Km most cited reading packet 10 12
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KM Most-Cited Reading Packet 10-12. By Manny Martinez & Yi-Hsuan Lee. Agenda. The Firm As A Distributed Knowledge System: A Constructionist Approach Organizational Memory: Review of Concepts and Recommendations for Management

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Km most cited reading packet 10 12

KM Most-Cited Reading Packet 10-12


Manny Martinez & Yi-Hsuan Lee



  • The Firm As A Distributed Knowledge System: A Constructionist Approach

  • Organizational Memory: Review of Concepts and Recommendations for Management

  • Exploring Internal Stickiness: Impediments to the Transfer of Best Practice within the Firm

The firm as a distributed knowledge system a constructionist approach

The Firm As A Distributed Knowledge System: A Constructionist Approach

Author: Haridimos Tsoukas, 1996



Recent Developments

Structure of Social Practices

Industry Recipes




  • Two key questions regarding traditional management research

    • 1. In what direction should the firm channel its activities?

    • 2. How should a firm be organized?

  • Assumptions underlying these questions

    • rationality

    • propositional reasoning

    • sufficient knowledge



  • The traditional approach does not account for particular circumstances of time and space

  • Full knowledge and access to that knowledge is assumed, but this is clearly not the case

  • “A firm’s knowledge cannot be surveyed as a whole; it is not self contained…”(p13)

Recent developments

Recent Developments

  • The author argues that firms draw upon existing knowledge and it’s ‘collective knowledge’ - just as Stein (19) argued

  • Instead of employees as cogs reacting to given scenarios, individuals interact with their past experiences and create their surroundings

  • Those following this idea either: create taxonomies or create analogies between the mind and the organization

Recent developments1

Recent Developments

  • Taxonomists create types of organizational knowledge and draw out their implications

    • tacit vs. explicit

    • Opposition to Nonaka and Takeuchi relating to the inter-connectivity between tacit and explicit

  • Analogies between the organization and the mind

    • the necessary knowledge is distributed

    • the collective mind is created as individuals interact

Recent developments2

Recent Developments

  • Human understanding is based on a unique and unarticulated background, thus rendering the ‘rationalist’ view lacking

  • This background is then applied by an individual to a target, thus resulting in understanding the target

  • The background is a result of socialization

Structure of social practices

Structure of Social Practices

  • Three dimensions of social practices

    • 1. Normative expectations are associated with a particular role

    • 2. An individual brings past socializations to particular situations

    • 3. Interactive-situational dimension-the context of an activity activates expectations

  • The absence of predictable rationality results in a dispersed environment

Structure of social practices1

Structure of Social Practices

  • “Human agency is ‘always and at every moment confronted with specific conditions and choices…’” (p19)

  • The human decision is always grounded in local, socialized, and personal experiences

  • The infinite number of resulting possibilities is managed through institutional context

Industry recipes

Industry Recipes

  • “Through a process of socialization, managers internalize industry-specific distinctions” (p20)

  • A recipe “consists of a set of background distinctions tied to a particular field of experiences” (p20)

  • Recipes represent tacit knowledge



  • Resources are not given or discovered but created…..through human interaction

  • Firms rely on knowledge that is dispersed throughout the individuals

  • Thus the firm is a distributed knowledge system

  • The firm’s knowledge is in a broad context

  • Normative and actual situations are in tension, resulting from the localness of individuals



  • Management is therefore not a rule-making endeavor, but should be the process of allowing individuals to interact

  • This interaction allows employees to create knowledge

  • Assumptions not stated by the author

    • requires experts, education, and motivation

  • Compare the role of managers to that given by Drucker

Organizational memory review of concepts and recommendations for management

Organizational Memory: Review of Concepts and Recommendations for Management

Author: Eric Stein, 1995



Defining Organizational Memory

Processes of Organizational Memory




  • Working definition: Organizational memory is the means by which knowledge from the past is brought to bear on present activities, thus resulting in higher or lower levels of organizational effectiveness (p22)

  • Involves the coding of information via suitable representations, which later have an effect on the organization in light of current conditions



  • Organizational memory as a capability

    • means to transmit information from past to future members

  • Three types of organizational memory

    • metaphor allowing insight into organizational life

    • embedded in management theory

    • relevant to management practice



  • Organizational memory as a metaphor

    • Three types of information can be stored as a memory to “steer” an organization

      • 1. Outside information

      • 2. Information from the past

      • 3. Information about the organization itself

    • What is the importance here?



