Critical Factors for Knowledge Management in Project-Based Organization

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This article reviews a proposed model proposed by Ajmal et al. (2010) about six main success factors enable knowledge management initiatives to succeed in project-based organizations.

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  • Brian, thanks for you thorough reflections. I would say first of all that this article is a very condensed brief of this conceptual model. I agree with you regarding Knowledge Reuse part in all factors, but let me explain some points of what you reflected.

    Familiarity here is about knowing how to use the system in a proper way. That includes what you mentioned earlier about Knowledge Reuse. But I agree that it should has more emphasis.

    For incentive, it's here something to do with regular organizational motivation of whom are involved for assuring their commitment. Motivation is a key word in project management as project team members are apt to be involved in tasks that they have never done before. Likewise, KM initiatives in changing project-based organization are expected to offer the same nature of motivation.

    Although the term ‘‘power’’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘‘authority’’, their
    meanings differ. ‘‘Power’’ refers to the ability to achieve certain ends, whereas ‘‘authority’’
    refers to the legitimacy of exercising that power. Users as the hub of creating and sharing/reusing knowledge are expected to have the appropriate legitimacy to apply the required practices. Some documented failure stories are there. However, I still agree with you about leaving spaces for innovation if possible for users. That may result in lower productivity anyways. I think that some parts of the process should be standardized.

    Culture here is more about communication. Every organisation’s culture is distinctive, and this distinctive organisational culture distinguishes the members of one group from another. The concept of a distinctive organisational culture is especially important in project-based organisations because project teams frequently involve professionals from different cultural backgrounds. The majority of successful initiatives were based on an appropriate organisational culture that was conducive to the collection and sharing of knowledge among the members of the organisation. The point of decision making that is based on knowledge rather than intuition is something to do with corporate culture (organizational DNA). In change management, the commitment of top management or guiding coalition of a particular change is considered in early stages. The commitment of executive managers could be categorized with employee motivation in general - integral interaction (culture, communication, motivation).
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  • Hafez, thanks for sharing your study and conclusions. Let me press you on a few points...

    Familiarity. We would argue that's not enough... it has to be EASY to do. Knowledge Capture and more importantly Knowledge Reuse needs to be a natural part of the work, not an extra burden. The easiest way to do your job should be to reuse the existing knowledge. And capture of the knowledge should be an automatic part of the learning process.

    Incentive. Artificial incentives are rarely effective at producing *quality* knowledge capture, and completely ineffective at producing knowledge reuse. THE incentive is to make reuse of knowledge the easiest way to get your job done. If knowledge reuse isn't providing value to the people doing the work, why bother with artificial incentives? Instead, fix your KM system... or more importantly, your knowledge REUSE system.

    Authority to reuse the knowledge. This is really the only mention of knowledge reuse in the paper... and I'm not sure that I've ever seen it be an authority issue. The problem is it is easier and more fun to reinvent the wheel than it is to try to find the knowledge you need, and then determine its applicability to your problem, and then map it as needed, and then to make sure it is actually valid (it tends to get obsolete).

    Culture. You aren't very specific here. Let me suggest the key cultural issue is how you make decisions. In the end, your knowledge will have no value if it does not impact your decision-making. But most organizations' cultures do NOT make decisions based on knowledge... they make decisions based mostly on intuition and guessing. As long as that remains true, knowledge reuse will remain rare, and KM nearly pointless.

    For our root cause analysis for KM failures:
    http://www.targetedconvergence.com/reusable-knowledge.html
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Critical Factors for Knowledge Management in Project-Based Organization

