Posted on November 13, 2013.
Book Review by Barbie E. Keiser [@bekinc]
Since the first Knowledge Management Handbook was published in 1999, “social” has become part of everyone’s life – virtual interactions with relatives and friends, as well as collaborative efforts among teams of colleagues (at work or volunteer group efforts). The contributors to this volume are not concerned with institutions and organizations creating social networking opportunities for the sake of being “cool” and doing what the literature says other organizations (i.e., their competition) are doing. These are purposeful efforts making it possible and easy for individuals and teams of workers to share knowledge with one another. The cases highlighted in this second edition focus on how collaborative tools and knowledge sharing efforts facilitate goal achievement, often moving organizations in directions they had not thought to go before and pivoting more quickly than they’d been able to in the past. This ability to adapt to new situations and take advantage of opportunities as they arise is the penultimate goal of knowledge management (KM).
In the first chapter, Jay Liebowitz – Orkand Endowed Chair of Management and Technology, Graduate School of Management and Technology, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) – expertly sets the stage for what is to come, providing the reader with a “short case” of the “university model.” Liebowitz describes how UMUC was building informal networks among faculty designed to foster university research and scholarship (p.3). The specifics of what was done – new tools created, events organized, and new metrics introduced to measure success – is the perfect beginning for the remaining chapters and the contributions by more than 30 academics and KM practitioners from seven countries.
The cases included in this volume highlight KM projects in a diverse set of organizations: universities, government agencies, not-for-profits, and corporations. Readers will find an aspect of “social” that fits their organization’s current needs in terms of tools or techniques, or examine how an organization within a particular sector is using KM to its advantage.
This collection of chapters by thought leaders in the KM space give readers a unique perspective on “what works.” The basic structure used for chapter development is intelligently designed so that those familiar with KM as well as those new to the discipline are brought up-to-speed quickly, illustrating how the case fits into a broader concept and KM theory. Each chapter includes some introduction or background to that aspect of KM highlighted in the ensuing case. A brief history of the case before a formal KM program was introduced often touches on prior efforts to address organizational challenges related to information and knowledge sharing. This is followed by an in-depth discussion of the implementation effort, step-by-step, lessons learned from the effort, and implications for the future, including the identification of additional research needed – perfect fodder for a PhD candidate.
Four academics from the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge (UK) – Celine Miani, Markos Zachariadis, Eivor Oborn, and Michael Barrett – lead off with a discussion of how knowledge sharing ensures innovation coherence, “the alignment and relevance of the innovation goals and visions with the broader market environment (externally), and within the network itself (internally)” (p.13). Their case study involves the development of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) within the National Health Services (NHS). Clinicians are expected to keep up with advances in technology as well as research, using this knowledge to improve healthcare outcomes and increase efficiency at hospitals. The CCGs – “clusters of physician-led primary care practices responsible for the procurement of health services for a given population” – are designed to “explore new possibilities in order to develop novel commissioning activities… collaborate with colleagues and external stakeholders, and seek advice from peers in different clusters or within their group” (p.16). Important aspects of network membership management and governance are explored in-depth by the authors.
Denise Bedford (Kent State University) begins Chapter 3 with an introduction to communities of practice (CoP) and the characteristics that successful CoPs exhibit. “Religious Communities of Practice and Knowledge Management—The Potential for Cross-Domain Learning” continues by exploring the interplay between religious communities and knowledge management. “Today, across the United States, economic and social factors are contributing to the loss of religious communities of practice (i.e., churches). The mainstream media reported on church closings that are the result of decisions from the church hierarchy… (or) a failure to rejuvenate the church community,” i.e., membership. Bedford gives us two case studies of church communities leveraging knowledge management methods to “survive and thrive” (p.33).
Kimiz Dalkir’s (McGill University) exquisite case study describes how Oxfam Quebec worked with one of Oxfam International’s partner organizations in Peru, Vichama, collaborating on a knowledge transfer project, what participants thought would happen, and what actually transpired that surprised participants. These lessons learned are applicable in almost any KM effort.
Theresa Norton (Community Analytics, www.communityanalytics.com) looked at how knowledge exchange could improve outcomes in a global health program involving multiple partners. “With increasingly complex global health programs, effective use of aid funds requires a rigorous approach to knowledge management—the systematic use of people, processes, and technology to capture and share “know-how.” The flow of knowledge needs to occur within and among partner organizations, across geographic and language boundaries, so that program teams can learn from each other and function as a cohesive whole. Ultimately, global programs aim to scale up the adoption of high-impact health practices for better health outcomes of populations… The case study… illustrates a mixed approach to knowledge management interventions used for a large-scale global health program. The interventions used provide for variations in technology access and networking preferences. A discussion of knowledge translation, social networking, and team collaboration concepts, drawn from literature, follows the case study to provide insight into the effectiveness of the approaches used” (p. 63-64). One example presented in this chapter is the IBP Initiative supporting “over 50 time-bound global discussion forums on a wide range of reproductive health topics” (https://knowledge-gateway.org/discussions.html).
