“Culture” as culprit: using actor-network theoryto unpick power issues of knowledge exchangein corporate environmentsDr Ha...
Presentation content “Culture” Frameworks Actor-network theory as framework Application of the framework Subversive b...
Background Optimism associated with the development of systems to  promote knowledge sharing is misguided Examples in th...
Early sociotechnical studiesKling & Scaachi (1982)    Argue that the operation and enhancement of computer     implementa...
Explanations: sociotechnical studiesKling & Scaachi (1982)    Argue that the operation and enhancement of computer     im...
Alternative assumptions of “system”A system is    More than a set of neutral components    A form of social organisation...
Purpose of frameworksFrameworks   help make sense of data collected, and thus of phenomena (e.g.    organisational dynami...
Output of frameworksFrameworks provide a means of formatting research  findings    e.g., as a graphical representation of...
Actor-network theory as frameworkHistory    Developed in 1980s    Michel Callon and Bruno LatourKey concepts    Non-hum...
Actor-network theory example Case study organisation wanted explanations as to why the  efforts of its knowledge manageme...
Actors in the organisation  Knowledge                              System                                          System ...
Analysis episode 1       Mission        Mission     statements      statementsSenior sponsor of Senior sponsor of         ...
Analysis episode 2                             Mission                              Mission                           stat...
Analysis episode 3                             Mission                              Mission                           stat...
Analysis episode 3                             Mission                              Mission                           stat...
Analysis episode 3                             Mission                              Mission                           stat...
Analysis episode 3                             Mission                              Mission                      Ties betw...
Subversive behaviour & compromiseAttention to, for example    “Promotion” of KM as a concept within in the organisation  ...
ReferencesCallon, M. & Latour, B. (1981). Unscrewing the big Leviathan: how actors   macrostructure reality and how sociol...
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Culture as culprit: using actor-network theory to unpick power issues of knowledge exchange in corporate environments

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Hazel Hall's invited paper presented at Developing and sustaining a knowledge sharing culture, Warwick Business School, Warwick, 16-17 September 2008. The material presented here draws on the findings of Hazel Hall's doctoral research, the full details of which are available from http://hazelhall.org/publications/phd-the-knowledge-trap-an-intranet-implementation-in-a-corporate-environment/

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Culture as culprit: using actor-network theory to unpick power issues of knowledge exchange in corporate environments

