Knowing in Practice: Enacting a Collective          Capability in Distributed Organizing                                  ...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI         Knowing in Practice global product development, such a capability may also            Brown an...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI            Knowing in Practiceof action, that is on knowing (a verb connoting action,                l...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI            Knowing in Practice Figure 1     M. C, Eschers "Drawing Hands":& 2001 Cordon Art B.V. - Baa...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI        Knowing in Practiceis virtual, its status provisional. Knowing how to ride a       as they chan...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI              Knowing in Practicehas not been central to current research on either global             ...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI         Knowing in PracticeTable 1    Number and Type of Interviews Conducted Within        the findin...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI         Knowing in Practicedata (Agar 1980. Eisenhardt 1989, Glaser and Strauss               I shared...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI          Knowing in PracticeTable 2      Repertoire of Practices, Activities, and Knowing Within Kappa...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI               Knowing in Practice Tabfe 3        Sharing Identity Within Kappa  Knowing in Practice   ...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI            Knowing in Practice  the persons we have in the organization, it is quite hard to give   al...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI             Knowing in PracticeTable 4      Interacting Face to Face Within Kappa  Knowing in Practice...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI         Knowing in Practicework seamlessly with each other, reflect evolving tech-            planning...
WANDA .1. ORLIKOWSKI               Knawins in Practice      Every year we make a plan, whal we call an operational plan,  ...
WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI        Knowing in PracticeLearning by Doing: Knowing How to Develop                          (skills i...
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
Orlikowski 2002
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Orlikowski 2002

  1. 1. Knowing in Practice: Enacting a Collective Capability in Distributed Organizing Wanda J. Orlikowski Sloan School of Management. MIT (E53-325}. 50 Memorial Drive. Cambridge. Massachusetts 02142 global product development? In this paper. I wish to ex-Abstract plore a possible explanation—an explanation which restsIn this paper, I outline a perspective on knowing in practice on and elaborates on the premise that effective distributedwhich highlights the essential role of human action In knowing organizing is an enacted capability constituted in the ev-how to get things done in complex organizational work. The eryday practices of global product development activities.perspective suggests that knowing is not a static embedded ca-pability or stable disposition o actors, but rather an ongoing Such an explanation leads away from the focus on or-social accomplishment, constituted and reconstituted as actors ganizational knowledge occupying much of the contem-engage the world in practice. In interpreting the findings of an porary discourse on knowledge management, and to-empirical study conducted in a geographically dispersed high- wards a focus on organizational knowing as emergingtech organization. I suggest that the competence to do global from the ongoing and situated actions of organizationalproduct development is both collective and distributed, members as they engage the world. It is an explanationgrounded in the everyday practices of organizational members. grounded in what it is people do every day to get theirI conclude by discussing some of the research implications of work done.a perspective on organizational knowing in practice.(Distributed Competence; Geographically Distributed Organizing: Know- My focus on organizational knowing rather than knowl-ing: Organizational Knowledge: Organizing Practices) edge is informed by the sociological work of Giddens (1984) and the anthropological studies of Lave (1998), Hutchins(1991. 1995). and Suchman (1987). In these ac- counts, individuals are understood to act knowledgeably as a routine part of their everyday activity. They are seen to be purposive and teflexive. continually and routinelyWith the ititensification of globalization, acceleration in monitoring the ongoing flow of action—their own andthe rate of change, and expansion in the use of informa- that of others—and the social and physical contexts intion technology, particular attention is being focused on which their activities are constituted. As Giddens notes,the opportunities and difficulties associated with sharing such activities suggest an "immense knowledgeability in-knowledge and transferring "best practices" within and volved in the conduct of everyday life" (Giddens andacross organizations (Leonard-Barton 1995. Btown and Pierson 1998. p. 90). My intention here is to use the lensDuguid 1998. Davenport and Prusak 1998). Such a focus of organizational knowing to understand how memberson knowledge and knowledge management is particularly of global product development organizations generateacute in the context of global product development, where and sustain knowledgeability in their distributed opera-the development and delivery of timely and innovative tions.products across heterogeneous cultures, locales, and mar- The conceptual argument developed here was elabo-kets are critical and ongoing challenges. Dealing effec- rated through an empirical study I conducted into thetively with such challenges requires more than just good product development activities of a large, globally dis- ideas, strong leaders, and extensive resources; it also re- persed, high-tech organization which I call Kappa, lnquires a deep competence in what may be labeled "dis- what follows, I first lay out the key elements of current tributed organizing"—the capability of operating effec- perspectives on knowledge before developing my per- tively across the temporal, geographic, political, and spective on organizational knowing, i then explore this cultural boundaries routinely encountered in global perspective on knowing in terms of the field study I con- operations. ducted within Kappa. While organizational knowing ap- What constitutes effective distributed organizing in pears particularly relevant to the distributed organizing of 1047-7039/02/1303/0249/$O5.O0 ORGANtZATiON SCIENCE, © 2002 INFORMS 1526-5455 electronic ISSN Vol. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002, pp. 249-273
  2. 2. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practice global product development, such a capability may also Brown and Duguid (1998), while they share with Tsou- be salient in many other organizational activities. I thus kas (1996) a view of knowledge as emergent, depart from conclude the paper by examining the broader implications his integrationist focus by retaining a distinction between for organizational research of a perspective on organiza- types of knowledge. In particular, they adapt Ryles tional knowing. (1949) articulation of "knowing that" and "knowing how" to argue that "know-how" is different from "know-what" in its dispositional character. Thus, know-how is "the par- Perspectives on Organizational ticular ability to put know-what into practice" (Brown Knowledge and Duguid 1998. p. 91). As such, it is a capability em- The question of knowledge has long occupied philoso- bedded in particular communities of practice (Brown and phers and sociologists of science, but it is only relatively Duguid 1998. p. 95). This allows know-how to be easily recently that organizational researchers have become in- moved within and among communities with similar prac- terested in this topic. Indeed, "knowledge" has become tices, but makes it "sticky" or difficult to move across the watchword of contemporary organizations, and re- communities of practice (Brown and Duguid 1998, pp. search interest in knowledge, knowledge-based organi- 100-102). Recognition of the "stickiness" of know-how zations, and knowledge management has accelerated has led to various proposals for facilitating knowledge (Kogut and Zander 1992. Starbuck 1992, Nonaka and sharing across communities of practice, such as: devel- Takeuchi 1995. Tsoukas 1996. Teece 1998). Two distinct oping boundary practices (Wenger 1998), engaging perspectives on organizational knowledge are currently knowledge brokers (Brown and Duguid 1998), using discernable. One proposes that organizations have differ- boundary objects (Star 1989, Henderson 1991. Carlileent types of knowledge, and that identifying and exam- 1998). and participating in cross-community communi- ining these will lead to more effective means for gener- cation forums (Boland and Tenkasi 1995).ating, sharing, and managing knowledge in organizations. Much has been leamed, and much will continue to beTsoukas (1996, p. 13) characterizes such a perspective as learned, from the two perspectives on organizational"taxonomic." with researchers developing classifications knowledge discussed above. Significant portions of thisof knowledge and then using these to examine the various work, however, treat knowledge as either a thing (to bestrategies, routines, and techniques through which differ- captured, stored, transmitted, etc.) or a dispositionent types of knowledge are created, codified, converted, (whether individual or collective) resulting in "objectivisttransferred, and exchanged (Nelson and Winter 1982, reification" on the one hand or "subjectivist reduction"Leonard-Baiton 1992, Hedlund 1994, Nonaka 1994. on the other. Taylor makes a similar point about mlesNonaka and Takeuchi 1995. Winter 1987. Teece 1998, (1993, pp. 57-58, emphasis added):Hansen 1999). Many of these knowledge classificationstake as their starting point the distinction made by Polanyi In its operation, the rtile exists in the practice it guides. . . .