The chapter by Ulrike Becker-Korstaedt and Forrest Shull (Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering, College Park, MD) discusses how software developers choose the right practice—methods, tools, and techniques—for a given software engineering project. EMPEROR (Experience Management Portal using Empirical Results as Organizational Resources) provides “valuable and validated experience to users… Experience is handled, summarized, and interpreted by experts worldwide, who are working collaboratively and constructively, and are tapped according to their experience (p.90)… The goal of EMPEROR is to build high-quality evidence through the efficient coordination of experts handling experience with practices” (p.93). The authors highlight the need for trustability, efficient expert collaboration, and usability in KM solutions. Their case describes how users were given a feeling of content structure through seeding of the system and the interviewing, vetting, and training of experts.
Moira Levy (Israel) explores the productivity of the knowledge worker through real-time knowledge management, focusing her research “on those employees who have to decide and give answers here and now,” including call center representatives at service centers, front-line bankers, and medical physicians.
Maureen Hammer and Katherine Clark introduce the concept of vertical and horizontal networks built to support organizational business at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The authors provide a history of what they describe as traditional knowledge transfer at VDOT and a move toward greater collaboration and the application of networking principles to resolve some workforce issues, such as reductions in staffing levels. Their case study details a series of Communities of Practice (CoPs) built, noting that further research was needed, particularly “how to integrate networks across lines of business within an organization… and successful onboarding of new employees into an organization” (p.148).
Jackson, Wise, and Norton introduce the reader to the concept of social network analysis (SNA) at a pharmaceutical company. The Community Analytics’ (www.communityanalytics.com) approach used to connect brands with existing communities involved four steps to increase prescribing of a particular branded drug: Opportunity identification (mapping the network, identifying new members and influencers, gap analysis); Partnership building; Connectivity facility; and Relationship sustainability.
The case study by Gloria Phillips-Wren (Sellinger School of Business and Management, Loyola University Maryland) and Louise Humphreys (Price Modern LLC) involves an office furniture dealership representing over 200 different manufacturers. “The chapter presents social media as a value-added differentiator opportunity for a small business-to-business organization” examining “the introduction of social media into Price Modern… “Best Practices” initiative, sales force development, and information flow to existing and new customers in order to maintain and build the trusted relationships relied on for decades in the new and socially expected way” (p. 169). The teaming of an academic and businessperson results in elegantly presented theory applied to a real life situation.
A team of seven academics from the Department of Knowledge and Communication Management, Danube University (Austria) introduces the concept of visual knowledge network analytics. Their case presents multiple representations of collaborations and communication of members in a university department illustrating how these different views affect analysis.
Francisco Cantu and Hector Ceballos (University of Mexico) case study also deals with social network analysis in a university setting – this time multidisciplinary scientific research collaboration. A database stores information about research professors and graduate students, research chairs and centers, and graduate programs, plus research chair members’ scientific publications: journal articles, conference papers, patents, books and book chapters, these, and technical reports. Academic profiles of research professors can be searched for potential co-authors with expertize in a specialization. (Students often use the database to select thesis advisor.) Analysis of publications for extent of collaboration indicates that many research “chairs have at least one publication with authors from at least two disciplines and that a good number of the publications have one or more authors from at least two research chairs” (p.216).
Andrew Campbell and Melvin Brown used their expertise designing, building, and implementing two enterprise-scale collaboration and information sharing programs for the federal government as the basis for their chapter, “Knowledge Management and Collaboration: Big Budget Results in a Low Budget World.” They readily admit to “a bias against centrally controlled and highly moderated collaboration and knowledge management,” rarely seeing them work at an enterprise scale. They “also knew that without strong distributed leadership, the system would simply collapse as it grew… We needed trained network administrators embedded in the workgroups” (p.223). Key features of their approach for implementing a SharePoint solution included:
1. Governance by business owners
2. A dedicated full-time director or leader
3. Tactical approach to problem solving
4. Rapid turnaround of solution prototypes
5. Facilitator-led, customized training
6. Facilitators or trained admins embedded in workgroups
7. Locally led innovation and sustainment
8. Governance enforced by facilitators and a representative governing body
9. Supportive, not controlling role by the IT shop
Sudhakar and Kruthiventi (India) provide a KM case study from their own workplace, Tata Chemicals, while Bradley Hilton and Michael Prevou look at high-performing teams of leaders (ToL), based on the U.S. Army approach to geographically-dispersed cross-boundary teams consisting “of leaders from different organizations brought together to leverage the expertise, experience, and resources of their entire organization” (p.278). Based on their work portrayed here, the authors conclude: “the traditional knowledge management framework needs to be reevaluated and reoriented on the human dimension and the centrality of people within a broader and more comprehensive knowledge environment framework. More technology will not solve challenges connecting people to one another, especially when crossing traditional boundaries of culture and organization” (p.297).
What may be missing from this work – if anything – is a concluding chapter that circles back around, reminding the reader of the important lessons learned and recurring themes. A brief biographical sketch – just a few sentences – also would have been an interesting addition to the volume. There is a list of contributors that includes their affiliation, city and state or country, as relevant, but additional points of contact would help to eliminate unnecessary steps for the interested reader. The subtitle of the work does include “social,” after all.
Knowledge Management Handbook: Collaboration and Social Networking, second edition, edited by Jay Liebowitz (CRC Press ©2012, 299pp.)