Developing a Knowledge-Based Organizational Performance Model for Improving Knowledge Flows in Discontinuous Organizations

Developing a Knowledge-Based Organizational Performance Model for Improving Knowledge Flows in Discontinuous Organizations

Rahinah Ibrahim (Universiti Putra, Selangor, Malaysia) and Mark E. Nissen (Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-140-7.ch006
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Abstract

Tacit knowledge attenuates particularly quickly in organizations that experience discontinuous membership: the coming and going of organizational roles or positions during a workflow process. Since knowledge flows enable workflows, and workflows drive performance, theory suggests that dynamic knowledge—particularly tacit knowledge—is critical for competitive advantage. This research seeks to extend established organization theory, through integration of emerging knowledge-flow theory, to inform the design of discontinuous organizations. Toward this end, we build a computational model based upon ethnographic study of an affordable housing project that experienced severe discontinuous membership. Analysis of this model reveals problematic theoretical gaps, and provides insight into how scholarly understanding of knowledge flows can extend organization theory to address discontinuous organizations. This research contributes new knowledge for designing knowledge-based organizations in discontinuous contexts.
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Introduction

Tacit knowledge does not flow well through the enterprise. It attenuates particularly quickly in organizations that experience discontinuous membership: the coming and going of organizational roles or positions during a workflow process. Since knowledge flows enable workflows, and workflows drive performance, theory suggests that dynamic knowledge—particularly tacit knowledge—is critical for competitive advantage (Nissen 2006a). Indeed, our research elucidates how managing flows of knowledge may be as important to competitive advantage as managing project cost is.

For instance, qualitative research by Ibrahim and Paulson (2005) reveals how incomplete knowledge flows can impact competitive advantage in the construction industry. Discontinuous membership surfaces regularly in property development projects, for example, as specific professional team members are employed only when and where their particular expertise is required to complete the tasks involved in a particular workflow process. As such, discontinuous membership involves an apparent tension between containing cost and promoting knowledge. On the one hand, limiting membership involvement to only those tasks requiring a specific professional expertise is helpful to curtail costs, which is important for financial success in this competitive industry. But on the other hand, moving different people and teams in and out of the workflow process inhibits the flows of knowledge through an enterprise, which in severe cases has been observed to cause a project to be abandoned entirely, and hence create a competitive disaster. The term discontinuity, relates to when an organization has to ‘switch’ the mode of operation (for example, from tacit-dominant to explicit dominant operating environment) that requires a totally new set of organization to oversee the workflow. This term was used by Anderson and Tushman (1990) to describe the ‘break’ that happened when technology advancement would force previous technology to discontinue hence forcing organizational change. In our context, the term explains the discontinuity of an organizational structure caused by the change in the workflow characteristics due to environmental influences.

Further, the impacts of managing costs are understood very well, and the kind of cost containment noted above in the property development context is heralded as textbook project management. Alternatively, the impacts associated with inhibited knowledge flows are neither understood well nor addressed by extant management theory (see Nissen 2006b). Likewise, designing organizations with relatively stable membership has been studied extensively, and such stable membership is implied in most organizational design textbooks. But a dearth of research addresses designing organizations with discontinuous membership. Indeed, our established theories on management and organization seem to be relatively ignorant of knowledge flows and discontinuous membership, even though such phenomena are known now to be important, complex and problematic.

The research described in this article uses computational methods and tools to understand how discontinuous membership affects organizational design. Specifically, we seek to extend established organization theory, through integration of emerging knowledge-flow theory, to inform the design of discontinuous organizations. Toward this end, we build a computational model based upon an ethnographic study of an affordable housing project that experienced severe discontinuous membership. Analysis of this model reveals problematic theoretical gaps, and provides insight into how scholarly understanding of knowledge flows can extend organization theory to address discontinuous organizations. This research contributes new knowledge for designing knowledge-based organizations in discontinuous contexts.

In the following section, we present a motivating background problem, and draw from organization theory to explain the affordable housing enterprise’s characteristics. Then we describe the computational model developed to emulate the complex housing development process. We present our analysis and results in turn, and conclude with a discussion on integrating organization and knowledge-flow theories, along with recommendations for knowledge management design, and future research in this challenging area of study.