(1967) between tacit and explicit knowing. This classic |T]he practice not only fulfills the rules, but also gives it con-distinction is then typically used to elaborate additional crete shape in particular situalions. . . . In fact, whal this reci-knowiedge dichotomies, for example, local vs. universal. procily shows is ihal the rule lies essentially in the practice.codified vs. uncodified. canonical vs. noncanonical. pro- The rule is what is animating the practice at any given time, notcedural vs. declarative, and know-how vs. know-what. some formulation behind il, inscribed in our thoughts or our brains or our genes or whatever. That is why the rule is, at any Some researchers have been critical of a purely taxo- given time, what the practice has made it.nomic perspective, arguing that it reifies knowledge bytreating it as a stock or set of discrete elements. Further- Substituting "knowledge" for "mle" in the above quotemore. Tsoukas (1996, p. 14) observes that a taxonomic highlights the difference between a view of knowledge asperspective does not recognize that "tacit and explicit separate entity, static property, or stable disposition em-knowledge are mutually constituted . . . [essentially] in- bedded in practice, and a view of knowledge as "at anyseparable." In particular, he argues that tacit knowledge given time, what the practice has made it." The latter view"is the necessary component of all knowledge; it is not sees knowledge as enacted—every day and over time—made up of discrete beans which may be ground, lost or in peoples practices. It leads us to understand knowledgereconstituted." Along with others (Boland and Tenkasi and practice as reciprocally constitutive, so that it does1995. Davenport and Prusak 1998, Cook and Brown not make sense to talk about either knowledge or practice1999), he argues instead for an integrated approach that without the other. It suggests there may be value in aaffords a view of organizationai knowledge as processual, perspective that does not treat these as separate or sepa-dispersed, and "inherently indeterminate" (1996, p. 22). rable, a perspective that focuses on the knowledgeability250 ORGANIZATION SCIENCK/VOI. 13. No. 3. May-Jtjne 2OQ2
  3. 3. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practiceof action, that is on knowing (a verb connoting action, language . . . [whichi converted the childs knowing-in-doing, practice) rather than knowledge (a noun connoting action to knowledge-in-ixcUon" (1983. p. 59).things, elements, facts, processes, dispositions). In a recent paper. Cook and Brown (1999) introduce The increased interest within organizational studies in the notion of knowing into the discourse on organiza-social theories emphasizing practice provides some con- tional knowledge, while maintaining the conventionalceptual grounding for the development of a practice- distinction between tacit and explicit forms of knowledge.based perspective on organizational knowing. I develop While this recognition of knowing is helpful, it neverthe-one such possibility here, and then elaborate it by drawing less assumes that tacit knowledge is distinct and separableon tiiy empirical study of a global product development from knowing, and thus action. The perspective I adoptorganization. I see this perspective as complementing, not here rests on an alternative assumption—that tacit knowl-substituting for. the perspectives on organizational edge is a form of "knowing." and thus inseparable fromknowledge discussed above, I believe it can highlight action because it is constituted through such action.some aspects of organizational knowledgeability that may The primary role of action in the process of knowingbe overlooked in our tendency to privilege knowledge at is evident in Ryles (1949) claim that knowledge is es-the expense of knowing. sentially a "knowing how,"" a capacity to perform or act in particular circumstances. Using an example of a boy playing chess, he suggests that the boy can be said toA Perspective on Knowing in Practice "know how"" to play chess if his action displays the rulesBoth Ryle (1949) and Polanyi (1967) emphasize A v of chess, even if he cannot recite them. Similarly, Polanyiin their writings. While the distinction between knowing (1967) points to the tacit knowing that is evident in ourand knowledge may seem like a subtle and inconsequen- ability to recognize faces in a crowd or to ride bicyclestial lexical shift. I believe it has substantial conceptual even as we cannot articulate precisely how it is that weimplications. In particular, it may lead us to miss a funda- do these. Thus, we recognize the "knowing how" (themental aspect of Schons (1983, p. 49) observation—based capacity to play chess or ride a bicycle) by observing theon his field work but informed by Ryle and Poianyi— practice (chess-playing or bicycle-riding). However, thethat "our knowing is in our action." Schon examined the practice has no meaning apart from the "knowing how"practice of five professions and argued that the skillful that constitutes it. Remove the "knowing how" of playingpractice exhibited by the professionals did not consist of chess from the practice, and we no longer have anythingapplying some a priori knowledge to a specific decision recognizable as chess-playing practice. The two are in-or action, but rather of a kind of knowing that was in- separable as Ryle (1949, p. 32) notes:herent in their action. As he puts it (1983, p. 49): . . . ihinking what I am doing does noi connote both thinking When we go about ihe spontaneous, intuitive performance of what to do and doing it." When I do something intelligently . . . the actions of everyday life, we show ourselves to be knowl- I am doing one thing and not two. My perfonnance has a special edgeable in a special way. Often we cannot say whal it is lhat procedure or manner, not special antecedents. we know. . . . Our knowing is ordinarily tacit, implicit in our pattern of action and in our feel for the stuff with which we are This mutual constitution of knowing and practice—while dealing. It seems right to say that our knowing is in our action. hard to conceptualize in our conventional theoretical frameworks—is a key premise underpinning Giddens What is highlighted in Schons observation is the es- (1984) theory of structuration. Maturana and Varelassential role of human agency in knowledgeable perfor- (1989) notion of autopoiesis. and Lewontins (I995)con-mance. Maturana and Varela (1998, pp. 27, 29) similarly structionist biology. It is also effectively depicted indefine knowing as "effective action." and write that "all Escher"s (1948) lithograph Drawing Hands (see Figuredoing is knowing, and all knowing is doing."" When we 1), where the right hand draws the left hand even as thefocus primarily on knowledge, we lose the centrality of left hand draws the right hand.action in knowledgeability. Schon (1983) suggests that Recent work in cognitive anthropology has reinforcedthe tendency to slip from a focus on knowing to that of the essentially mutual constitution of knowing and prac-knowledge is deeply rooted in our theoretical enterprise tice. Based on extensive field work, Lave (1988) andas we attempt to develop (and test) theories that make Hutchins (1991. 1995) have found that cognition in prac-sense of (or predict) effective action. He cites the example tice (or "in the wild" as Hutchins evocatively puts it) isof researchers studying how children leam to play with a culturally situated and ongoing social activity. In a se-wooden blocks, observing that as the researchers viewed ries of studies that examined math-problem-solving ac-the childrens actions they were "cotnpelled to invent a tivities in adults, Lave (1988) persuasively shows that ORGANIZATION SCIENCH/VOI. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002 251
  4. 4. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practice Figure 1 M. C, Eschers "Drawing Hands":& 2001 Cordon Art B.V. - Baarn - Holland. All rights reservedcompetence in math is not some abstract knowledge that Giddens (1984. p. 4) defines human knowledgeabilityindividuals either do or do not have, but a "knowledge- as "inherent within the ability to go on within the rou-in-practice." a situated knowing constituted by a person tines of social life." Such ability to "go on" is inseparableacting in a particular .setting and engaging aspects of the from human agency, where agency is the capacity of hu-self, the body, and the physical and social worlds (Lave mans to "choose to do otherwise." Knowledgeability or 1988. pp. 180-181). Based on her studies. Lave writes knowing-in-practice is continually enacted through peo-that "knowledge is not primarily a factual commodity or ples everyday activity: it does not exist "out there" (in-compendum of facts, nor is an expert knower an ency- corporated in external objects, routines, or systems) or "inclopedia. Instead knowledge takes on the character of a here" (inscribed in human brains, bodies, or communi-process of knowing" (1988. p. 175). Spender (1996b, p. ties). Rather, knowing is an ongoing social accomplish-64) similarly observes that: "knowledge is less about truth ment, constituted and reconstituted in everyday practice.and reason and more about the practice of intervening As such, knowing cannot be understood as stable or en-knowledgeably and purposefully in the world." during. Because it is enacted in the moment, its existence252 ORGANIZATION SCIENCE/VOI. 13, No. 3. May-June 2002
