Toward a Model of Effective Knowledge Management and Directions for Future Research: Culture, Leadership, and CKOs

By DeTienne, Kristen Bell; Dyer, Gibb et al. | Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Toward a Model of Effective Knowledge Management and Directions for Future Research: Culture, Leadership, and CKOs


DeTienne, Kristen Bell, Dyer, Gibb, Hoopes, Charlotte, Harris, Stephen, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies


Organizational culture, organizational leadership, and Chief Knowledge Officers (CKOs) each play important roles in overcoming human barriers associated with knowledge creation, transfer and sharing. This paper examines three key components of organizational culture: cooperative involvement, trust and incentives. In addition, the impact of organizational leadership on knowledge management as well as the roles and qualifications of CKOs are discussed. Through an examination of previous research and existing literature on knowledge management, this paper also shows where gaps in research exist and suggests directions for future organizational research.

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In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in the field of knowledge management (KM). This intense interest stems, in part, from the widespread recognition that the knowledge possessed by an organization's employees is a highly valued, intangible, strategic asset (Foote, Matson & Rudd, 2001). Appropriately managing knowledge is a critical factor in a business' ability to create and maintain distinctive core competencies; unfortunately, doing so has become a major challenge (Hinds & Pfeffer, 2003). The short history of knowledge management has shown that managers have had difficulty leveraging the knowledge assets of their firm because of misguided approaches and hurried excitement.

When KM became a substantial issue in the early nineties, academics and professionals scrambled to provide answers to KM questions. In all of the frenzy to immediately implement new initiatives, however, many KM proposals that did not have merit were accepted and implemented (O'Dell & Grayson, 1998).

Because technological breakthroughs were seen as fix-all solutions, the great majority of these hastily-adopted KM solutions seemed to offer the same advice: invest in more technology (Fiol, 2003). However, new and improved technology failed to produce the results that both academics and professionals had predicted. For example, Kluge, Stein and Licht (2001) cite the experience of a global construction company that was putting itself at a disadvantage by selecting subcontractors as its much smaller competitors did, primarily because knowledge accumulated by individual project managers about the subcontractor market was not readily accessible. Concluding that KM was the key to improving the struggling company's situation, the organization's senior management created a subcontractor database to facilitate easy access to and sharing of knowledge about the subcontractor market.

Although the database appeared to be a quick and easy solution that would aid project managers in identifying and evaluating possible subcontractors, the project failed miserably. Project managers distrusted information coming from "outside" sources, such as regional offices, and were hesitant to share knowledge about subcontractors for fear that they would be unavailable for their own projects. In addition, project managers were reluctant to spend time filling out forms or accessing the database, as these activities were seen as time taken away from "real work." As a result, the database--created to help give the company an advantage over small and mid-sized competitors--was quickly filled with incomplete records that were seldom read by other managers.

As illustrated by the construction company's attempt to implement a KM program, simply creating a database or introducing new technology does not produce the creation, sharing or transfer of knowledge. While improved technology can greatly facilitate the sharing of best practices and know-how (O'Dell & Grayson, 1998), experience is now showing that it does not in and of itself make this sharing happen. Accordingly, Davenport (1997) concludes: "The status quo approach to information management--invest in new technologies, period--just doesn't work" (p. 3).

KM solutions are more complex than simply purchasing the latest computer system or updating an old database (Davenport, Harris & Kohli, 2001). …

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