  1. 1. “Culture” as culprit: using actor-network theoryto unpick power issues of knowledge exchangein corporate environmentsDr Hazel HallReaderSchool of ComputingNapier Universityh.hall@napier.ac.uk
  2. 2. Presentation content “Culture” Frameworks Actor-network theory as framework Application of the framework Subversive behaviour and compromise References
  3. 3. Background Optimism associated with the development of systems to promote knowledge sharing is misguided Examples in the literature go back to 1980s “Culture” often takes the blame  The context in which it is hoped that knowledge sharing will be engendered is stronger than the technology and staff provided for the support of knowledge sharing activity
  4. 4. Early sociotechnical studiesKling & Scaachi (1982)  Argue that the operation and enhancement of computer implementations are compromised by:  shifting technical relationships  fluid, complex social relationships  Challenge assumptions that:  Developers and users act in a rational manner  Initiatives will be adequately resourced  Key players command social and political power to motivate widespread adoption
  5. 5. Explanations: sociotechnical studiesKling & Scaachi (1982)  Argue that the operation and enhancement of computer implementations are compromised by:  shifting technical relationships  fluid, complex social relationships “CULTURE” “CULTURE”  Challenge assumptions that: Developers and users work to Developers and users work to  Developers and users act in a rationalspecific,personal, short-term manner specific, personal, short-term agendas; time and money is  Initiatives will be adequately resourcedagendas; time and money is squeezed; often key players do  Key players command social and political power to motivate do squeezed; often key players not have political power. not have political power. widespread adoption
  6. 6. Alternative assumptions of “system”A system is  More than a set of neutral components  A form of social organisation  Subject to limitations of available resources  Funding  Political power  Staffing  A competitor for resources“Culture” refers to power relationships in this context (Ekbia & Kling, 2003)
  7. 7. Purpose of frameworksFrameworks  help make sense of data collected, and thus of phenomena (e.g. organisational dynamics) observed  act as a tool for diagnosis  and thus aid the processes of:  acquiring knowledge i.e. important elements for research  reflection output to have real organisational impact  action for change
  8. 8. Output of frameworksFrameworks provide a means of formatting research findings  e.g., as a graphical representation of the organisation under investigationIn using a framework it is possible to  (re)organise data  understand what it is that they represent  present findings in a format that is understandable to others – the representation can be used as a short-cut to shared understanding
  9. 9. Actor-network theory as frameworkHistory  Developed in 1980s  Michel Callon and Bruno LatourKey concepts  Non-humans, as well as humans, are actors  Relationships between actors shift as they compete for organisational resources, from tangible, e.g. office space, to intangible, e.g. corporate attention  Actor-networks grow through successful “translation”  Actor-networks diminish/disintegrate when ties in the network loosen
  10. 10. Actor-network theory example Case study organisation wanted explanations as to why the efforts of its knowledge management staff to promote information systems for knowledge sharing were sub-optimal. The organisation was understood as a mesh of competing actor- networks. The success/failure of corporate initiatives was suspected to be related to the degree to which particular groups enhanced or diminished their organisational power-base. Service delivery could be examined with reference to historical and social context of the organisation. The approach provided opportunities to reflect, learn, act.
  11. 11. Actors in the organisation Knowledge System System “Ordinary” staff “Ordinary” staff Knowledge sharing as a usage usage (not KM (not KM sharing as a Specialist KM staff concept Specialist KM staff statistics statistics specialists) specialists) concept members in members in Senior sponsors of Senior sponsors of KM as a centralised unit KM as a Shared centralised unit KM (not KM KM (not KM External concept Shared External concept collaboration Mission specialists) specialists) systems collaboration Mission systems space space statements KM strategy vendors statements KM strategy vendorsSenior staff with KM Senior staff with KM Specialist KM staffresponsibilities (not KM Repositories responsibilities (not KM Repositories Specialist KM staff members in business members in businessspecialists) specialists) System System units External consultants units External consultants
  12. 12. Analysis episode 1 Mission Mission statements statementsSenior sponsor of Senior sponsor of Senior specialist KM as a Senior specialistKM (not a KM KM (not a KM KM as a IM/KM staff member concept IM/KM staff memberspecialist) specialist) concept 2 in centralised unit 2 in centralised unit System SystemSpecialist IT/KM staff Specialist IT/KM staffmember 1 in member 1 incentralised unit centralised unit
  13. 13. Analysis episode 2 Mission Mission statements statements Senior sponsor of KM (not Senior sponsor of KM (not aaKM specialist) KM specialist)Specialist IM/KM Specialist IM/KM Senior specialist Senior specialiststaff members in KM as aa KM as staff members in IM/KM staff member 22 IM/KM staff membercentralised unit concept concept centralised unit in centralised unit in centralised unit Senior specialist Senior specialist IM/KM staff member 33 System System IM/KM staff member in centralised unit in centralised unit Some specialist Some specialist Specialist IT/KM staff IM/KM staff members IM/KM staff members Specialist IT/KM staff in business units member 11in centralised unit member in centralised unit in business units “Ordinary” staff (not “Ordinary” staff (not KM specialists) KM specialists)
  14. 14. Analysis episode 3 Mission Mission statements statements Senior sponsor of KM (not Senior sponsor of KM (not aaKM specialist) KM specialist)Specialist IM/KM Specialist IM/KM Senior specialist Senior specialiststaff members in KM as aa KM as staff members in IM/KM staff member 22 IM/KM staff membercentralised unit concept concept centralised unit in centralised unit in centralised unit Senior specialist Senior specialist IM/KM staff member 33 System System IM/KM staff member in centralised unit in centralised unit Specialist IM/KM staff Specialist IM/KM staff members in business members in business units units “Ordinary” staff (not “Ordinary” staff (not KM specialists) KM specialists)
  15. 15. Analysis episode 3 Mission Mission statements statements Central position of system, & its proximity Senior sponsor of KM (not Senior sponsor of KM (not to KM as a concept  aaKM specialist) KM specialist) confusion over whatSpecialist IM/KM Senior specialist KM represented in the Specialist IM/KM Senior specialist KM as aastaff members in staff members in IM/KM staff member 22 IM/KM staff member KM as organisationcentralised unit concept concept centralised unit in centralised unit in centralised unit Senior specialist Senior specialist IM/KM staff member 33 System System IM/KM staff member in centralised unit in centralised unit Specialist IM/KM staff Specialist IM/KM staff members in business members in business units units “Ordinary” staff (not “Ordinary” staff (not KM specialists) KM specialists)
  16. 16. Analysis episode 3 Mission Mission statements statements Distance between policy documentation & Senior sponsor of KM (not Senior sponsor of KM (not “ordinary” staff aaKM specialist) KM specialist) explained lack ofSpecialist IM/KM Senior specialist engagement in KM, & Specialist IM/KM Senior specialist KM as aastaff members in staff members in IM/KM staff member 22 IM/KM staff member KM as what it implied in terms concept conceptcentralised unit centralised unit in centralised unit in centralised unit of behaviours Senior specialist Senior specialist IM/KM staff member 33 System System IM/KM staff member in centralised unit in centralised unit Specialist IM/KM staff Specialist IM/KM staff members in business members in business units units “Ordinary” staff (not “Ordinary” staff (not KM specialists) KM specialists)
  17. 17. Analysis episode 3 Mission Mission Ties between KM staff in statements statements business units Senior sponsor of KM (not strengthened over time Senior sponsor of KM (not (translation) at expense of aaKM specialist) KM specialist) relationship withSpecialist IM/KM Senior specialist Specialist IM/KMstaff members in Senior specialist KM as aa centralised KM team & tool KM as staff members in IM/KM staff member 22centralised unit IM/KM staff member concept of implementation  concept centralised unit in centralised unit in centralised unit commitment to KM Senior specialist weakened Senior specialist IM/KM staff member 33 System System IM/KM staff member in centralised unit in centralised unit Specialist IM/KM staff Specialist IM/KM staff members in business members in business units units “Ordinary” staff (not “Ordinary” staff (not KM specialists) KM specialists)
  18. 18. Subversive behaviour & compromiseAttention to, for example  “Promotion” of KM as a concept within in the organisation  Alignments leading to (mis)understanding?  Incentives for desirable KM-related behaviours  “Location” of KM functions  Centralised/decentralised  Reporting lines  Perceptions of KM roles  Job titles
  19. 19. ReferencesCallon, M. & Latour, B. (1981). Unscrewing the big Leviathan: how actors macrostructure reality and how sociologists help them to do so. In K. Knorr Cetina & A. Cicourel (Eds.). Advances in social theory and methodology: towards an integration of micro- and macro-sociologies (pp. 277-303). London: Routledge.Kling, R. Scaachi, W. (1982). The web of computing. Advances in Computers 21, 1-90.Ekbia, H. & Kling, R. (2003). Power issues in knowledge management [Online]. Available: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/html/2022/164/WP03- 02B.html [5 September 2008].

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