  5. 5. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practiceis virtual, its status provisional. Knowing how to ride a as they change their practices. People improvise newbicycle, recognize faces, play basketball, make fine flutes practices as they invent, slip into, or leam new ways of(Cook and Yanow 1996), or launch and recover planes interpreting and experiencing the world. For example.on an aircraft carrier (Weick and Roberts 1993) are ca- Schon (1983) shows that situated practice often involvespabilities generated through action. They emerge from the reflection and experimentation, and how through such in-situated and ongoing interrelationships of context (time the-moment reconstruction of thought and action, know-and place), activity stream, agency (intentions, actions), ing may be altered. Similarly, Barrett (1998) and Weickand structure (normative, authoritative, and interpretive). (1993) argue that improvisation in practice is a powerfulBecause these capabilities are continually generated in means of increasing organizational innovation, leaming,recurrent action, continuity is achieved and preserved as and change. Thus, when people change their practices,people interpret and experience their doing as "the same" their knowing changes. From such a perspective, peopleover time and across contexts (Lave 1988. p. 187). Thus, leam to know differently as they use whatever means,as we bicycle to work every day, we begin to take for motivation, and opportunity they have at hand to reflectgranted that we "know how" to ride a bicycle, and lose on, experiment with, and improvise their practices. Thesight of the way in which our "knowing how" is an active Hungarian soldiers did this once they found a map andand recurrent accomplishment. began to use it. Peoples ongoing engagement in social practices, and While examinations of knowing have examined a va-thus their reproduction of the knowing generated in those riety of settings, most have focused on the work practicespractices, is how they reconstitute knowledgeability over of individuals (Suchman 1987, Lave 1988, Orr 1996) ortime and across contexts. Continuity of competence, of that of focal groups proximate in time and space (Weickskillful practice, is thus achieved not given. It is a recur- and Roberts 1993, Hutchins 1995, Pentland 1995. Cookrently but nevertheless situated and enacted accomplish- and Yanow 1996). Little is known about the process ofment which cannot simply be presumed. The status of knowing in complex organizations that are also geograph-competence is more provisional—because it is always to ically distributed. In such contexts, knowing in practicebe achieved—than we tend to assume when we treat it as is constituted by the ongoing activities of diverse and dis-given. This is made clear in the accounts of deadly or tributed individuals. The inherent complexity, multiplic-expensive accidents described by Weick (1993. 1996) ity, and dispersion of such settings complicates how weand Weick and Roberts (1993), where apparently com- think about and study organizational knowing. It suggestspetent practitioners (firefighters, pilots, and aircraft car- the importance of examining how people in their ongoingrier crew) were unable to reproduce skilled performances practices constitute knowing how to engage in distributedin certain circumstances. It is also evident in the example organizing.recounted by Weick (1987) of the Hungarian soldiers lost Existing approaches to studying distributed organizingin a snowstorm in the Alps who eventually found their tend to focus on the importance of knowledge transferway back to camp by discovering a map of the Pyrenees. across boundaries, and the value of generating a set ofBefore they found the map, the soldiers could not be said "best practices" that can be propagated through the dis-to "know how" to get out of the Alps. As they themselves persed operations. A view of knowing as enacted in prac-reported: "we considered ourselves lost and waited for tice does not view competence as something to be "trans- the end" (Weick 1987, p. 222). Yet, once they had found ferred," and suggests that the very notion of "best the map, the soldiers were able to enact a collective com- practices" is problematic. When practices are defined as petence that got them out of the Alps. As an officer de- the situated recurrent activities of human agents, they scribed: "And then one of us found a map in his pocket. cannot simply be spread around as if they were fixed andThat calmed us down. We pitched camp, lasted out the static objects. Rather, competence generation may be snowstorm, and then with the map we discovered our seen to be a process of developing peoples capacity to bearings. And here we are" {1987, p, 222). The "knowing enact what we may term "useful practices"—with use- how" to find their way back to camp which the soldiers fulness seen to be a necessarily contextual and provi- displayed after their discovery of the map was a situa- sional aspect of situated organizational activity. tionally enacted capability—constituted through reading In the research study described below, I explore the the map, using it to calm themselves and make sense of globally dispersed, product development work of a large their surroundings, and then beginning to take purposive and successful multinational organization (Kappa). The action towards finding a way out of the mountains. empirical insights suggest a central role for practices that As people continually reconstitute their knowing over produce and sustain a collective and distributed knowingtime and across contexts, they also modify their knowing within the global organization. Such a focus on practicesORGANIZATION SCIENCE/VOI. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002 253
  6. 6. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practicehas not been central to current research on either global soak up our cuslomers needs, get a bit closer to the end user.product development or organizational knowledge. Be- That way they can influence the direction our development takescause it may be a valuable perspective for understanding by having that knowledge. So thoie are the two main advan-a range of organizational activities, it is the focus of my tages, 1 think—the sourcing of competence and the proximity to the markets that we sell in.attention here. Not only are the units globally dispersed, but many of theResearch Setting and Methods engineers working in product development embody this geographic and cultural diversity. One subproject man- Kappa is a large software company headquartered in The ager pointed to himself as an example of Kappas glob- Netherlands, and producing a small range of sophisticated alization: "My situation is quite typical for Kappa engi- and highly integrated systems software products. In neers—I am a Greek working in Finland for a Dutch 1998, it earned $8 billion in revenues, these revenues hav- company and using English to do my work." In total, ing grown nearly 15% on average since 1990, One of its some 2,000 engineers work in these 15 DUs. with each primary products is a specialized operating system (VOS) DU employing on average 150 software engineers (the installed on the mainframe computers of aboul 200 major smallest unit employs 15 engineers, the largest 800). Eachcustomers around the world. Kappa holds close to 40% DU is organized in terms of a matrix, with each engineershare of this market. Given increasing competitive pres- participating in both a local deveiopment structure (e.g.,sures, changing customer requirements, and continuing the Palo Alto DU), as well as a global product manage-technology advances, new releases of the VOS product ment structure (e.g., the PO-98 organization developingare produced every two to three years. These product de- the VOS-98 product). Each DU operates as a cost centervelopment efforts are accomplished through temporary with its own cost structure, and every year product man-global project groups (known as Product Organizations agers in each PO contract for the engineering talent lo-or POs) lasting from 18 to 24 months in duration, and cated within the DUs,each involving the dedicated services of a few hundredsoftware engineers. Because of the complexity of the At the time of my study. Kappa had an enviable recordproduct development effort and the need to ensure con- of completing projects on time and generally satisfyingtinuity of customers operations in the meantime, there customer requirements. However, recent mergers in itsare at any one time within Kappa multiple temporary sector were increasing competitive pressure to reduce theproject groups managing different versions of the com- time-to-market of new products, and accelerating demandpanys products. For example, when I was conducting