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PUBLIC SECTOR KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT:


A GENERIC FRAMEWORK

Article January 2009

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ABDULLAH
Research Fellow
Email: abdullah@nitie.edu, abdullah.km@gmail.com
Tel: 0091-9819848754

HEMA DATE
Associate Professor
Email: hemadate@nitie.edu, hema_date@yahoo.com
Tel: 0091-9833088977

National Institute of Industrial Engineering,

JANUARY - JUNE 2009 VOL.3 NO.1


Mumbai.
Tel: 0091-22-28573371, Fax: 0091-22-28573251,

PUBLIC SECTOR KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT: A GENERIC FRAMEWORK

ABSTRACT

Knowledge Management (KM) is an inevitable approach in the governance of contemporary organisations


and enterprises. The advent of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has brought new opportunities
and challenges in sharing, integrating, representing and disseminating knowledge. To remain at the forefront 1
public sector also needs to have a KM Capability that will store, organise, share, utilise create and integrate
their unmatched knowledge resources. A review of the knowledge management literature reveals many different
definitions and perspectives on knowledge and knowledge management. Here, we provide an overview of some
of this discourse along with descriptions of KM related concepts that can be used to guide KM initiatives in Public
Sector. Finally a novel Public Sector KM model is tentatively suggested to act as a useful guide for further research
and organisational application in public sector. This model takes a holistic approach to socially and technologically
constructed KM, assuming the need for both participatory and profitable KM.

Keywords: Knowledge Management, Information Communication Technology, Public Sector

their organisations, managers must seek to identify,


1.0 INTRODUCTION manage and leverage the companys knowledge base.
The advent of Information Communication Technology
Today, we are in an era characterised by constant has brought new opportunities and challenges in
change and complex systems or processes, where sharing, integrating, representing and disseminating
knowledge centric activities or knowledge based knowledge. Thus knowledge management become an
activities are becoming the primary source of sustainable emerging discipline which aims to leverage know-
competitive advantage. In this view, knowledge is hows across the entire organisation, for improving
considered as a key resource that must be managed decision making, and increasing innovation. A primary
for continues improvement of business to succeed objective of the KM approach is to facilitate effective
and stay ahead in todays highly competitive global and efficient knowledge-sharing among employees [9,
markets. In other words, in order to add real value to 12, 40, and 56]. Companies across all sectors recognise
that effective KM plays a critical role in their future of knowledge inside organisation, in chronological
success. Few organisations, however, have tackled order. Polanyi, [49] coined the term tacit and divided
KM as effectively as they should. Parlby [47] found knowledge into tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge
that many organisations still face serious problems based on the degree of expression and says We know
in managing knowledge, such as: the difficulty of more than we can tell [50]. Maybe Polanyis [51]
capturing tacit knowledge, lack of KM policies, lack distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge is
of methods for mapping knowledge, and knowledge the fundamental contribution. Tacit knowledge is the
overload (the collection of overwhelming quantities knowledge embedded in peoples mind, usually easy to
of knowledge for its own sake). Although there is not observe but hard to formalise and to communicate to
a universally accepted definition of knowledge and others. Other examples of classification are provided by
KM, many organisations are eager to implement KM Faulkner [14], who defined five knowledge categories,
PUBLIC SEC TOR IC T MANAGEMENT REVIEW