  • Organizational memory as related to management theory

    • learning vs. unlearning

    • flexibility vs. stability

    • human resources vs. information resources

  • Necessary for planning and decision making in organizations



  • Organizational memory as related to management practice

    • Capturing the lessons of experts and other personnel to reduce loss of knowledge during turnover

    • Capturing knowledge over time will result in a competitive advantage

Defining organizational memory

Defining Organizational Memory

  • How to use organizational memory to enhance effectiveness - provides a useful framework

    • Guarding against inflexibility and lowered effectiveness

    • Look at types of memories

      • encoded but not sent immediately

      • time in transmission is critical

      • extended duration following transmission



  • Recommendations

    • 1. Identify the types of memories

      • What is the usefulness?

    • 2. Look at coupling between senders and receivers

    • 3. Consider the role of short/long term memories

    • 4. Inventory and classify memory



  • Recommendation 4 is the most useful and doable

    • 1. Knowledge-base in crucial for effectiveness

    • 2. Knowledge supports effective strategic decision making, resulting in a strategic advantage:

      • suggestive

      • predictive

      • decisive

      • systemic

Processes of organizational memory

Processes of Organizational Memory

  • Consist of acquisition, retention, maintenance, retrieval

  • Provide the means by which knowledge from the past is brought to bear on present activities

Processes of organizational memory1

Processes of Organizational Memory

  • Acquiring organizational memories

    • Mostly focuses on learning

    • The receipt of a sensory signal is the most basic form of learning

    • Individual learning cycles are completed when new knowledge is accepted and encoded into individual minds

    • Organizational learning is not complete until individual learning is embedded in the organization

    • Organizational memory is essential to organizational learning, while learning is a necessary condition for memory

Processes of organizational memory2

Processes of Organizational Memory

  • Acquiring organizational memories

    • Organizational memories may also produce barriers to learning, especially double-loop learning

    • Double-loop learning occurs when members detect conflicting requirements and try to resolve those conflicts by changing prevailing norms and values

    • Since individuals must change their shared theories-in-use and images of organization, unlearning might take place

Processes of organizational memory3

Processes of Organizational Memory

  • Retaining organizational memories

    • Retention is the most important and widely recognized feature of organizational memory

    • Three categories to retain organizational information

      • Schemas:

        • A schema is an individual cognitive structure that helps people organize and process information efficiently

      • Scripts:

        • Scripts describe the appropriate sequencing of events in conventional or familiar situations

      • Systems:

        • Memories may be retained in the social fabric of organizations, in their physical structures, and in explicitly designed information systems

Processes of organizational memory4

Processes of Organizational Memory

  • Three major categories of means to retain organizational memories

Processes of organizational memory5

Processes of Organizational Memory

  • Maintenance and loss of organizational memories

    • Departing members leave 'holes' in existing knowledge networks

    • The average experience of those who leave may be more important than the absolute number of those who leave

    • Firms that fail to reinforce social structures may experience a loss of knowledge as relationships atrophy

    • Organizational memories also can be maintained through recurrent patterns of interaction

Processes of organizational memory6

Processes of Organizational Memory

  • Retrieving organizational memories

    • Organizational memories can be recalled to support decision making and problem solving

    • An inquirer is motivated to retrieve information if:

      • the inquirer values what has been done in previous contexts

      • the desired information exists and the inquirer is aware of the information

      • the inquirer has the ability to search, locate, and decode the desired information

      • the cost to locate the information is less than re-computing the solution from scratch

    • An organization that maintains but does not use its knowledge-base is dysfunctional



  • Recommendations

    • 5. Explore the impact of both individual and organizational learning

    • 6. Examine the retentive capacities of personal and shared schema

    • 7. Examine the retentive capacities of personal and organizational scripts

    • 8. Examine the retentive capacities of the social and physical structures associated with organizations

    • 9. Leverage advanced information technologies to support the processes and products of organizational memory



  • Recommendations

    • 10. Assess the loss of knowledge experienced by organizations due to turnover and organizational restructuring

    • 11. Assess the means by which organizations maintain different types of knowledge through communication processes, repetition, sanctification, and validation

    • 12. Examine the degree to which organizations support the retrieval of knowledge from the past and the impact of that knowledge on organizational effectiveness



  • An improved organization memory can benefit the organization in several ways:

    • Helps managers maintain strategic direction over time

    • Helps the organization avoid the nightmare of cycling through old solutions to new problems

    • Gives new meaning to the work of individuals if such efforts are retained

    • Facilitate organizational learning

    • Strengthen the identity of the organization

    • Provide newcomers with access to the expertise



  • Does this article really provide management tools?