my for more customizable features in the software. Whilestudy in 1998, there were three POs in place to manage switching costs for customers of the VOS products werethe VOS product: one to maintain the currently installed high, customers were becoming increasingly interested inversion (PO-97), one to complete development and test- capabilities that utilized the Internet and the Java lan-ing of the next version of the product (PO-98), and one guage. VOS, written in a proprietary software language,to plan the design and development of the after-the-next was not compatible with the Internet, and Kappa was un-version of the product (PO-99). der some pressure to tind ways to bridge existing func- tionality to the Internet, even as it attempted to develop Kappas product development activities are distributed a new generation of Internet-based VOS products.across multiple local Development Units (known asDUs). These DUs are located in 15 different locations My field study focused on the everyday work practicesspread over five continents. One senior executive ex- of Kappas temporary product organizations and was con-plained the rationale for Kappas highly distributed prod- ducted during six months in 1998. I spent time at fiveuct development as follows: local development units as well as Kappas headquarters, interviewing a range of players associated with the VOS Doing product development from a distributed perspective— product: software engineers (involved in planning, de- this is a strenglh of Kappa. I think it is something we have sign, development, testing, and maintenance); DU staff managed quite well. . . . the advantages are obvious. There are (involved in quality assurance, career development, proj- several ones: first of all, you get access to resources wherever ect budgeting, and infrastructure support); DU managers, it is. Holland is a pretty small country and our universities just dont turn out the number of engineers that Kappa needs of the project managers working for POs; and senior Kappa ex- right quality. So you get access to good people if you choose ecutives (see Table 1 for details). I conducted 78 inter- your locations wisely. Another advantage is proximity to the views in total, representing approximately 10% of all markets. The DUs work with our local companies and sit close Kappa personnel involved with VOS product develop- to the marketing people. They can provide technical saies sup- ment activities. Interviews lasted from 45 minutes to over pon, ean intiuence the sales process, and in doing so they also three hours in length, and were conducted one-on-one254 ORGANIZATION SCIENCE/VO1. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002
  7. 7. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in PracticeTable 1 Number and Type of Interviews Conducted Within the findings of this initial study offer an interesting start- Kappa ing point for understanding what it is that Kappa members say they do everyday as they engage in their product de-PARTICIPANTS DU-1 DU-2 DU-3 DU-4 DU-5 HQ TOTAL velopment activities. In this. I follow Giddens (1984, Giddens and Pierson 1998) insistence that people areSoftware Engineers 6 3 4 4 4 - 2 1 knowledgeable and reflexive, and that they tend to knowSupport Staff 5 4 4 1 2 1 17 more about (and can give a reasonable account oO whatLocal Unit Managers 2 2 2 2 2 - 1 0 they do than researchers give them credit for.Project Managers 4 3 3 6 3 - 19 My orientation to data collection and analysis was ex-Senior Executives 2 - 2 - 2 5 11 ploratory, intended to generate insights into the practicesTOTAL 19 12 15 13 13 6 78 and conditions that constitute effective global product de- velopment work of the sort engaged in by Kappa. The process of data collection and analysis proceeded itera-with participants, either in their private offices if they had tively. with the early stages being more open ended thanone or in a meeting room when they did not. Almost all the later ones. This allowed for some flexibility in datathe interviews were taped and transcribed verbatim. 1 also collecting, allowing themes to emerge and then be ex-spent time talking to project participants informally, usu- amined more deeply as relevant. My initial time at Kappaally joining them for lunches and dinners during my time was spent in unstructured interviewing, general obser-at the different locations. vation, and review of background materials about the In addition to interviews and observation, I collected company, its products, and industry. Early stages of thedata by reviewing some of the extensive documentation research focused on understanding the activities of prod-generated by the activities of product development, in- uct development and how these were shaped by Kappascluding project plans and schedules, product specifica- global dispersion, the VOS products technical complex-tions, technical diagrams, and meeting minutes. I also had ity, and the temporary structure of the VOS product or-access to selected portions of the global Kappa intranet ganizations.(the organizations intemal web sites), where organiza- As I came to better understand the context and com-tional, procedural, and technical information was posted. plexity of Kappas product development, I became par-This provided important contextual informalion on DU ticularly aware of the importance of boundaries thatand project-organizing structures, training and develop- Kappa members routinely traverse in their daily activities.ment programs, HR policies and evaluation criteria, pro- In their descriptions of their distributed product devel-ject planning models, methodologies, and technical stan- opment work. Kappa participants repeatedly referred to adards, as well as details on existing computer platforms number of different boundaries that shaped and chal-and anticipated technological developments. lenged their everyday work. I discerned at least seven My data collection and analysis focused on the work boundaries in such descriptions: temporal (19 time zonespractices of the Kappa members and was exploratory in and a variety of weekly, monthly, and quarterly sched-nature. Participants were asked to describe their everyday ules), geographic (15 global locations), social (hundredsactivities (in a "Day in the life of . . ." format), as well of participants engaged in joint development work), cul-as to talk about their project, its organization, fiows of tural (30 nationalities), historical (three different versionscommunication, and key challenges. In response, partic- of the same product), technical (complex software system ipants almost invariably grabbed a sheet of paper or running on a variety of different computer infrastructures,jumped to a whiteboard to draw one or more pictures of and accommodating a variety of standards), and political their projects complex and shifting interaction structure. (different functional interests, product criteria, and local In addition, participants were asked to discuss their reg- vs. global priorities). Because of the obvious salience of ular use of artifacts (software tools, communication me- these boundaries to the distributed work of the Kappa dia, project plans, methodologies, standards, etc.) in con- participants, I began to focus the data collection more ducting their ongoing project work. explicitly on boundaries. Thus, in later stages of the re- I was unable to participate in or observe project activ- search, I became more strategic in my choice of partici- ities directly, thus my understanding of practices comes pants and more directed in the interviews, seeking to en- primarily from interview data and from the traces of work gage them in a discussion of the nature, role, and evident in project documentation. This is clearly a limi- consequences of boundaries in product development tation of my study, and ethnographic data would offer work. more grounded accounts of work practices. Nevertheless, I used inductive qualitative techniques to analyze theORGANIZATION SCIENCEA/O1. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002 255
  8. 8. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practicedata (Agar 1980. Eisenhardt 1989, Glaser and Strauss I shared my preliminary findings on the repertoire of 1967, Strauss and Corbin 1990). informed by my focus practices with a broad sample of Kappa members—en-on practices and knowledgeability while remaining alert gineers, unit and product managers, executives—andto emerging ideas. Analysis consisted of multiple read- these discussions generated additional details which elab-ings of the interview transcripts, field notes, and docu- orated and sharpened my interpretations and yielded ad-mentation, and the identification of activities and issues ditional insights.that related to everyday product development work. Theliterature on organizational knowledge and knowing fo-cused some of my analysis here. For example, Kogut andZanders (1996) discussion of "what [firmsj know how Knowing How to Do Global Productto do" highlighted the importance of such conditions as Development in Kappashared identity, convergent expectations, common com- In terms of conventional measures of profitability andmunication codes, and situated Ieaming. market leadership. Kappa is, and has been for a number The empirical success of Kappa suggests that a host of of decades, a highly successful organization. Part ofelements—strategic, technological, financial, political, Kappas success clearly depends on its technical creativ-and cultural—-are central to its ongoing