  1. 1. Institutionen för informatik Change and Knowledge Management Critical Factors for Knowledge Management in Project Business Author: Hafez Shurrab
  2. 2. I ABSTRACT Project-based business is significantly growing in different sectors due to multiple advantages projects can offer. However, one major concerns of projects is being a temporary business with high possibilities of losing organizational knowledge, and greater difficulties in assuring teams’ commitment, causing slowness in organizational learnability and capability to evolve and become more competitive. Therefore, many project-based organizations consider knowledge management initiatives to fill that gap. Nevertheless, many of such initiatives fail to deliver the expected results due to different failure factors and barriers, while others could be more successful due to a group of success factors and enablers. This article discusses a conceptual model consisted of six success factors that contribute to the overall success of KM initiatives in project-based organizations.
  3. 3. II TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT................................................................................................................................ I TABLE OF CONTENTS...........................................................................................................II 1. INTRODUCTION..........................................................................................................- 1 - 2. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK...................................................................................- 1 - 2.1. Conceptual Model of Factors.............................................................................- 1 - 2.2. Knowledge-Management Initiatives ..................................................................- 2 - 3. EMPIRICAL STUDY ....................................................................................................- 3 - 4. DISCUSSION.................................................................................................................- 3 - 5. CONCLUSION ..............................................................................................................- 4 - 6. REFERENCES...............................................................................................................- 5 -
  4. 4. - 1 - 1. INTRODUCTION Running a business may not be difficult, while sustaining it under the fierce competition of today’s business is definitely more complicated. One of the major concerns is that the acceleration of business development in all life’s facets is going in a high pace. For that, business leaders are not only asked to reserve the corporate memory, but also to keep abreast of relevant updates and absorb the best of them in a form of practices and techniques. In view of such a challenge, knowledge management is becoming more and more crucial, notably, from a competitiveness point of view (Prencipe & Tell, 2001). The main mission of KM is to make sure that the knowledge asset is diffused across the organization as optimum as possible. Nowadays, knowledge is regarded as a key sustainable competitive entity for almost all forms of business. The improvements and developing projects of KM are injected to businesses in a form of KM initiatives (Ithia, 2003). One business form showed high constant growth is the project-based business. None the less, this type of business encounters greater challenge in terms of KM due to several concerns stem from technologies, cultures, knowledge contents, and project management frameworks (Chua & Lam, 2005). Therefore, KM initiatives are more apt to fail in delivering the promised value. This article addresses a conceptual model proposed by Ajmal et al. (2010, pp. 156- 168) for six success factors of KM initiative in project-based business. An empirical study has been conducted to examine the model on project-based companies in Finland. 2. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK 2.1. Conceptual Model of Factors The proposed conceptual model encompasses several factors whereby KM initiatives are influenced in a cotext of project-based business. The factors are as the following: 1. Familiarity: The more familiar are members of an organization with KM initiatives and practices to be undertaken, the more responsive and productive are they, and thus, the more successful is the integration of these initiatives (Pieris et al., 2003). 2. Coordination: KM initiatives rely heavily on organizational communication and sharing. Moreover, project teaming is greatly essential for PM. Therefore, there should be organized practices for coordinating communication and knowledge
  5. 5. - 2 - sharing activities. The model incorporates two steps of the four-step model (socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization) of knowledge creation introduced by Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), which are socialization and combination. 3. Incentive: KM initiatives as well as any other type of effort requires commitment of the employees, especially in PM (Porter & Lilly, 1996). Incentive programmes are highly considered for the success of KM initiatives (Massey et al., 2002). Project team can be motivated extrinsically (to achieve objectives irrelevant to the work boundary) and intrinsically (to achieve objectives in which increase personal satisfaction from doing the work). (Amabile, 1997). The later one is found to be more contributing for knowledge creation and sharing (Osterloh & Frey, 2000). 4. Authority: Project team should be authorized to exercise the power of knowledge utilizing and sharing within the organization, not only motivated to create that knowledge. 5. System: The value of knowledge is kept apart from the required level if it is dealt with as asset, and not element of an embedded system (Ruppel & Harrington, 2001). However, a system could not be regarded as robust and efficient if it does not provide a project-based organization with ease of communication, and collection and re-use of knowledge. 6. Culture: Since organizational culture is one of the unique elements for every organization (Hofstede, 1980), project-based organizations show more uniqueness because of professionals overlapping that belong to various cultural background. According to Long (1997), the organizational culture frames both the value of knowledge as competitive advantage for particular organization, and the knowledge type to be managed. 2.2. Knowledge-Management Initiatives The main objectives of KM initiatives boils down to enhancing the intelligence behaviour of organizations so that they become more successful, and optimizing the effective use of knowledge assets (Wiig, 1997). The success of KM initiatives could be indicated by the resource growth attached to the project in terms of people and budget, the improvements added to knowledge content and usage dimensions, the capability of a