  • Can managers actually identify the memories?

Exploring internal stickiness impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm

Exploring Internal Stickiness: Impediments to the Transfer of Best Practice within the Firm

Author: Gabriel Szulanski, 1996


Stages in the Transfer Process

Origins of Internal Stickiness

Research Results and Suggestions

Stages in the transfer process

Stages in the Transfer Process

  • Initiation

    • This stage comprises all events that lead to the decision to transfer

    • A transfer begins when both a need and the knowledge to meet that need coexist within the organization

  • Implementation

    • During this stage, resources flow between the recipient and the source

    • Related activities cease or diminish after the recipient begins using the transferred knowledge

Stages in the transfer process1

Stages in the Transfer Process

  • Ramp-up

    • The recipient use the new knowledge ineffectively at first, but gradually improves performance, ramping up toward a satisfactory level

  • Integration

    • Use of the transferred knowledge gradually becomes routinized in every recurring pattern

    • A shared history of jointly utilizing the transferred knowledge is built up in the recipient

Origins of internal stickiness

Origins of Internal Stickiness

  • Four sets of factors are likely to influence the difficulty of knowledge transfer:

    • Characteristics of the source of knowledge

    • Characteristics of the recipient of knowledge

    • Characteristics of the context

    • Characteristics of the knowledge transferred

Origins of internal stickiness1

Origins of Internal Stickiness

  • Characteristics of the source of knowledge

    • Lack of motivation

      • A knowledge source may be reluctant to share knowledge for fear of losing ownership or a position of privilege

    • Not perceived as reliable

      • When a source unit is not perceived as reliable, initiating a transfer from that source will be more difficult

Origins of internal stickiness2

Origins of Internal Stickiness

  • Characteristics of the recipient of knowledge

    • Lack of motivation

      • Some recipients may be reluctant to accept knowledge from the outside

    • Lack of absorptive capacity

      • Recipients might be unable to take advantage of outside source of knowledge

    • Lack of retentive capacity

      • The ability of a recipient to institutionalize the utilization of new knowledge reflects the retentive capacity

      • Without such ability, initial difficulties may become an excuse for discontinuing its use and reverting to the previous status

Origins of internal stickiness3

Origins of Internal Stickiness

  • Characteristics of the context

    • Barren organizational context

      • Intrafirm exchanges of knowledge are embedded in a organizational context

      • A context that stops the gestation and evolution of transfers is said to be barren

    • Arduous relationship

      • A transfer of knowledge may require numerous individual exchanges

      • An arduous (i.e., distant) relationship might create additional difficulties in the transfer

Origins of internal stickiness4

Origins of Internal Stickiness

  • Characteristics of the knowledge transferred

    • Causal ambiguity

      • When the precise reasons for success or failure cannot be determined, causal ambiguity is present

    • Unprovenness

      • A proven record of past usefulness helps in the process of selecting knowledge for transfer

Which factor will mostly affect the difficulty of knowledge transfer?

Research results and suggestions

Research Results and Suggestions

  • The correlation between the two sets of constructs is very high

  • The three most important barriers are:

    • The lack of absorptive capacity of the recipient

    • Causal ambiguity

    • The arduous relationship between the source and the recipient

Research results and suggestions1

Research Results and Suggestions

  • These results contrast to conventional wisdom

    • Conventional wisdom attributes stickiness almost exclusively to motivational factors

  • Knowledge-related barriers dominate rather than motivation-related barriers

    • Why organizations do not know what they know?

    • It may be less because organizations do not want to learn but rather because they do not know how to

Research results and suggestions2

Research Results and Suggestions

  • Using only incentive systems to mitigate internal stickiness is inadequate or misled

  • It might be profitable to devote scarce resources and managerial attention to:

    • Develop the learning capacities of organizational units

    • Foster closer relationships between organizational units

    • Systematically understand and communicate practices



  • Are there any other barriers to the transfer?

  • Are these results suitable to the companies from other countries?



  • Research samples are from 8 companies:

    • AMP, AT&T Paradyne, British Petroleum, Burmah Castrol, Chevron Corporation, EDS, Kaiser Permanente, Rank Xerox

  • 2 sets of constructs:

    • Dependent variables: stickiness in stages in the transfer process

    • Independent variables: Origins of Internal Stickiness

  • The data set

    • 271 observations of 122 best-practice transfers in 8 companies

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