accomplishment ity, its strategic positioning, its leadership, and its cus-of effective product development. Indeed, the data re- tomer relations. However, I argue here that another im-vealed the critical role of a number of these. I could not portant aspect of Kappas success is grounded in thefocus on all of them here, and instead chose to explore everyday practices through which Kappa members con-the theoretical thesis that knowing is an enacted capabil- stitute a collective competence in knowing how to deliverity. Consequently, in analyzing my data I paid careful innovative yet complex products in a timely fashion. Weattention to how members of Kappa described and made can begin to understand this aspect of Kappas "knowingsense of the activities they engaged in to accomplish their how" to do global product development work by exam-work. By the word "activities," I mean what members ining the everyday practices of its members as they re-actually did every day as part of their complex and dis- currently enact ways of dealing with the temporal, geo-tributed product development work. Because these ac- graphic, political, cultural, technical, and social boundariescounts of everyday product development work revealed they routinely encounter in their work. In particular, theythe salience of a multiplicity of boundaries that Kappamembers deal with daily, I concentrated my data analysis deal with these boundaries through knowing how to nav-on those specific activities that Kappa members associ- igate (i.e., articulate, attend to. engage with) as well asated with their descriptions of boundaries. negotiate (i.e., redefine, reconstruct) them. Through the data analysis I identified a repertoire of This analysis generated a set of recurring themes thatreferred to the activities engaged in to traverse the bound- practices that when engaged in by Kappa members canaries of time, space, culture, history, technology, and poli- be seen to constitute, dynamically and recurrently overtics which Kappa members routinely encountered in their time, what we may call Kappas competence in distrib-work. I then reexamined the data in terms of these sets uted organizing (see Table 2 for an overview of theseof activity themes, paying particular attention to how they practices and their associated activities). The first two ofcomprised particular practices associated with boundary these practices—sharing identity and interacting face towork. The unit of analysis in these considerations was face—constitute a knowing of the organization and thesocial practice, defined as recurrent, materially bounded. players in it. For Kappa members, these two kinds ofand situated social action engaged in by members of a knowing generate a knowing how to be coherent, com-community—in this case, the members of Kappas VOS mitted, and cooperative across a variety of spatial, tem-produci development operations. Practices are engaged in poral, and political boundaries. The next three practices—by individuals as part of the ongoing structuring pro- aligning effort, learning by doing, and supporting partic-cesses through which institutions and organizations are ipation—constitute knowing how to coordinate on com-produced and reproduced. They are thus both individual plex projects, knowing how to develop capabilities for(because performed by actors in their everyday action) doing product development, and knowing how to inno-and institutional (because they shape and are shaped by vate within global operations. For Kappa members, theseorganizational norms and structures). I aggregated and three kinds of knowing generate a knowing how to beclustered activities into what may be seen as a repertoire consistent, competent, and creative across a variety ofof practices routinely performed by Kappa members in technical, geographic, historical, and cultural boundaries.their globally distributed product development work. As Kappa members draw on and use this repertoire of256 ORGANIZATION SCIBNCE/VOI. 13, No. 3, May-June 2(X)2
  9. 9. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in PracticeTable 2 Repertoire of Practices, Activities, and Knowing Within KappaPractice Activities Comprising the Practice Knowing Constituted in the PracticeSharing identity Engaging in common training and socialization Knowing the organization Using common orientation to do deveiopment work Identifying with the organizationInteracting face to face Gaining trust, respect, credibiiity, and commitment Knowing the players in the game Sharing information Building and sustaining social networksAligning effort Using common model, method, and metrics Knowing how to coordinate across time and space Contracting for expertise annuaiiy Using standard metricsLearning by doing Investing in individual development Knowing how to develop capabilities Mentoring employees in their careers Rewarding not punishing effortSupporting participation Giobaiiy distributing product development work Knowing how to innovate Involving participants in project decisions Initiating and supporting overseas assignmentspractices over time and across situations, they generate development projects. Kappa members deal with thisand sustain a collective competence in distributed orga- challenge by actively and recurrently producing a dis-nizing. The enactment of such a collective knowing, how- tinctive and shared Kappa identity with which most ofever, is not without negative consequences. Kappas them identify and through which they orient their workknowing is also a not-knowing. While its collective com- (Table 3 provides additional data on these activities). Thispetence in distributed organizing is enabling, it is also process of shared identity construction affords Kappainhibiting when (as I show below): sharing identity be- members a localized yet common orientation to eachcomes organizational groupthink. interacting face to face other and to their product development work across geo-leads to burnout, aligning effort discourages improvisa- graphic locations and different versions of the VOS prod-tion, learning by doing is lost through turnover, and sup- uct. Thus, software engineers in, say. Holland or Spainporting participation is immobilizing because of conflicts have—and know they have—a similar orientation to soft-and time delays. ware development work as do software engineers in, say, The five practices discussed below should not be seen India or be either exhaustive or exclusive. They do not operate This knowing about the organization and how it worksindependently of each other, but overlap and interact at is generated through the initial training and socializationthe same time and over time. Their discussion below as workshops that all new employees participate in. It is sub-standalone and separate is an analytic convenience only. sequently reinforced when Kappa members appropriateSimilarly, the discussion below of practices and the the common orientation and use it to inform their every-knowing constituted in practice is complicated by the fact day product development activities. Talk to any Kappathat our language implies an ontological separation when employee, and very quickly she/he will mention thethis is neither intended nor warranted. The recursive con- "Kappa way" as a critical element of how work is accom-stitution of knowing and practice should be continually plished across the distributed locations of their opera-borne in mind. tions. The "Kappa way" is seen to generate the commonSharing Identity: Knowing the Organization ground on which distributed product development workA consistent challenge experienced in distributed work is is structured, and is for many a means of local and globalmaintaining coherence, commitment, and continuity identification within their daily activities. It is understoodacross the multiple locations, priorities, and interests of by Kappa members as the ongoing activity of calibratingthe hundreds of people involved in the collaborative ef- and connecting with a set of shared values, goals, andfort. Kappas large size and widespread geographic dis- expectations about what is important in Kappa and why.persion ensure this challenge is faced on all VOS product A senior executive explained: ORGANIZATION SctBNCE/Vol. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002 257
