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Knowledge Management

The knowledge in an organization is created owing to interchange of intellectual resources between organizational units. As a result, we have a mechanism for knowledge storage, transfer and reuse. Knowledge transfer and sharing, economies of scale arising from the pooling resources, collaborative problem-solving, and access to expertise and skills may be beneficial to an organization if its organizational units actively interchange the information with other work units. Thus, if units hold privileged position in their knowledge network, they accrue social capital, which gives them access to the opportunities and assets which otherwise would not be available. One of such privileged positions is brokerage, where a unit occupies a special place through which all the units communicate.

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It is presumed that such positions may affect productivity, knowledge sharing and transfer, innovation and performance in the organization. However, all the units in the organization are not alike and they perform different kinds of work, thus they deal with different types of knowledge. Each unit may use its own knowledge processing (KP) style ranging from codification to personalization.

Codification is a knowledge processing style which deals with more explicit knowledge. This KP style is needed when we work with information related to the operational routines and procedure tasks. In other words, we codify the knowledge into formal documents, databases and manuals. Codification is not such a preferred KP style, because it may require sizeable technology investments for systematic knowledge codifying and providing the mechanisms which will make easier search and retrieval of relevant knowledge.

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Another knowledge processing style is personalization. This style is desirable if the unit often deals with the knowledge that does not need to be codified, probably because it is tacit and experimental. Personalization is used, for example, in negotiations when it is hard to describe and thus codify information to be received. In this case units rely on interaction through sharing and transferring the knowledge. Whether style is successful or not depends on the capability of people involved and their desire to share their knowledge with others.

The KP style is not the only thing for ultimate effectiveness of knowledge management (KM). A unit’s network position in the organization plays a relevant role. There are three network positions for a unit: position of brokerage, position of proximity and position of prominence. Unit that holds the position of brokerage serves as an exclusive passage between other disconnected networks. This allows such a unit to control and break the flow of information, as it has access to new sources of knowledge. A unit that occupies a position of proximity has more direct links to other units. In this position the unit is less dependent on other units for transmission of information and knowledge. And finally, the unit in position of prominence is characterized by high communication and knowledge exchange activities. In all of these positions units have their own benefits. In position of brokerage the unit controls flow of communications; in position of proximity the unit can quickly access knowledge and diverse information within the network which may bring to innovative and domain-relevant knowledge; in position of prominence the unit has more chances to be engaged in high communication and knowledge exchange activities.

For the ultimate KM effectiveness the unit in network position should be aligned with its KP style. Codification seems to be less important for transferring knowledge within the organization, but it is still needed for successful work. The more units use personalization, the more effective the KM is.

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As a knowledge manager I would find out what the problem with effectiveness of KM in a company is. If the level of codification were too high, I would suggest lowering it to 30% of all the network management, provide more personalization until both KP styles get balanced and harmonized. 

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