systems on the assumption that the result will be namely tacit or explicit; observable or not; simple or
increased organisational effectiveness, efficiency and complex; elementary or systemic, and general or
competitiveness [21, 54]. Many claim that knowledge context-specific. Nonaka & Takeuchi [41] defined tacit
is the most important source of competitive advantage knowledge as a kind of personal characteristic that is
and sustained superior organisational performance too abstract to transfer or even express using words.
[22, 59]. Moreover they suggest the following types of knowledge
(See Table 1).
2.0 KNOWLEDGE Tsoukas [62] gives an explanation for corporate
What is knowledge? That is the most frequent asked knowledge which is a combination of tacit and explicit
question by knowledge enthusiasts. The discussion knowledge, and call it as implicit knowledge [3]. To
about knowledge has a very long tradition. More than 2 understand knowledge management, one must first
thousands years ago, Socrates asked the same question grasp the true essence of knowledge. One of the better
of his students, What is knowledge? Why do we have definitions of knowledge is: a fluid mix of framed
to know what Knowledge is? Platos Theaetetus [48]. experience, values, contextual information, and expert
Human civilisations have been preserving and passing insight that provides a framework for evaluating and
2 knowledge from generation to generation for a better incorporating new experiences and information. It
understanding of the past and therefore, the future. In originates and is applied in the minds of experts. In
todays dynamic and complex business environment, organisations, it often becomes embedded not only in
the thirst for knowledge has increased even more and documents or repositories but also in organisational
the scope and content of knowledge have changed routines, processes, practices, and norms. [9] This
dramatically, often spreading outside the organisation. definition contains the key elements of context,
Knowledge has become a critical resource and an relationships, new knowledge and organisational
essential element for any business activity that supports aspects and it hints at the distinction between tacit
the strategy of enterprise private or public. Garavelli knowledge (knowledge in peoples heads) and the
[17] points out that this concept is not new, and can be explicit knowledge that is codified and stored within
seen in the work of Nelson and Winter [39]. Therefore, organisational structures showing that knowledge
below I am setting forth some of the contribution done is more than information. These authors add that,
by different authors from time to time, on the definition knowledge is the result of intelligent information

Tacit Knowledge Explicit Knowledge

Knowledge of experience (body skills) Knowledge of rationality (mind)

Simultaneous knowledge (here and now) Sequential knowledge (there and then)

Analog knowledge (practice) Digital knowledge (theory)

Table 1: Types of Knowledge; Source: Nonaka & Takeuchi, [41]


processing, since it is defined as an epistemological media rather than rely on information to efficiently
framework originating in the mind. They provide an transfer knowledge [61]. Often ICT and KM are thought
explanation of the difference between data, information, to be one and the same. Rather, ICT acts as a vessel
and knowledge. Beckman [3], identifies three stages of for retaining, retrieving and recycling of knowledge,
accessibility: tacit, implicit, and explicit: a) Tacit (human while knowledge creation requires a human element
mind, organisation) - accessible indirectly only with to compile, analyse, and forward the knowledge. An
difficulty through knowledge elicitation and observation acceptable definition of knowledge management
of behavior; b) Implicit (human mind, organisation) should encompass the concept of knowledge and the
- accessible through querying and discussion, but valuation associated with intellectual assets, thus a
informal knowledge must first be located and then well-formulated comprehensive definition can be stated
communicated. c) Explicit (document, computer) as below. Knowledge Management is the deliberate
readily accessible, as well as documented into formal and systematic coordination of People, Processes,