  10. 10. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practice Tabfe 3 Sharing Identity Within Kappa Knowing in Practice Activities Data from Kappa Knowing the Creating a common orientation "We ail learn the Kappa way of doing things." organization through through participating in sharing a Kappa common training and identity socialization v/orkshops Appropriating and using a i reaiiy see that I am working for Kappa and not with this DU or this common orientation to getting product. We have the same way of working everywhere. Of course, here globai product development we do it in the German way, but it is the same. Kappa has managed work done somehow to do, to create, a common spirit among all the units." Reinforcing ones connection to think what Kappa has managed to do is that everyone feels connected. Kappa by identifying with the Everyone feels that they belong to Kappa, . . . that youre a part of this organization big family." Tiie way we work in Kappa is the same across locations be- Very few companies can compete with Kappa for one simple cause were always shooling for the one goal, and that is to reason, and that is the loyalty of its people to the company. And have a successful project. Thats the bottom line. And people that you cant buy. strive for that. We may differ somciimes on how to get to that goal. Bur the common goal of a successful product and a good Kogut and Zander (1996). as well as Dutton et al. product so our cuslomer doesnt holler at us, is pretty much. (1994. p. 254), note that strong identification with an or- I think, viewed by everybody as really impotianl. And so ganization increases cooperation among members and di- whether the Americans want to go, you know, A. B. C. D to rects additional effort towards tasks contributing to co- get there, or the Germans want to go A, F, E, D—^as long as workers and the organization. Such a positive relationship they come to that common goal, thats fine. And they do. Its was quite evident in Kappas product development activ- the Kappa way. ities. Through enacting a shared identity and a common orientation to their work. Kappa members constitute an The sense of participating in a "Kappa way" of doing ongoing and collective knowing how to do global productthings was widely shared across all levels of the organi- development work within their distributed organization.zation, from senior executive to recent recruit, and across By continuing to engage in these ongoing practices.all Kappa locations. Belief in and ongoing engagement Kappa members reinforce the value of their shared iden-in a common way of doing things shaped engineers ex- tity, which further helps them to establish connectionspectations and actions towards each other and their prod- with and orientations to each other, however distant inuct development tasks, thus helping to constitute and re- time or space they may be.constitute the common Kappa way of doing productdevelopment work over time and space, history and lo- While the ongoing enactment of a shared identity iscale. This is evident in the comments of a software en- critical to the conduct of global product developmentgineer: work, it is not without risks. The "same frame of mind" quoted above may also lead to an organizational form of When I travel to different DUs and participate In different meet- groupthink with less fiexibility around change. Kogut and ings, I know everybody has the same frame of mind that we are Zander (1996, p. 515) note that shared identity "also im- working on. Eventually in the end we are all working for Kappa. poses the weighty costs of ruling out alternative ways to Of course, in some cases you want to have the best for your organize and to exploit new avenues of development." local organization. But in the end. we always keep in mind the Indeed. Kappa is currently faced with having to migrate overall picture—that we are working for Kappa. I see that ev- erywhere. many of its products and approaches to a new form of software development (object-oriented) utilizing a newCommon identification by members of the "Kappa way" technology platform (the Internet). This change is provingprovides the basis for a continued and evolving sense of quite difficult for Kappa, given its considerable past suc-trust, respect, and loyalty that is evident throughout the cesses with an established approach. A senior executiveorganization and which significantly facilitates the con- commented:duct of complex and distributed product development The higgest challenge is changing from how we are currentlywork. One PO manager noted: working, and that feeling of security in what we are doing. With258 ORGANIZATION SCIENCH/VOI. 13, No. 3. May-June 2002
  11. 11. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practice the persons we have in the organization, it is quite hard to give also building the social connections that facilitate distrib- up something that has worked now for 20 years. It is a paradox, uted working: isnt il, that people have to give up what they feel most secure These face-to-face meetings are very effective for letting us hear about to in fact secure their future. about the other subprojects. So we see what their risks and theirA shared identity has the dual nature noted by Geertz problems are. to see if that may apply to us. . . . It is also very(1973)—that a model of reality is also a mo(/e//or reality. effective in building relations between the subprojects. in caseIn Kappas case, ongoing enactment of a shared identity, we need a favor, or something like that. Thai is helpful.even as it enables a particularly powerful understanding Comments by project managers from all three of the POsand way of acting in the world, may constrain movement dealing with the VOS products echo the view that face-away from such understanding and acting when it be- to-face interaction generates a knowing of each other andcomes the exclusive source of motivation, identification, each others commitments that helps to get things doneattention, and action. across distance. Two project managers noted:Interacting Face to Face: Knowing the Piayers in the You cant resolve everything over the phone. It is important toGame have that personal relationship as well, which you achieve byKappas projects typically involve the participation of meeting each other, and then it makes it a lot easier when youhundreds of software engineers located around the world. communicate through e-mail or the phone.Moreover, the participation of individuals on a project is Once you have face-to-facc meetings—and we have them oncenot fixed or static, but decided through a series of work a month, rotating them around: United Stales. Canada. Mexico,assignment contracts that are negotiated annually be- Holland. Japan—you begin to form these relationships . . . andtween a product organization and the distributed design that helps to cement commitment.-;. 1 mean, if somebody tellsunits. There is thus a considerable social boundary to be me on the pbone I am going to make it on time." this has adealt with as engineers and managers work jointly with different level of quality than if I meet this person and he tellshundreds of different people located in many different me in front of my face I am going to make it. So the level ofparts of the world. commitment that you get is totally different. Everyone I talked to within Kappa commented that one One Kappa executive gave an instance of how face-to-of the ways they deal with this challenge is by engaging face interaction afforded a knowing of each other that wasin extensive social interaction—despite the highly dis- critical when particularly difficult decisions needed to betributed nature of their product development operations. made:Such engagement in recurrent face-to-face interactionseems particularly useful in this context because it enacts For example, on a project, we will have one view in ongoing and evolving knowing of the shifting set of and one view here [in Australia). And we will be talking on the phone, and talking about lots of stuff, but we will not come toplayers in the game, thus building and sustaining impor- a conclusion. To come to a conclusion, someone needs to standtant social networks that support the doing of distributed up in front of the group and say. Here is the deal, here is whywork. It is by working with and through such social net- it is important, we need this function, and we are going to doworks that Kappa metnbers navigate and negotiate many it. And then people will back down, and everyone will agreeof the challenges of working across temporal, geographic, that it is important. If you dont seethe person talking, you dontcultural, and political boundaries (Table 4 provides ad- see the idea. People send a message with their face and every-ditional data on these activities). thing. If you see the person, you see the power in that person, Kappa members emphasized the importance of face- and that helps to create a frame that you can make sense in. I dont see that we can do it the same way on the phone. to-face communication for establishing and sustaining so- cial relationships which are seen to be essential in global The ongoing practice of face-to-face interaction allows product development work within Kappa. One senior PO Kappa members to constitute a sense of knowing their manager noted: colleagues, of knowing their credibility in and commit- Tlie easiest way to get things done in Kappa is to have a good ment to specific issues, and of knowing how to collabo- network. If you have a good network, you can get anything rate with them to get things done in a globally dispersed done. If you dont have that, you are going to have a tough time and complex product development environment. in our distributed environmenl. A lot of influence happens in However, this practice of face-to-face interaction in a the network. So moving around and meeting people extends the globally distributed organization does not come without network, and that is promoted within Kappa, and that is good. consequences. One cost—as a project manager put it—isAnother PO manager gave an example of how face-to- "tons of travel." and the accompanying need to justifyface contact affords leaming about other projects while considerable travel expenses. A DU staff member gaveORGANIZATION SCIENCE/VOI. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002 259
