Lessons From the Private Sector: A Critical Analysis and Extension of a Knowledge Management Framework to Be Adopted in the Public Sector

Lessons From the Private Sector: A Critical Analysis and Extension of a Knowledge Management Framework to Be Adopted in the Public Sector

Jamie O'Brien
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9639-4.ch006
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The primary aim of this chapter is to operationalize a knowledge assessment framework (KAF) using two exploratory case studies. The development of a KAF is important for the public sector for three reasons. First, the use of knowledge assessment allows firms to pinpoint knowledge gaps. Second, it allows firms to manage knowledge more effectively. Third, it gives public sector organizations a diagnostic tool with which to gauge their knowledge base. The effective management of knowledge can be considered a competency that enables a greater level of service to be extracted from other resources within the organization.
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This research was carried out between 2009 and 2011 and updated in 2015 in two medical device companies in the private sector in Ireland. In addition, more recently the importance of culture within knowledge management frameworks (O’Brien, 2015b, 2017, 2018; Walsh and O’Brien, 2017, 2018) has been identified and should now be incorporated into the frameworks presented in this work. It is hoped that insights and lessons from this study can be used in the application of the proposed framework in the public sector. The debate persists as to the manageability and measurability of a concept such as knowledge − whether all forms of knowledge (tacit/implicit/explicit) can be managed and of the compatibility of the terms knowledge, measurement and management. Studies seem to focus on general conceptual principles of Knowledge Management (KM) and KM initiatives (O’Brien, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c; Spender and Scherer, 2007; Hahn and Subramani, 2000). They offer few insights in the area of knowledge assessment as a means to try and assess knowledge gaps or to explain KM phenomena. A narrow focus on performing outputs deprives inquiry of self-reflection and critical scrutiny (Zining and Sheffield, 2006). Moreover, KM literature has focused on internal sources of knowledge generation and has not sufficiently taken into account the measurement of this stock internally or externally as a way of learning an organization’s knowledge intensity. The literature, therefore, lacks a holistic view of the concept of organizational knowledge indicators and the management of them. As McAdam and McCreedy (1999) state, “given the change and emergent nature of the field over the past two to three years, it is now an appropriate time to try to have a more in-depth enquiry into KM discourse to attempt to clarify how KM can be more beneficially researched and applied to organizations” (p. 92). The motivation for this research rests on exploring more effective ways of assessing and managing knowledge at organizational level. This will be achieved by using KM to derive a conceptual framework and operationalize it using two exploratory case studies in the private sector. These lessons can be applied to the public sector because the goals for KM are similar. Common challenges and concerns that affect public sectors worldwide are identified as: driving efficiencies across all public services; improving accountability; making informed decisions; enhancing partnerships with stakeholders; capturing the knowledge of an aging workforce; and improving overall performance (Arora, 2011). The key objectives of the chapter are as follows: To explore various knowledge indicators at organizational level; present a knowledge assessment framework with accompanying research probes; and discuss how frameworks of this nature seem to ignore cultural components.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Creation: The creation of knowledge is innately a social process among individuals though tacit knowledge held by individuals may be at the heart of the knowledge-creating process.

Knowledge Re-Use: Knowledge re-use refers to the filtering of useful information through the human brain and applying these to job tasks. The objective here is not necessarily the creation of new knowledge but the application of existing knowledge to familiar or unfamiliar situations. In essence, the goal of the knowledge re-use process is to “reuse” knowledge more effectively.

Knowledge Sharing: Knowledge sharing refers to the process of placing that knowledge in the “hands” of those individuals who need it and can use it.

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