JANUARY - JUNE 2009 VOL.3 NO.1


knowledge sources that are often well-organised. Technology and their Knowledge in order to produce
sustainable competitive advantage or long-term high
3.0 KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT performance for the organisation. The process of
Knowledge Management is a challenge for a number of coordination is achieved through the convergence
reasons. KM does not appear to possess the qualities of a of personal, group, and enterprise with a series of
discipline. If anything, KM qualifies as an emerging field Knowledge Process and different Knowledge Activities.
of study. Those involved in this emerging field of KM are Knowledge Process comprises of a cycle or steps which
still vexed today by the lack of a single, comprehensive includes sharing, utilising, creating and retention of
definition, an authoritative body of knowledge, proven knowledge resources and assets within an individual
theories, and a generalised conceptual framework. and organisation typically deal with tacit dimension
Academics and practitioners have not been able to of knowledge, where as Knowledge Activity is highly
stabilise the phenomenon of KM enough to make sense defined and structured, and does not have any cycle time
of what it is and what it comprises [60]. There is a or hierarchy or criteria involved and can be initiated any
substantial feeling that KM is a significant phenomenon time when there is a need to store, represent, discover,
or disseminate new knowledge from or to the existing
affecting everything and everyone with which it comes 3
into contact [5]. Furthermore others argue that knowledge portal or knowledge repository. Knowledge
knowledge management is closely related to concepts process or activities in an organisation are enabled
such as organisational learning, organisational memory, with support of ICT. Effective knowledge management
information management, and collaborative work [53]. programs are inextricably linked with the organisations
Within a literature review of knowledge management, goals, objectives and processes they are implemented
Scarbrough, Swan, [52] defines knowledge management to meet identified business requirements. Although
as any process or practice of creating, acquiring, knowledge is now considered the most important asset
capturing, sharing and using knowledge, wherever of an organisation, many initiatives being undertaken
it resides, to enhance learning and performance in to develop and exploit organisational knowledge are
organisations. Hedlund [19] suggests that knowledge not explicitly linked to or framed by the organisations
management addresses the generation, representation, business strategy [68].
storage, transfer, transformation, application,
embedding, and protecting of organisational knowledge. 4.0 KNOWLEDGE ORGANISATION
Such definitions, while encompassing many aspects of If knowledge is to become a valuable organisation
process around knowledge management, imply an asset it must be accessible, developed and used [9].
essentially objectivist view of the subject. Even more Knowledge management was born out of this desire to
emphasis on technology within knowledge management improve the knowledge organisation. Organisations that
may be found in writings by technology vendors. Others fully understand the overall benefits of KM in terms of
counter such views arguing knowledge is also concerned the extra productivity, competitiveness, efficiency and
with the establishment of an environment and culture in synergy created by its adoption, have no hesitation in
which knowledge can evolve [9]. Sveiby [61], however, gradually embracing the key fundamental knowledge-
highlights that human approaches to knowledge sharing sharing practices, wide-collaboration activities and
can be slow and are often unconscious. He argues that active cooperation with their various branches of
we must find new innovative ways such as interactive- operations. It is only in this way that the traits of the
future knowledge organisation can fully bloom. Most economy: A knowledge economy is one that relies
companies in one way or another have embraced the intensively on human skills and creativity, the utilisation
notion that to operate effectively in todays economy, it of human intellectual capital supported by life-long
is necessary to become a knowledge-based organisation learning and adaptation, the creative exploitation of
[69]. But few truly understand what that means or how existing knowledge, and extensive creation of new
to carry out the changes required to bring it about In knowledge through research and development. In The
short, the focus on products or services as a means of Economics of Knowledge Foray [15] suggested that the
categorizing companies or defining the knowledge-based global shifts in investments and activities associated
organisation leads to a distorted image [69]. Products with knowledge-intensive firms were causing radical
and services are only what are visible or tangible to economic shifts. Changes in ICT are the key to these
customerstheyre the tip of the iceberg. But like the shifts; as computers grew exponentially in speed,
PUBLIC SEC TOR IC T MANAGEMENT REVIEW