  12. 12. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in PracticeTable 4 Interacting Face to Face Within Kappa Knowing in Practice Activities Data from KappaKnowing the players in Gaining and assessing trust, "A big upfront effort of any project is to get to know the peopie, i am not a the game through respeot, credibiiity, and believer in videoconferencing. So we spent a good week in the United interacting face to commitment Kingdom getting to know each other. We had our differences, but it face became a very open relationship. And that is what we try to do, keep a very open relationship. From a work perspective that is very important." "Meeting people, for instance, is a key to understanding them." Sharing information "Ours is a very complicated product, so you have to ask about things, and discuss things, and negotiate things, and for that you need a face-to-face meeting. It is aiways easier to exchange information eye to eye, as I iike to say." Building social relationships with "I think in this complicated world, when you build such big and complex otfiers systems, I think that physical presence is a must. . , even for engineers. If you think that engineers can go without wining and dining, you are wrong. You have to have that tor team building. You cant replace that with videoconferencing." "We are very distributed by nature and so you need to make personal contact. I have found personal contacts essential. I have always experienced that the communication is then much more open, and the peopie dare to say what is going on. So, there is simply no choice but to go there personaliy and make the contacts."an example of how Kappas commitment to having peo- I travel a lot. and its tough to keep going lo Europe. For a longple get to know each other face to face created a problem lime [in the early phases of the project] I would be like, youwith Kappas extemal auditor. One project had experi- know, gone for a week every month. That was tough, especiallyenced a change in leadership midway through the product as I have a wife and kid.deveiopment effort. As soon as the new project manager Another project manager recounted a period where hetook over, he went on a trip to all the development units temporarily relinquished some of his responsibilities as awhere work on his project was being done, so that he way to cope with his emotional exhaustion:could "meet ali the people working on the subprojects."The auditor, however, had difficulty accepting this reason We started ramping the project up in June. We got to full speedfor the travel: by August and ihen the stress got to me. and I got out in October because I wasnt sleeping at nights. So I became a deputy project This auditor kept wanting to see a report of the work done on manager, and Belh and me. we kind of swapped positions. I was the trip. And we tried to tell him No, these were not working still on the project but she did all the traveling and took on the meetings, but meetings to get to know tbe people, Bui in his pressure of the project. This continued on until about May, and view, this was travel on company expense, and if it was on then in June Ihe next year 1 was back as project manager. company expense, tbere sbould be a visible benefit. And we said, Yes, there i.s a visible benefii—the project manager now While knowing ones colleagues in the dispersed arena knows al! those people." He simply couldnt accept that the only of global product development operations is a tremendous purpose for the travel was communication. But thats what we advantage to the organization, it is only achieved with do, even tfiougb its sometimes difficult to explain to outsiders. some not inconsequential negative consequences for members. Managing the discrepancy between organiza- While travel expenses are an obvious cost, what is less tional benefit and individual cost is an important chal-obvious is the physical and emotional wear and tear on lenge for Kappas form of distributed organizing.Kappa members who do such extensive travel to maintainface-to-face interaction. HR managers are particularly Aligning Effort: Knowing How to Coordinate Acrossconcerned about the risk of individual burnout incurred Time and Spaceby the toll of ongoing travel. Many VOS project members Kappas products are highly complex and integrated tech-reported increased stress and decreased family time. One nical systems that involve millions of lines of softwareUnited States-based project manager noted that: code and thousands of modules. These systems need to260 ORG.^NEZATION SciENCF./Vol. 13. No. 3. May-June 2002
  13. 13. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in Practicework seamlessly with each other, reflect evolving tech- planning and methodology tools in facilitating distributednical standards and customer requirements, and be com- work:patible with the previous generation of products that are [Distributed development] is a challenge, and ils a lol of co-still operating on customers computers. Developing such ordination and everything is based on a number of basic prin-systems successfully demands effective and ongoing co- ciples. We use a common process methodology which everyoneordination. knows its part of the basic educational package when Within Kappa, such aligning of products, projects, and software engineers start to work here. And then we have coor- dination wilhin ihis framework, done al all levels of the projectpeople across time and space is accomplished through to get all the different software pieces together for the systemtwo key activities: the consistent and widespread use of at Ihe same time. There are the technical standards and coor-a proprietary project management model, its planning dination documents where you describe impacts on differenttool, and structured systems development methodology; parts of the system and all the different organizations in.spectand the annual contracting for work via standard metrics those documents and agree to them. And then each different("kilomanhours") between product organizations (POs) subproject can plan their work accordingly and implement tbeand local development units (DUs). Through their on- solutions. And in tbe overall project coordination, you plan on specific dates when whal function.s should be available, so thegoing use of such models, tools, methodologies, con- differenl subprojects go ahead and design and test tbeir functiontracts, and metrics. Kappa members constitute a knowing by a specific date. And then everything comes to coordinate their global product development ac-tivities across the multiple boundaries of time, space, On an annual basis, product managers of each PO ne-technology, and history that characterize Kappas VOS gotiate with the DUs for the work (planning, develop-product development effort (Table 5 provides additional ment, maintenance) its software engineers will performdata on these activities). that year on each product. A senior PO-99 manager ex- A senior executive commented on the role of project plained what this entails:Table 5 Aligning Effort Within Kappa Knowing in Practice Activities Data from KappaKnowing how to Using a common project "This project management model really works quite well. It is a good coordinate through management model, planning umbrella, a good foundation for doing this work. And all the DUs use it aligning effort over tool, and structured soflv^^are along with the common processing methodologies. So if I said, heres Ihe time and space development methodology content of a project coming out cf feasibility study, and here is my project spec, everyone will know what I am talking about. Its a unifying process and methodoiogy that helps us run projects." Negotiating and contracting for "The assignment of people tc work is contracted every year. Sc someone engineers tc work on projects decides that there wili be this new release of softvi/are. And then all the via annual assignment different DUs that own people are asked to give, at each ievel, people to contracts be involved in the project. So DUs have given project managers lo the project to work at a very high level to coordinate all the activities across Kappa. At a lower level, this department here receives an assignment from a project to do a certain amount of work here. And then we add people here to do that project. So at each level, the assignment of people gets lower, and lower, and lower. And peopie are added by the line to whatever work needs to be done at that level." Using a standard metric "What happens is that on an annual basis we work with the product ("kilomanhours") for assigning manager to make a kind of agreement,. . . this is the amount of and allocating personnel tc kilomanhours you get for this amount of money. . . . Its based on project work expectations of work that is coming in. And based on that you make a plan for the year because we know that we have this requirement for new project assignments and that requirement to maintain an ongoing project." "Once we have agreed the contract for manhours with each DU each year, then that is the rules for how we work." ORGANtZATiON SctENCE/Vol. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002 261
