Sandria Grant , pp. 71. MAM/Sektionen för Management, 2010.
Knowledge Management (KM) in not a new phenomenon, but is, instead a concept that dates back to ancient philosophy, and which gained significance in the social and psychological sciences in the 1950s. The use of KM in business is however more recent, emerging in the 1980s, (Grover & Davenport, 2001). Knowledge is the key to an organization’s performance; hence its methodical distribution assures “innovation, non-duplication of efforts and a competitive edge,” (Dubrin, 2004, p. 415). Very often within organizations, there are knowledgeable individuals, (who through their experiences and associations) possess informal knowledge which is resident only in their minds. This knowledge is used in the efficient and effective execution of their daily functions. However, research has shown that organizations often face serious problems when these individuals leave, as this informal information goes with them, often resulting in instability and loss of income to companies (Alavi & Leidner, 2001). It is common practice for these knowledgeable employees to be reluctant to share their knowledge, as their know-how gives them a competitive advantage, and provides them with a certain level of power and recognition. Hence, knowledgeable employees tend to hoard their informal knowledge (De Long & Fahey, 2000). It is therefore incumbent on organizations to create environments within which this informal knowledge may not only be shared, but also documented, forming a part of the policies and procedures, and incorporated in the production of goods and services. This may be achieved by way of organizational culture.
Organizational Culture, simply put, is “how things are done around here” (Goffe & Jones, 1998). It speaks to the norms, values and standards in a company, written or un-written which holds the company together, and which distinguishes that company from other businesses. It is organizational culture that assists in identifying informal knowledge. Organizational culture also promotes the need for conversion of this formally documented knowledge to be shared in the interest of innovation, profitability, and posterity. Despite its numerous known advantages, and its potential for the promotion of growth and development, organizational culture could be the greatest hindrance to the transfer of knowledge in an organization, (Watson, 1998). Consequently, it is in the best interest of organizations to foster a culture that is accommodating to the integration of KM.
The question of what constitutes knowledge management and organizational culture, the role and importance of these paradigms, and how they may be integrated, are the focus of this thesis.
The research question, How can KM be Integrated into Organizational Culture - The Case of Investment Brokers, incorporated a case study to explore and collect data on KM, using the company’s documentation, observations and open-ended questions. The research investigated the culture of the organization being explored using Delong & Fahey (2000) four frameworks of culture. This qualitative approach required direct collaboration with the individuals involved in the study, and facilitated an examination of the physical environment of the company, as well as the cultural factors which impact KM.
John Creswell (2003) describes the method of “open-ended questions interview data, observation data, and document data” as qualitative, (Creswell, 2003, p. 17). These approaches were used to gather information on the company being reviewed. The company’s documentation – policies and procedures as is listed in Appendix D, were extensively reviewed, and open-ended questions, and observations, (other sources of evidence) were used to validate the findings.
Yin (2003) recommends six illustrative structures for composing case studies, namely, Linear-analytic, Comparative, Chronological, Theory building, Suspense, and Unsequenced. I have chosen the Linear-analytical structure, that explains the phenomenon being investigated, the methodology used in this activity, and the findings and conclusions.
Delong & Fahey (2000) Four Frameworks linking culture and knowledge was used to ‘match’ the practices at the company under review, to ascertain if the theories hold true in this organization. In analyzing and interpreting the data, the information was arranged and classified into groups to establish any pattern that may exist in the data, after which the conclusions were drawn.
Eight of 13 employees were questioned, and review of documentation and observation revealed that the cultural framework used to conduct the research was evident at the company studied. The faith-based, bureaucratic, conservative culture at Investment Brokers influences the knowledge that is resident in the organization, leading to the conclusion that culture not only determines the level of knowledge, its creation and adoption, but also engenders the structure for teamwork and associations between divergent levels of knowledge.