Knowledge Management In Strategic Terms

Source: Google

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front

Management teams need to understand the specialist knowledge areas, the scope for competencies, and formulate a common understanding on the success of their operations. This research has given an evolution to a knowledge based management which has been maturing from a novelty approach to a strategic approach, and has been taken as an important tool by many organisations. 

Western academia are continuously stressing for knowledge inflation in their work cultures, be it government or corporate.  In middle east, Qatar's road to development,  especially at business clusters in Doha, is the first drive towards a knowledge based economy.

KM has its roots in Japanese innovation firms developed by its native professors, Nonaka Ijuro and Hirotaka Takeuchi. Today, knowledge management in organisations is a new subject taught in western business schools. The subject, as an innovation model, was always a pivotal requirement in information systems and engineering, as a quantitative analysis and was hardly qualitative in terms of academic theory in business.  In Asia, this aspect of management likely needs development because knowledge management can be helpful for a competitive strategy in emerging markets, with the helps of tools like competitive intelligence, environmental scanning, value chain, SWOT analysis, and stakeholder mapping. These practices can help in revolutionising KM practices on a large scale. 

Sharing knowledge is a human behaviour, and it acquires a critical role to the success of the knowledge management system. Therefore, while devising a strategy, every firm adapts to a certain set of intellectual resources and capabilities. In order to compete, a firm must know how to do certain things. Companies have to make strategic choices regarding technologies, products, services, markets or manufacturing processes. In this scenario, knowledge management becomes very important to develop skills and core competencies.

It is been argued that for sharing knowledge, there needs to be a knowledge culture. This subject should not be confused with market research because it talks about 'knowledge sponsors' within the business units that encourage and recognise knowledge sharing behaviour in the organisations. They are held accountable and rewarded for the knowledge sharing activities. Over the years, several academic schools of ‘strategy formation’ regarding knowledge management have matured such as design school, competence based competition, hyper competition, emergent strategy, complexity and evolutionary approaches. These tools and schools have been linked with a 'culture of knowledge dimension', and modern managers are encouraged to adapt these approaches in a creative way, while making business decisions.

The SWOT (StrengthsWeaknesses  Opportunities and Threats) framework provides a basis for linking knowledge management with strategy. Firms map their unique resources and capabilities to develop a competitive strategy by identifying threats and opportunities to their business in the market. It helps the firms to develop a competitive product and to design successful market positions. Therefore, for a competitive position in the market, the basis of knowledge creation and its management becomes mandatory, which in turns supports the firm’s strategy.

Mission statement of companies lays down objectives and targets as guidelines for an efficient strategic control. A knowledge centric approach in these statements likely results in the benefit of the society and transferring global knowledge to local people. Therefore,  there needs to be a willingness and motivation behind knowledge sharing. Only then, a culture of knowledge sharing will become standardised in an organisation.

Knowledge based strategy in a firm creates a need in identifying internal or external knowledge within the firm for appraisals. For a superior strategy, the KM academic theory developed to date by taxonomies suggests to analyse the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge, general and specific knowledge and individual and collective knowledge within an organisation. Only then knowledge mapping becomes a key towards a successful knowledge based firm strategy. All these factors leads towards continual innovation which form the roots of knowledge management in organisations.

Virtual organisations are also in development in Japan and many western countries. They have roots of a highly turbulent and competitive character in contemporary business environments which require companies to be extremely innovative. Communication and collaborative support in virtual practices require a special organisation and high calibre technical support because it spans traditional boundaries of knowledge spacing which involves either inter-organisational working or intra organisational collaboration that transcends functional or business units.

Knowledge management or a knowledge based economy was developed through the evolution of Communities of Practice (COP's) in organisations. They are a group of individuals and workers who have some form of practice in common. The groups are typically adhoc and informal in nature which are  practice based and have knowledge based perspectives. They involve a common form of understanding. Communities develop a stock a common knowledge and then develop shared values and attitudes. These communities possess a common identity. There is a ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ to characterise the process where people learn and become socialised into members of the community having a professional character. Communities of practice have been identified advantageous for both individuals and organisations. They provide a collective sense of identity, an essence of any knowledge management based practices, and a stimulus towards sharing knowledge inside the organisation. 

Knowledge management based strategy helps to improve firms learning capability and its ability to combine knowledge. These practices, therefore, become hard to imitate, and therefore become a nucleus for a competitive advantage. A knowledge based strategy is a path towards effective innovation capabilities within the organisation. A strategy based on knowledge management creates acquisition of knowledge through external sources, and through integration of knowledge through internal sources.

Capturing and repeating the best practices in the firm is one of the significant examples of how knowledge management creates a successful strategy. A ‘formulaic approach’ through ‘routine activities’ of the organisation help in formalising the knowledge management based approach for strategy. Sharing best knowledge based practices results in standardisation of efficient practices.

Leaders have to a big role to play in the development of 'learning organisations'. They set the directions and make key decisions. In developing knowledge based organisations, leaders need to build a shared vision. They create a responsibility for building learning organisations where people are continuously expanding their capabilities. Leadership in a learning organisation starts with a ‘principle of creative tension.’ Without a vision, there is no creative tension - by raising the current reality towards the vision, or lowering the vision towards a current reality, leaders help the employees to learn how to work with creative tension, and how to work with creative energy in order to move reliably towards aspired visions. Organisation’s learning objectives will remain as a distant vision until good leadership is not developed for knowledge based strategies.


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