  14. 14. WANDA .1. ORLIKOWSKI Knawins in Practice Every year we make a plan, whal we call an operational plan, early stage, this is tbe scope, this is feasible, tbis is wbat we are and there we state what is our vision and mission, and our strat- going to do, and tbis is wbat it costs now. Tben we can execute egies and goals for the product. . . . So tbe operational plan is on this. one controlling document for us. The budgel is another one. When we have the budget tben we make agreements witb tbe Ongoing use of the project management model, the different international DUs. We say, OK. we want tbe French planning tool, and common systems development meth- DU to do tbis many manhours—yes, we call il manhours. un- fortunately—and thats what we would like to buy from the odology, as well as the negotiated assignments and con- French witb this competence and in (his time period. tracts, allow Kappa project managers and software engi- neers to collectively and repeatedly align themselves withFrom the perspective of a DU manager, the annual ne- their dynamic and distributed product development work.gotiation over work is experienced as follows: These activities enact an ongoing and evolving knowing What a PO does is they send down an assignment—its called how to coordinate product development work over time an assignment spec. And the assignment spec specifies exactly (both of the current product and past generations), politics the dates and functions they want delivered. And then wbal we (the different and dynamic technical standards and cus- return back is a project spec. This is all documented in Kappas tomer requirements), and geography (the distributed lo- methodology for managing projects And in tbe project spec we cations where engineering work is actually done). specify whether we can deliver all these functions by the dates. Plans, methodologies, tools, contracts, and metrics fa- We look at things like wbat competence we bave available, tbe other projects going on, tbe complexity of tbe functions, and cilitate coordination by reducing uncertainty and vari- tbat type of tbing. And tbere are times tbat we actually bave to ability. Such use, however, can aiso dampen improvisa- write an assignment out to other DUs if we dont have all the tion. When Kappa members use the plans, methods, and resources here. Like, for example, we may borrow resources metrics to focus their attention and guide their work ac- from India or Spain. So were responsible for trying to find the tivities, they also inadvertently discount ideas and activ- resources if we dont have it all in our organization. ities not expressible in the vocabulary of the plans, meth- ods, and metrics in use. This makes Kappa vulnerable to Most of the VOS product development efforts extend shifts in software development paradigms. Indeed, asfor a duration of 18 to 24 months. The scope of each of mentioned, such a shift is currently underway within thethe projects is typically defined in the range of 300 to 400 industry, and Kappas dependence on its proprietary suitekilomanhours, and involves hundreds of software engi- of project management and software development ap-neers across the 15 distributed DU locations. The division proaches is constraining its shift to a new generation ofof work across these locations is accomplished through ahierarchical decomposition of the project into subproj- software platforms which rely on a different infrastructureects. with each DU usually taking responsibility for one (the Internet), a different programming language (Java).or more subprojects. For example, one project manager and different software development methodologiesfor the VOS-98 product explained: (object-oriented, agent-based, and parallel deveiopment). One project manager commented about Kappas current For VOS-98, we have 12 subsystems. And the people are noi project management model: co-located. So. Gennany develops one part, France another, here in Holland a third part. Canada the fourth. Spain tbe fifth. 1 ihink it helps us, but tbe drawback is tbat the limit has been Japan tbe sixtb, and so on. Each of these subprojects specializes bit now of the capacity of tbat model. And our model is not in sometbing. a specific function or feature . . . and witb one today suitable for the future. It is wbal we call here a waterfall exception, each subproject resides witbin a DU. Tbe exception model of software development. It is sequential. Bul what we is [name of function] wbicb itself has three subprojects, two in need now is a new model and a new methodology for parallel India, and one in tbe Uniied States. development.This project manager went on to explain how importantuse of Kappas project management model and method- As is well known, organizational success and familiarityology were in aligning these subprojects: tend to breed complacency (Starbuck 1989). While Kappa is not immune to these dangers, the need for All tbese subprojects are running in parallel and we need to change was recognized by Kappa members throughout coordinate tbe results from all of tbem. The project model and methodology helps a lot. It helps us lo write documents and the organization and at all levels. The challenge remains build models in a more structured way so tbat we can sbare to change work and management practices effectively these across the locations and get comments on them. . . . We without undermining the ongoing coordination of com- develop requirement specs, development sketches, implemen- plex product development activities over time, geogra- tation proposals, tecbnical reports, everything that tells us at an phy, history, and politics.262 ORGANiZATiON SCIENCE/VOI. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002
  15. 15. WANDA J. ORLIKOWSKI Knowing in PracticeLearning by Doing: Knowing How to Develop (skills in computing. Kappas suite of technical products,Capabilities as well as the specialized language, methodology, andGiven the nature of Kappas technically complex prod- platform used in the development of those products),ucts and strongly competitive environment. Kappa man- "business competence" (skills in project management,agers want to stay on the leading edge of product devel- customer orientation, and the strategic issues of Kappasopment so as to retain and increase their customer base current and future marketplace), and "human compe-and highly skilled and marketable high-tech employees. tence" (skills in intercultural communication, negotiation,Kappa accomplishes this through three primary activities: and proficiency in the English language).investing in individuals and their ongoing skill develop- My interviews suggest that these descriptions about thement, mentoring individuals and creating opportunities development of "individual capacities" are not simplyfor their advancement, and rewarding developers effort. ideological rhetoric. A senior executive commented aboutThrough engaging in such activities. Kappa members re- the organizations HR activities:currently enact a knowing how to develop capabilitieswhich generates a steady supply of skills and capabilities We pay a lol for competence development. Not only in training,for both the individuals themselves as well as the partic- but also in overseas assignments. It is our life, so we believe inular units for which they work. It also ensures that paying a lot for it. We in the individual. And we needKappas product development work is conducted by peo- lhat to balance out tbai we are not tbe bighest payer. We do not pay as well a.s some of our competitors, especially in tbe Unitedple with strong and up-to-date skill sets (Table 6 provides States wberc they buy loyalty with options and tbings like tbat.additional data on these activities). We build loyalty tbrougb investing in the people. We bave a Kappa invests extensively in its employees. One bro- different culture.chure handed out to new recruits describes their careersat Kappa as a "Lifetime of Competence Development," Investing in the individual was not just an espoused prin-and employees are told that they will develop "capacities" ciple, but actively enacted through what people did (orin three areas: "technical/professional competence" did not do) every day. For instance, one senior executiveTable 6 Learning by Doing Within Kappa Knowing in Practice Activities Data from KappaKnowing how to Investing in individual skiii "A project organization can burn up people, so who is going to take care of develop capabilities development through ongoing them, and plan their careers with them. Today, it is not widgets we are through learning by training making. If we want lo keep the talent that is so scarce, wed better be doing good guidance ccunseiors. A manager today in this industry has to be an HR person." Mentoring employees and "Kappa is aiso a company where you reaiiy have a iot of opportunities to advancing their careers do things, and also to change what you are working on. So, if you want to do some kind of line management, you can do that. If you want to do some technical work, you can get some technical responsibility. . . . so you have many possibilities, even to go abroad if you want. I mean you really can do anything you want." "I think that Kappa does care about their people. I mean, they really do try to take care of their people. And then there is the opportunity to travel, tbe opportunity to move from job to job, and to have your manager actually very supportive of you doing that. And I really like that." Rewarding the effort and not "I would say that we keep a high level of respect throughout the company. I criticizing or punishing errors mean, theres not too many people that come off as being arrogant. Because here the culture is that of design, so when we look at documents, we know that this is just ink on a paper. Its not a person. We are reviewing the document, we are not criticizing a person here. So, we know that these are not comments to be taken personally. We are trying to improve the quality of the document by either making it more understandabie, or correcting its faults, and once we focus on the document, not the person, things just kind of take off."ORGANIZATION SCIENCE/VOI. 13, No. 3, May-June 2002 263