iceberg, most of what enables a company to produce reduction in cost, availability of their uses changed.
anything lies below the surface, hidden within the so- Organisations were, for the first time, able to quickly
called invisible assets of the organisation its knowledge capture, codify and disseminate huge amounts of
about what it does, how it does it, and why [25]. Nonaka information across the globe. The rapid increase in ICT
and Takeuchi [41] define knowledge-organisation as an within the workplace required new skills and flexibility
ability of a firm to adapt to the changing environment on the part of the employee. Organisations began to
by creating new knowledge, disseminating it effectively see that they needed to coordinate knowledge and
and embodying this knowledge into practice. According technology in a new way. This meant helping employees
to these authors, the sole business of a knowledge- to respond to changes in work culture, adapt to
creating company is continuous innovation [42, 43]. technology advancement enabling adequate sharing of
knowledge which will lead to quick learning, improved
5.0 KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY decision making, advance in innovation and creativity,
In order to understand knowledge management, thus increase productivity and become a Knowledge
it is necessary to see the subject within the broader Organisation.
context of the enormous changes taking place in the
global economic framework itself [63, 37]. Forefather 6.0 RATIONALE FOR PUBLIC SECTOR KM
4
of neo-classical economics, Alfred Marshall was one of With initiatives like e-governance, online knowledge
the earliest authors to state explicitly the importance of portal and ICT policy, public sector agencies now have
knowledge within economic affairs: Capital consists in to manage their knowledge more effectively. Public
a great part of knowledge and organisation knowledge sector organisations recruit the best brains to play
is our most powerful engine of production [32]. their role in execution of their important processes thus
However, as pointed out by Nonaka and Takeuchi [41], caucusing in to an unmatchable knowledge resource
neo-classical economists were concerned only with the available in a particular demographic location. Because
utilisation of existing knowledge, not with the creation of this nonpareil strength the public sector has a unique
of new knowledge. Drucker, [13] commenting on the role in promoting the sharing, creating, integrating,
manufacturing, service and information sectors said: and dissemination of knowledge resources available in
We are entering (or have entered) the knowledge its context. This role includes: 1) providing knowledge
society in which the basic economic resource is not traditionally provided by private firms; 2) ensuring
knowledgeand where the knowledge worker will play education and knowledge for all; 3) constructing
a central role. Through his insightful vision, Drucker Knowledge Kiosks; and, 4) modulating large-scale
furnished all nations with a foretaste of the emerging promotion of intellectual property rights. The rationale
knowledge economy and the foundation for a new for knowledge in government context can also be
measure of productivity. Horton [23], a KM expert and understood by examining governments structure
organisational learning pundit, proposed a very simple and functions [36]. The following four characteristics
definition, stating A knowledge economy is one where of government can be said to drive knowledge
success depends more on knowledge than on labour management needs; (a) knowledge is an inimitable
and capital. It is the unique knowledge or knowledge resource of the government; effective government
strategy of the company that is most important in rests on effective acquisition and dissemination of
determining its success. Konana and Balasubramanian knowledge; (b) government is a distributed enterprise
[28] gives the following definition for a knowledge therefore similar knowledge requirements are spread
across states and local governments; (c) frequent and private sector knowledge management initiatives
transfers of knowledge workers across government [67]. This is unfortunate as it is important to design
departments cause problems of knowledge drain; such initiatives specifically for use in a government
and (d) need for anticipatory governments which context, as there are differences in terms of legislation
learn from past experience, understand the present and regulations, politics, culture and overall aims [67].
scenario, anticipate future threats and opportunities. While it is true that KM in private organisations is
People are now more used to dealing with governments culture driven the level of accountability and regulation
using a wide variety of channels (including online is considerably stricter in public sector organisations.
channels), hence governments need to continuously In private sector KM is little proactive. McAdams and
re-evaluate their service delivery programs in order Reid [33] conducted research and focus groups to
to meet the challenges of it governance [36]. Robert compare public and private sector perceptions and use
Neilson [38] conducted two brainstorming sessions of knowledge management and found that public sector

JANUARY - JUNE 2009 VOL.3 NO.1


at the Information Resources Management College knowledge management was more developed as a
of the National Defense University in Washington DC management philosophy. Figure 1 shows that the four
to look at the importance of knowledge management main perceived benefits from knowledge management
in organisations and its key roles. Both public and were improved quality, efficiency, management learning
private sector participants nominated similar reasons and reduced costs [33]. An important difference (apart
for pursuing knowledge management. These included from the obvious difference in increased sales) was
the need to: attract and retain human capital; foster that the public sector relied more on people-based
social capital; create and use structural capital; share knowledge methods such as informal discussion groups,
best practices and processes (combined with innovative forums and workshops. These are compelling reasons for
practices); and collaborate with others. Importantly, all introducing and maintaining knowledge management in
participants agreed that knowledge management needed the public sector, but successful implementation requires
to be linked to business goals or mission objectives. consideration of the parameters and requirements
The public sector representatives looked to knowledge unique to the public sector [67]. To succeed in this
management initiatives to provide a foundation for attempt to implement KM in public sector necessitates
electronic government. The key drivers for knowledge the development of a generic KM framework [8].
management in public sector are to provide an excellent
5
ICT infrastructure base to enable citizens and customers 7.0 PUBLIC SECTOR KM: A GENERIC
to access their knowledge needs and to establish a FRAMEWORK
network of knowledgeable citizen or employees who A unique ethos of the public service is that it provides
can add value to each other. There is still relatively little a core set of values and a validation mechanism not
information concerning the differences between public

