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Sample Research Proposal on Knowledge Management and Culture


Although knowledge management is becoming widely accepted, few human resource managers today are fully capable of developing and leveraging critical organizational knowledge to improve their performance. Many organizations have become so complex that their knowledge is fragmented, difficult to locate and share, and therefore redundant, inconsistent or not used at all. In today's environment of rapid change and technological discontinuity, even knowledge and expertise that can be shared is often quickly made obsolete.


However, while many people call for effectively managing knowledge, almost no research has been done regarding how to do it especially in Kuwait. These are great when they work, but the reality for most firms is that they do not do it. There are often problems with the quality and volume of information they contain, so that searching is a slow or useless exercise. And many are simply underused, because people find different ways of getting access to the information they need.


Furthermore, different countries have different cultures, which in turn have an affect on Organizational Behavior within the organization. These differences vary to some degree from one country to the other. In Kuwait, organizational behavior is not only different because of the culture alone, but also because in each organization there are different people coming from different countries and back ground who again have a different norms and value hence different behavior. Sharing knowledge with other subordinate or colleague is intimidating to most of the employees, because in the end it what knowledge, skills, traits that differentiate on person from the other and entitle him for being superior over his/her colleagues. Therefore, to what extent a person can share knowledge differs from one person to another due to intimidation and cultural background.


Literature Review

Recently, there has been an explosion of interest in the field of knowledge management. According to Foote, Matson and Rudd (2001), knowledge possessed by an organization's employees is a highly valued, intangible, strategic asset. Thus, according to Hinds and Pfeffer (2003), appropriate management of knowledge is a critical factor in a business' ability to create and maintain distinctive core competencies; unfortunately, doing so has become a major challenge.


Knowledge management means different things to different people (Nakra, 2000). O'Dell and Grayson (1998) describe knowledge management as "a conscious strategy of getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time and helping people share and put information into action in ways that strive to improve organizational performance" (p. 6). Nakra (2000) provides additional insight: "Knowledge management refers to the ability to develop, share, deposit, extract, and deliver knowledge such that it may be retrieved and used to make decisions or to support the processes" (p. 54).

Culture is one of the elements that leads to the effectiveness of knowledge management. It represents the desires, end goals, and customary practices of the corporation. In addition, culture is the set of commonly-held beliefs and assumptions within an organization (Balogun & Jenkins, 2003). As O'Dell and Grayson (1998) explain, "While never exactly articulated," this set of underlying beliefs is "always there to color the perception of actions and communications" (p. 71).

Every company or organization has its own specific culture and therefore its own unique practices (Schein, 1984). Just as organizational culture influences the actions and communications of everyone in a company, it also exerts a powerful influence on how companies manage knowledge, whether knowledge management is intentional or not.

An effective corporate culture for knowledge management consists of norms and practices that promote the free-flow of information among employees and across department lines. In contrast is the company that rewards the hoarding of knowledge. Such a company may talk of knowledge management principles, but its corporate practices and rewards may send signals to employees that actually undermine the transfer of knowledge. For example, De Long and Fahey (2000) describe members of circuit-board design team who, while working on a government-funded project, were so concerned with accounting for their time that they refused to take time to develop lessons learned in the important product-development process. The company's practice of meticulously accounting for time in an explicit form was so ingrained into the team members' work habits that they resisted taking time to contribute to knowledge creation, even though they undertook the project with the understanding that they were to capture what they learned. Clearly it is the practices and norms of the organization, not management lip service, that ultimately influence the actions of employees.

Organizational practices include the way people answer phones and fill out time reports, company standards for performance reviews, and weekly parties. Other practices may be the type of measurements used throughout the company or the incentives used by management to help employees accomplish the organization's goals. Routine practices of a group are representative of its true goals and aspirations. Consequently, if company practices do not promote the free transfer and sharing of accurate and valuable knowledge, then the culture is a major impediment to knowledge management initiatives and must be examined. In brief, corporate practices should align with knowledge management objectives (De Long & Fahey, 2000).

Managers are becoming more aware of the problems created by having a corporate culture inconsistent with knowledge programs. A study conducted by the Journal of Knowledge Management revealed that organizational culture was one of the largest obstacles facing knowledge managers. Of the 431 senior managers interviewed, eighty percent responded that the culture of their organization in some way "hindered the development and introduction of KM strategies and programs" (Chase, 1997, p.46). For example, companies that base evaluation, promotion, or compensation on "relative numbers" (Nakra, 2000) instill in workers the perception that knowledge is power and that by sharing it they will jeopardize their chances of advancement or success. As a result, organizational members view hoarding knowledge as an effective way to secure their jobs (De Long & Fahey, 2000) and are extremely reluctant to share their knowledge and expertise. Again, the level of success for knowledge management programs is directly affected by the company's culture.

Research now suggests that a knowledge hoarding culture is not an insignificant problem in implementing knowledge management programs. In fact, it could be the largest obstacle companies' face in knowledge management programs (De Long & Fahey, 2000). Scholars and practitioners, intent on forming a set of best practices for knowledge sharing organizations, have searched extensively for elements that create cultures conducive to effective knowledge management.

Only when a culture of trust and openness is formed and felt by organizational members, knowledge management can give birth to core competencies. Thus, the participation, cooperation, coordination, and empowered teamwork of employees should be supported as standard attitudes in the knowledge management environment (Abernathy, 1999; Boisot, 1998; Wah, 1999).



Research Questions

  1. How could the culture differences affect Organizational Behavior?
  2. Hence what are expected from these organizations?
  3. On the same token what is the best method to approach these different organizations in order to improve their status through managing knowledge?
  4. And to what degree a person is welling to share his/her knowledge?



An in depth interview will be conducted for the survey. "In the in depth interview, the interviewer usually listens for aspects of the experience that people seem to feel strongly about and tries to find out more about the nature of their feelings" (Albrecht, 1988, p. 163). The technique allows individuals to respond in their own words (Stewart & Shamdasani, 1990, p. 13). People are often more amenable to answering questions in person than on paper; there is greater spontaneity in the responses; and answers are more complete and revealing than questionnaire answers.

A sample test will be taken from different organization and will be tested against several criteria, such as the hypothesis, the demographical data and any other factor that would have effect on the final out come




Significance of the Research

In the end, one can see how understanding and utilizing knowledge management can lead to success in an organization. Developing effective methods of knowledge retrieval, analysis and dissemination will yield great benefits to any organization.



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