  6. 6. - 3 - project to sustain regardless particular individual contribution, and undoubtedly the financial effect in from of profitability and ROI (Davenport et al., 1998). As any other framework, KM initiatives maybe enhanced by enablers (success factors) or impeded by barriers (failure factors). At one extreme, Moffett et al. (2003) sums up ten enablers including friendly senior management leadership and commitment, organizational culture, employee involvement, employee empowerment, trustworthy teamwork, employee training, information systems infrastructure, benchmarking, performance measurement, and knowledge structure. At the other extreme, Chua and Lam (2005) suggest four categories of barriers to successful KM initiatives, and that include the negative impact of technology (in terms of connectivity, usability, over-reliance and maintenance cost), culture (in terms of politics, management commitment, perceived image and knowledge sharing), knowledge content (in terms of relevance and currency, structure, coverage and knowledge distillation), and initiative project management (in terms of technical and business expertise, project cost, conflict management and roll-out strategy). The conceptual model proposed by Ajmal et al. (2010, pp. 156-168) is derived from and drawn upon the indicators, enablers and barriers of successful KM initiatives previously stated. 3. EMPIRICAL STUDY The six-factor model is supported by an empirical study. 400 of project-based companies in Finland have been considered for answering an online questionnaire. 10.45 % (41) of the respondents completed the questionnaire. Each factor represented a section, and a five-point Likert-type scale was used as barrier weight for the questions. The results show that, for Finnish companies, the absence of appropriate incentive programs and systems were the highest in relative weight, and the lake of coordination and familiarity were second in importance, while the readiness of culture and lack of authority were the least relevant barriers to the success of KM initiatives in Finnish project-based context. 4. DISCUSSION The proposed conceptual model contributes heavily to the general pool of change and knowledge management. The framework of proposed success factors could be generalized to involve all business types, in addition to project-based organizations. My argument is that project-based businesses have much more complicated concerns with respect to knowledge assets and corporate memory. That may include the temporary
  7. 7. - 4 - duration of project life-cycle, need of broad set of internal and external professional skills for project planning and execution, high project uncertainty levels, and unique entities built in the project structure. As such, the success factors of the conceptual model could be proposed as techniques and recommendations for handling organizational transformation (change and knowledge management) in general. For example, the conceptual model suggests familiarity and incentives as two out of six main factors to the success of KM initiatives. This also means that familiarity and incentives are crucial to the change and knowledge management. There should be effective incentive programs in organizations that maintain the commitment of employees to be more adaptive with the changes and knowledge handling updates. Similarly, employees would be more mature, committed and productive if they are familiar with the objectives and methodologies of the new techniques, practices and routines. On the other hand, the results of the empirical study could not be generalized due to the location of sample, where every place is characterized by its own culture and priorities. 5. CONCLUSION To conclude, the paper suggests six success factors as a conceptual model that enables successful dedication of KM initiatives in project-based organizations. These factors have been concluded drawing upon the historical literature of successful KM initiatives in a form of enablers, barriers, and indicators. As a whole, organizations should be familiar with what is planned and why. The knowledge creation and sharing within an organization should be authorized, motivated by satisfying incentive program, coordinated by capable management, and supported by appropriate system. Everything in the organization should be tailor-made to be appropriate with the internal and surrounding culture. As evidence to the conceptual model, an empirical study has been done on Finland to investigate the order of the success factor with respect to the significance and priority. The study resulted in incentive as the most absent factor, while authority is the most present factor. However, the results could not be generalized because the location studied is limited to only one country.
  8. 8. - 5 - 6. REFERENCES Ajmal, M., Helo, P. and Kekäle, T. 2010. Critical factors for knowledge management in project business. Journal of Knowledge Management, 14 (1), pp. 156-168. Amabile, T.M. (1997), ‘‘Motivating creativity in organizations: on doing what you love and loving what you do’’, California Management Review, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 39-58. Chua, A. and Lam, W. (2005), ‘‘Why KM projects fail: a multi-case analysis’’, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 6-17. Davenport, T.H., De Long, D.W. and Beers, M.C. (1998), ‘‘Successful knowledge management projects’’, Sloan Management Review, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 43-57. Hofstede, G. (1980), Culture’s Consequences, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CA. Ithia, A. (2003), ‘‘UK lawyers spend more on KM’’, KM Review, Vol. 5 No. 6, p. 11. Long, D.D. (1997), ‘‘Building the knowledge-based organizations: how culture drives knowledge behaviors’’, working paper, Center for Business Innovation, Ernst & Young LLP, Cambridge, MA. Massey, A.P., Montoya-Weiss, M.M. and O’Driscoll, T.M. (2002), ‘‘Knowledge management in pursuit of performance: insights from Nortel networks’’, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 269-89. Moffett, S., McAdam, R. and Parkinson, S. (2003), ‘‘An empirical analysis of knowledge management applications’’, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 6-26. Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1995), The Knowledge Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, Oxford University Press, New York, NY. Osterloh, M. and Frey, B.S. (2000), ‘‘Motivation, knowledge transfer, and organizational form’’, Organization Science, Vol. 11 No. 5, pp. 538-50. Pieris, C., David, L. and William, M. (2003), ‘‘Excellence in knowledge management: an empirical study to identify critical factors and performance measures’’, Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 29-45. Porter, T. and Lilly, B. 1996. The effects of conflict, trust, and task commitment on project team performance. International Journal of Conflict Management, 7 (4), pp. 361-- 376. Prencipe, A. and Tell, F. (2001), ‘‘Inter-project learning: processes and outcomes of knowledge codification in project-based firms’’, Research Policy, Vol. 30 No. 9, pp. 1373-94. Ruppel, C.P. and Harrington, S.J. (2001), ‘‘Sharing knowledge through intranets: a study of organizational culture and intranet implementation’’, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Vol. 44 No. 1, pp. 37-52. Wiig, K.M. (1997), ‘‘Knowledge management: an introduction and perspective’’, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 6-14.

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