Knowledge Management An Action Research Project

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Nov 6, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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Knowledge Management

An Action Research Project



Prof Hanifa Shah

Professor of Information Systems

Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Technology

Staffordshire University

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


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



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 Quar
ter
ly,
23:pp582
-
603

An Action Research based model for
University
-
Industry collaboration

Incubating Virtual Enterprise Networks in Yorkshire


An Action Research Approach Loh
et al
.,

http://portal.cetim.org/file/1/62/103_Loeh_Booth_Faughy_Katzy_Thompson.pdf

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


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



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

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”

Knowledge Sequence

Data
Data
Data

KNOWLEDGE
MANIPULATION
ACTIVITIES
KNOWLEDGE
RESOURCES
KNOWLEDGE
OUTCOMES
Managerial
influences
Environmental
influences
Knowledge
trigger
Knowledge
result
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



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



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



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




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


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)

Improve awareness of potentially useful
information/knowledge

Data
Data
Data
KNOWLEDGE
MANIPULATION
ACTIVITIES
KNOWLEDGE
RESOURCES
KNOWLEDGE
OUTCOMES
Managerial influences
Recruit publicist
/
insight consultant
Devise improved induction
programme
Increase investment in database
training
Focus training on individual roles
Understand implicatons for IS
planning
Environmental
influences
Knowl
edge
trigger
Knowl
edge
result
CONSUMER DATA
Independnet reports
Presentations
(
int
,
ext
)
Conferences
Books
Trade magazines
databases
FMCG SYSTEMS
Oracle database
Intranet
Shared area
Research Files
/
reports
MARKET DATA
Neilson
CTP
(
Convenience Tracking
Programme
)
IDG
(
Institute of Grocery
Distribution
EXPERTISE
BRAND TEAMS
BRAND MANAGERS
SALES

Business Development
Managers
(
Customer Account
Teams
)
Improved awareness of
potentially useful information
/
knowledge

KNOWLEDGE MANIPULATION
ACTIVITIES
ACQUIRING
GENERALISING
Brand managers and BDMs regular meetings
to transfer knowledge
Presentatons on different data sources and
the kind of questions brands use them to
answer
Regular updates on changes to sources and
questions
SELECTING
INTERNALISATION
More pro
-
active

‘make aware’ culture
Publicist

category insight to others on a periodic basis
Insight analyst
/
consultant to make external links and bring back info
&
map to FMCG org
Induction programme

introduce more fully roles of others
,
uses of
databases
&
other knowledge resources
,
post induction element to
enable employees to ask questions focused on their work
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



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

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