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The Practices of Knowledge Managers: an Activity System Based View. Alexandre Perrin (aperrin@audencia.com) Strategy Department Audencia Nantes School of Management France. Statements. KM is a managerial practice (Bain, 2006) 1996  28% of usage 2006  69% of usage

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the practices of knowledge managers an activity system based view

The Practices of Knowledge Managers: an Activity System Based View

Alexandre Perrin (aperrin@audencia.com)

Strategy Department

Audencia Nantes School of Management

France

statements
Statements
  • KM is a managerial practice (Bain, 2006)
    • 1996  28% of usage
    • 2006  69% of usage
    • …but companies are dissatisfied with the results
  • Appointments of people in charge of knowledge management issues:
    • Chief Learning Officer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Knowledge Manager, Community Coordinator…
    • They initiate, drive and coordinate knowledge management programs (Earl and Scott 1999)

 Paradox: few researches were conducted on these practitioners…none with a “practice-lens”

literature review
Literature Review

Knowledge as…

KM Tools

Knowledge Managers as…

Technical Approach of KM

Individual and collective objects that can be placed on an external support

(Walsh et Ugson, 1991 ; Grant, 1991 ; Szulanski, 1996 ; Davenport et Prusak, 2000 ; Argote et al., 2003)

Knowledge codification through patents, expert systems or databases

(Hatchuel et Weil, 1992 ; Cowan et Foray, 2000 ; Hansen et al., 1999; Alavi et Leidner, 2001; Prax, 2004)

- Chief Information/Knowledge Officer(Earl et Scott, 1999)

- Chief Protection Officer

(Awazu et Desouza, 2004)

Social Approach of KM

Knowledge built and traded in social spaces

(Lave et Wenger, 1991 ; Brown et Duguid, 1991 ; Wenger, 1999 ; Gherardi et Nicolini, 2000 ; Bechky, 2003 ; Kellogg, 2006)

Knowledge socialization through communities of practice

(Wenger et al. 2002 ; Dameron et Josserand, 2006 ; Soenen, 2006 ; Vaast, 2007 ; Castro, 2007)

- Chief Learning Officer

(Awazu et Desouza, 2004)

- Community Coordinator

(Wenger et al., 2002)

research questions
Research Questions
  • A practice-lens:

RQ 1. What are the daily actions of knowledge managers?

RQ 2. What kind of conflicts can emerge from these practices inside the organization ?

RQ3. How these practices evolve over time ?

  • Objective: study the practices of knowledge managers through the image of the situated activity

Level of analysis

Organisation

Managers

Policy

Plan

What ?

Issue

Process

Practice

How ?

Whittington (1996, p.732)

analyzing knowledge managers practices the activity based view
Analyzing Knowledge Managers practices: the Activity Based View

Artefacts

Subject

Object

RESULTS

Division of work

Rules

Community

Adapted from Engeström (1996)

methodology
Methodology
  • Research setting
    • Multinational corporation with KM function(s)
    • Three managerial levels: corporate/functions/business units
  • Qualitative methodology
    • 18 months of in situ observation (tasks)
    • 30 interviews conducted (discourses)
    • 850 pages of internal documents analyzed (artefacts)
  • Four embedded case studies (managers)
    • Data triangulation obtained  context
    • Content analysis with NVivo 2.0

 Personal past experience has eased data analysis

results
Results

Artefacts

Modify the content offered or select IT tools ?

Animate or control tools (codification & socialization) ?

Subject

Object

RESULTS

How to ensure common practices in KM

How to measure the value of KM ?

Division of work

Rules

Community

outcomes
Outcomes
  • An evolving agenda with four domains of activity:
    • Knowledge portfolio (content)
    • Tools for codification (backbone)
    • Governance (rules)
    • Mindset (culture) (see the content analysis)
  • Knowledge Managers practices are influenced by:
    • Their ability to understand the knowledge that need to be managed (eg. Rewriting best practices)
    • The organization chart (eg. IT dept. vs Sales dept.)
    • The degree of understanding by stakeholders
    • The software/IT consultants
  • Practices evolve according to stakeholders needs
results content analysis
Results – Content analysis

(back)

Case CKO

Case FIRST

Case BOOSTER

Case KTP

Portfolio

6 %

1161 words

56 %

5737 words

49 %

7952 words

20 %

2477 words

IT

68 %

13158 words

13 %

1332 words

2 %

324 words

22 %

2724 words

Governance

14 %

2709 words

13 %

1329 words

32 %

5194 words

8 %

991 words

Mindset

12 %

2321 words

18 %

1844 words

17 %

2759 words

38 %

4706 words

 Total

100%

100 %

100 %

100 %

conclusion
Conclusion
  • The situated activity model helps to understand
    • the different influences or conflicts in exercising the function of knowledge management
    • the underlying causes of birth and death of the function
    • the competencies needed to hire a knowledge manager (IT/Rhetoric/Writing)
  • Limit of the study
    • Quantitative study to be made on the four domains of activity
    • Conduct a survey inside the French knowledge manager community (CoP-1)
km programs vs km practices
KM Programs vs KM Practices

Level of analysis

Organisation

Managers

What ?

Policy

Plan

Problems

How ?

Process

Practice