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The Balancing Act of Managing Virtual Working in Knowledge-Intensive Organisations. Lefkada Papacharalambous Brunel University UK Diana Limburg Twente University Netherlands. Starting point. Knowledge creation is for many organisations crucial in survival, but difficult to manage.

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the balancing act of managing virtual working in knowledge intensive organisations

The Balancing Act of Managing Virtual Working in Knowledge-Intensive Organisations

Lefkada Papacharalambous

Brunel University UK

Diana Limburg

Twente University Netherlands

starting point
Starting point
  • Knowledge creation is for many organisations crucial in survival, but difficult to manage.
  • Managing a dispersed workforce is difficult/different (see for example previous workshops)
  • Question: How can managers deal with the combination of a need for knowledge creation and a dispersed workforce?
  • To start with: why would they want to do that in the first place?
knowledge intensive organisations
Knowledge-Intensive Organisations
  • Surviving in a knowledge-based economy
  • Key succes-factors:
  • Virtual teamwork
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Managing the brainpower
  • + Separate arguments for remote working
management role in kios 1 creating and maintaining trust
Management role in KIOs (1): Creating and maintaining trust
  • Building blocks of social trust:
    • integrity
    • ability
    • openness
    • benevolence
    • expectations

(Ishaya & Macoulay 2002, based on Stephen 1998)

trust processes
Trust processes
  • The transparent process
    • expectations based on past experiences
  • The competence process
    • based on ‘delivering the goods’ and feedback
  • Intensive process
    • identify with each other’s goals, understand and appreciate each other’s needs

(Ishaya & Macoulay 2002, based on Stephen 1998)

management role in kios 2 away from the comfort zone
Management role in KIOs (2): away from the comfort zone
  • We know what is needed:
  • Output & input control, not behavioural control (e.g. Depickere 1999);
  • Inspirational leadership, not subjection to formal organisational structures;
  • Trust-based cooperation;
  • However:

“We have met the enemy, it is us” (McCalman & Paton 2000)

management role in kios 3 too much too soon too little time
Management role in KIOs (3): too much, too soon, too little time
  • Each separate task does not seem to be too complicated.
  • However, managers have much to take into account…
  • ... that cannot all be learned and used piecemeal.
  • Therefore, managers need to change their underlying mental models...
  • …to understand and internalise the rationale behind appropriate actions.
changing the manager s mental model ba
Changing the manager’s mental model: ‘ba’
  • Knowledge needs a context, a place to be created.
  • ba (‘place’): “… a shared context in cognition and action” =
  • Unification of:
    • physical space
    • virtual space
    • mental space

(Nonaka & Teece 2001, inspired by Kitaro Nishida and Shimizu)

practice
Practice
  • Do managers of KIOs apply aspects of ‘ba’?
  • What problems do they face?
  • How is trust managed, is ‘ba’ useful for that?
compu nl innovating a bureaucracy
Compu-NL: Innovating a bureaucracy
  • Originally strong bureaucracy, due to market demands shift towards ‘employee mobility’ in broad sense;
  • ba: Flexible officing and telework, Intranet, mobile ICT;
  • Introduction of telework supported change to coaching management style;
  • Individualism, priority to client, not team;
  • Dispersion creates risk of losing sight of what binds team members ;
  • Teams asked to discuss their ‘teamness’ and goals.
mediamakers taming the free spirits
Mediamakers: Taming the free spirits
  • What the client wants can be done;
  • Loss of profitability because of spending too much time on projects, as well as errors caused by mis-communication and lack of record keeping;
  • ba: fun office, maybe flex, ICT, Intranet;
  • Different communication needs;
  • Managers confused about role;
  • Project management to get some order in chaos.
conclusions
Conclusions
  • Virtual teamwork is important for KIO: flexibility.
  • Managers not only face many things that need to be done, but also incongrous demands and expectations.
  • Managers have an ungrateful job: directing (=restricting) creativity towards sustainable profit.
  • But simultaneously must avoid output orientation to limit knowledge sharing and creativity.
  • Physical and virtual aspects of ba are, in practice, exploited more than the mental aspect.
  • The mental aspect of ba is important for trust;
  • Trust is essential, but difficult to discuss.
recommendations
Recommendations
  • Freedom and structure must be balanced.
  • Therefore, new mental models must be acquired by managers to achieve the necessary new culture of knowledge sharing.
  • This includes a complete use of ba: not only physical and virtual, but mental as well (trust!).
  • Even though managers are often not knowledge workers as such, they have an essential role to play by leading, and combining creativity into sustainable profitability.
thank you
THANK YOU

Diana Limburg

d.o.limburg@utwente.nl

Lefkada Papacharalambous

LPapacharalambou@aol.com