When these staff leave they take with them the intellectual capital built up during their time with the business through both experience and formal qualifications. Therefore, retention of knowledge comes first from retention of individuals.
However, according to Lily Zhang (2017) who is a specialist in career development at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) the way employees engage with their employer is changing to being much more transactional and less so with a long-term mindset. This is likely to have a significant impact on the amount of time that an individual will stay in a business and therefore the return on investment or the ‘human capital rent’ that a business is willing to invest long-term, as referred to by Clint Chadwick (2017). In his research, he identifies that the cost of human capital can be offset by the potential value of the human capital and their knowledge set.
The coined phrase ‘a job for life’, has in recent times been diminishing in favour of more dynamic career paths that sees individuals moving every few years to broaden experience and remain current, keep up with new learning and innovation and increase the likelihood of promotion. As individuals change their behaviours businesses must also adapt their behaviours to retain their investment, be it through how they encourage their talent to remain with the company, encourage secondments or how they turn the intellectual capital into business capital through a formal or informal cascade of the knowledge. Particularly within the public sector and large organisations where jobs historically were viewed as being more ‘secure’.
In reality, it is not however always possible to retain human capital than a business, when resource is lost Doan et al (2011 pp) offers a three-stage analysis to help triage the impact of lost knowledge through succession planning:
- What knowledge is at risk?
(Collison & Parcell, 2005) suggest that it is important to conduct a triage on knowledge to understand what knowledge is important and if the knowledge is worth retaining by asking ourselves if the knowledge has an end use or a specific customer in mind. Knowledge for knowledge sake isn’t useful if it’s not relevant and actively being applied. Sometimes individuals are not aware of what knowledge they have that needs to be retained, because of unawareness, this prevents utility in the immediate term and loss in the long term. (Cleden, 2009) suggests that it is with the support of others that you can gain insights into understanding your knowledge, it is possible for you to be aware you were unknowledgeable (known unknowns), aware that you are knowledgeable (known knowns), unaware that you are knowledgeable (unknown knowns) and unaware you were unknowledgeable (unknown unknowns). As shown in the diagram below the aspiration is to get to a very limited number of unknown unknowns, because it is in this box that risk and uncertainty lies, if you don’t know what knowledge is at risk it’s hard to triage whether or not it is important to save. The best way to do this is to make yourself aware of unknown knowns through reflective practice and sharing with others, and the known unknowns which can be improved through targeted training in specific areas.