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Murray E. Jennex
This is the third volume in the Advances in Knowledge Management and I thought it appropriate to start this volume with some reflection on where KM... Sample PDF
Reflections on Knowledge Management Research and Practice
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Chapter 2
Peter Keen, Margaret Tan
The chapter proposes a simple framework termed ‘knowledge fusion’ to extend the rigor and relevance of knowledge management (KM). It points to some... Sample PDF
Knowledge Fusion: A Framework for Extending the Rigor and Relevance of Knowledge Management
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Chapter 3
Hazel Taylor
This chapter explores the concept of ‘tacit knowledge’ and how organizations can foster the sharing and exchange of tacit knowledge. Various views... Sample PDF
Tapping Tacit Knowledge
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Chapter 4
Andrea Hornett, Eric W. Stein
This chapter adds to our understanding of knowledge management as an evolving body of concepts, relationships, strategies and practices. Using... Sample PDF
Advances in Knowledge Management: Mapping Ideas that Shape Practice
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Chapter 5
Clyde W. Holsapple, Kiku G. Jones
Just as Porter’s value chain model identifies classes of business activity that can be performed in ways that contribute to a firm’s... Sample PDF
Knowledge Chain Activity Classes: Impacts on Competitiveness and the Importance of Technology Support
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Chapter 6
Rahinah Ibrahim, Mark E. Nissen
Tacit knowledge attenuates particularly quickly in organizations that experience discontinuous membership: the coming and going of organizational... Sample PDF
Developing a Knowledge-Based Organizational Performance Model for Improving Knowledge Flows in Discontinuous Organizations
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Chapter 7
Frank Land, Urooj Amjad, Sevasti-Melissa Nolas
The purpose of this chapter is to argue the case that the study of Knowledge Management should embrace considerations of ethics and accountability.... Sample PDF
Accountability and Ethics in Knowledge Management
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Chapter 8
Chay Yue Wah
The study aims to understand the social and organizational factors that influence knowledge sharing. A model of knowledge management and knowledge... Sample PDF
Social Capital and Knowledge Sharing in Knowledge-Based Organizations: An Empirical Study
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Chapter 9
Charlie C. Chen, Rong-An Shang, Albert L. Harris, Zhi-Kai Chen
A knowledge management system (KMS) project transcends functional departments and business partners. The success of KMS implementation is highly... Sample PDF
A Structured Method for Evaluating the Management of a Knowledge Management System Implementation
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Chapter 10
Murray E. Jennex, Stefan Smolnik, David T. Croasdell
This chapter explores knowledge management, KM, and knowledge management system, KMS, success. The inspiration for this chapter is the KM Success... Sample PDF
Toward a Consensus Knowledge Management Success Definition
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Chapter 11
Elsa Rhoads, Kevin J. O'Sullivan, Michael Stankosky
This research chapter investigates the status of knowledge management (KM) practices implemented across federal agencies of the U.S. government. It... Sample PDF
An Evaluation of Factors that Influence the Success of Knowledge Management Practices in U.S. Federal Agencies
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Chapter 12
Kevin Laframboise, Anne-Marie Croteau, Anne Beaudry, Mantas Manovas
This article reports on a study that investigates the knowledge transfer between an information systems/ technology (IS/IT) department and non-IT... Sample PDF
Interdepartmental Knowledge Transfer Success During Information Technology Projects
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Chapter 13
Claudio Vitari, Jennifer Moro, Aurelio Ravarini, Isabelle Bourdon
The purpose of this chapter is to contribute to the improvement of the acceptance of information systems (IS) devoted to the codification and... Sample PDF
Improving KMS Acceptance: The Role of Organizational and Individuals' Influence
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Chapter 14
Michael J. Zhang
While a great deal has been written about how information systems (IS) can be deployed to facilitate knowledge management for performance... Sample PDF
IS Support for Knowledge Management and Firm Performance: An Empirical Study
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Chapter 15
Wei Li, Alexandre Ardichvili, Martin Maurer, Tim Wentling, Reed Stuedemann
The goal of this study was to explore how national (Chinese) culture influences knowledge sharing in virtual communities of practice at a large... Sample PDF
Chinese Culture and Virtual Knowledge Sharing in a Multinational Corporation
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Chapter 16
Gilles Balmisse, Denis Meingan, Katia Passerini
In this chapter, we update earlier research on the state of the art Knowledge Management (KM) tools and present key evaluation criteria that can be... Sample PDF
Selecting the Right Knowledge Management Tools: Software Trends and Key Evaluation Criteria
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Chapter 17
Jörg Rech, Raimund L. Feldmann, Eric Ras
Knowledge management is a relatively young discipline. It has accumulated a valuable body-of-knowledge on how to structure and represent knowledge... Sample PDF
Knowledge Patterns and Knowledge Refactorings for Increasing the Quality of Knowledge
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Chapter 18
Paul Jackson, Ray Webster
This chapter is concerned with engaging end-users in the design and development of knowledge management systems. The identification, capture and use... Sample PDF
Knowledge Elicitation and Mapping: Ontology as an Instrument of Design and Organizational Learning
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Chapter 19
Aurora Vizcaino, Juan Pablo Soto, Javier Portillo, Mario Piattini
Efforts to develop Knowledge Management have increased in recent years. However, many of the systems implanted in companies are still not greatly... Sample PDF
Helping to Develop Knowledge Management Systems by Using a Multi-Agent Approach
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Chapter 20
Mirghani Mohamed, Michael Stankosky, Vincent Ribière
The purpose of this chapter is to examine the requirements of Knowledge Management (KM) services deployment in a Semantic Grid environment. A wide... Sample PDF
Adopting the Grid Computing & Semantic Web Hybrid for Global Knowledge Sharing
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Chapter 21
Sineed Paisittanand, L. A. Digman, Sang M. Lee
The creation and the use of knowledge have increasingly been regarded as important issues for management. A wide range of studies have investigated... Sample PDF
The Effect of Knowledge Process Capabilities and Knowledge Infrastructure Capabilities on Strategy Implementation Effectiveness
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About the Contributors