Managing technical knowledge to enhance organisational best practice
2009-05-14T15:48:32Z (GMT) by
In recent years the construction industry has become increasingly aware of the potential of the technical knowledge held by construction professionals and the need to manage it effectively. However, organisations have experienced numerous problems in implementing and sustaining Knowledge Management (KM) initiatives. A key reason for this, which has been cited both within industry and academia, is a lack of understanding of the best-suited KM approaches available and how to adopt them. In particular, the importance of people-orientated KM practices, specifically in the case of construction firms who have a high level of dependence on the tacit knowledge of their employees, has been well documented with many KM authors calling for further research in this area. The research undertaken for this study was initiated in response to the need for further research and an improved understanding of KM (people-orientated KM in particular) best practice. The research was also focussed on establishing an effective KM initiative within Ramboll Whitbybird; the sponsoring organisation. The central aim of the research was therefore to “deliver a framework that facilitates the retention and reuse of knowledge, which will increase Ramboll Whitbybird’s potential to drive engineering best practice and respond appropriately to conventional and emerging business opportunities.” To achieve this an action research approach was adopted, facilitated through the use of literature reviews, interviews, focus groups, and other data collection methods, to enable the findings to be implemented within an industrial setting. Through extensive industry involvement the research highlighted the core components necessary for a successful KM initiative, and the actions necessary from those involved in implementing, managing and sustaining KM activities within construction firms. The findings demonstrated that an organisation wishing to realise effective KM needs to establish a clear definition and understanding of KM across the business, which can be achieved through the compilation of a KM strategy (statement) and action plan. It also needs to acknowledge the importance of addressing the critical factors that will determine the success of its KM initiative such as the need for KM champions and a supporting team, a fit with the way people work and an alignment with business objectives. The research also highlighted the importance of people-orientated KM practices, and that construction organisations in particular should identify and prioritise KM activities such as Communities of Practice (CoPs), due to their reliance on tacit knowledge transfer. However, in order to maximise the benefits to individuals and the business, the organisation will need to take a ‘light touch’ approach to the management of CoPs. Supporting people-based KM activities with the right technology is an important factor, particularly as organisations expand and become more geographically dispersed. To ensure that this technology is an effective supporter of KM it needs to be tailored to fit with the KM needs of the business, and will need to become de-centralised in its operation. Finally, the research outlined the importance for the organisation to consider the integration of KM within the daily operation of the business by incorporating KM effectively into communication and reporting structures, while also ensuring that it becomes a core aspect of its Quality Assurance (QA) procedures.