Knowledge Transfer in Project-Based Organisations: The Need for a Unique Approach

Knowledge Transfer in Project-Based Organisations: The Need for a Unique Approach

Anna Wiewiora (Queensland University of Technology, Australia), Bambang Trigunarsyah (Queensland University of Technology, Australia) and Glen Murphy (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-022-7.ch022
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Abstract

Effective knowledge transfer between infrastructure projects plays a significant role in organisational success and discovery of new technologies, helping to achieve and maintain competitive advantage and, in effect, sustainable infrastructure development. Knowledge is recognised as an important organisational asset that adds value while being shared. To date, research on knowledge transfer has focused on traditional (functional) types of organisations. However, existing knowledge transfer approaches fail to address the issue of unique characteristics of project-based organisations, and the fact that functional and project-based organisations significantly differ in terms of structure, processes, and characteristics. Therefore, there is a need for a different, separate approach for managing knowledge in the project environment. The aim of this chapter is to highlight this need. An extensive literature review is provided on the areas of project management, knowledge management, and organisational structure; this is further supported by empirical evidence from interviews with project management practitioners. Conducting a ‘cross-field’ literature review provides a better understanding of the knowledge transfer mechanisms and its application to projects, and of the importance of knowledge transfer across projects. This research is crucial to gaining a better understanding of knowledge transfer in the project environment. It stresses that there are dissimilarities between project-based organisations and functional organisations in terms of organisational structure, duration of processes, viewpoint of time, response to change, and mobility of people, and that there is a need for a unique strategic approach in order to achieve effective transfer of knowledge. Furthermore, findings presented in this chapter reveal key elements that play an important role in across project knowledge transfer. These elements include: social communication, lessons learned databases, and project management offices.
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The Importance Of Knowledge Transfer

The second half of the 20th century has seen an evolution in the nature of organisations, from the functional structure that was almost universally adopted in the first half of the century, to the PBO. This evolution was caused by the changing nature of work from mass production, with essentially stable customer requirements and slowly changing technology, to the current situation, where every product supplied may be of bespoken design, and technology and markets change continuously and rapidly (Turner & Keegan, 2000). Currently, many organisations in many industries switch to matrixes or PBOs due to innovative and rapidly changing environments. In the building industry, for example, there is a clear need to organise work on a project basis (Taylor & Levitt, 2005) due to the variability in work volume and product mix in the course of a business cycle, seasonal fluctuation in volume, geographic limitations, and the site-based nature of construction and infrastructure (Stinchcombe, 1987).

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