100
Private
90 Public
1 = Improved efficiency
80
2 = Increased sales
70
3 = New products & services
60
4 = Improved products & services
50 5 = Reduced operating costs
40 6 = Improved management learning
30 7 = Improved quality
20 8 = Cycle time reduction
10 9 = Time to market improvement
0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Figure 1 Benefits from systematic knowledge management, Source: McAdams & Reid [33]
related to profit, that benefits KM [57]. Dave Snowden knowledge management programmes need to be
adds on to say that I have never understood the desire designed for the public sector rather than adopted from
to copy the private sector in KM (or other fields for that private sector models [67]. Woodford also posits that
matter). The value systems are different and so should traditional and conservative cultures in some areas of
the measurement systems. Ive seen far too many the public sector were considered a prime barrier to
examples around the world of the public sector adopting successful implementation. Figure 3 below showcases
a fad several years after the private sector has moved the expanded pattern of the proposed public sector
on, and adopt whatever the consultants say the private KM. Here we highlight the importance of three major
sector did (the reality is always very different) in parameters or requirements of public sector KM which
some blind attempt to ape so called best practice. For can act both as an enabler or inhibitor viz., policy,
example, according to one participant Maddaloni [30] culture and politics, and four main perceived benefits
PUBLIC SEC TOR IC T MANAGEMENT REVIEW

the public sector has been slow in adopting knowledge like quality, efficiency, learning and innovation.
management due to: a) lack of awareness of KM;
7.1 Policy
b) difficulty in building the collaborative forum in a
situation of hierarchical structure; c) resistant to change Public sector is imbibed with rules, policies, process,
in knowledge sharing culture; d) lack of a perception of procedures, hierarchy of reporting, relationships,
individual benefit (Whats in it for me?, Why should incentive systems and departmental boundaries that
I share what I know? and Knowledge considered organise tasks within the organisation. The policy
as power); e) lack of public private partnership. within an organisation also has multiple dimensions.
Sometimes the lack of sharing critical knowledge is due The formal organisational policy within an organisation
to the nature of public sector functions. Any knowledge may encourage or inhibit interactions among workers,
management framework for public agencies will need to a practice seen as vital in the effective management
take into account the public sector focus which may not of knowledge [44]. The policy must be flexible to
completely match that of the private sector. Therefore encourage these interactions as well as give the firm the
we suggest a completely new dimension for public flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
sector KM as shown below (see Figure 2) In addition the organisation also need a policy which
would encourage knowledge creation and sharing
6 Public sector organisational context is different
activities like identify flexible boundaries, high powered
from that of its private counterpart. The former is
incentives, non-bureaucratic decision making, moderate
driven by a set policy and politics in alliance with its
hierarchies and an innovative and entrepreneurial
bureaucratic culture; whereas the private sector is
culture as required attributes for highly flexible and
mostly driven by its strategy, structure and culture.
responsive knowledge intensive organisation.
Knowledge management in the public sector is more
about public service, not all about profit generation 7.2 Culture
unlike the private sector. It may be possible that public
sector employees may also have values and motives Organisational culture is increasingly recognised as a
that are different from private sector employees. Some major barrier for leveraging intellectual assets [10].
research on the values of public sector employees has In the KM context, culture has been defined as the
shown that they are more selfless and that they have a shared values, beliefs, and practices of the people
commitment to social development and the pursuit of in the organisation. It is also often seen as the key
the public interest [46]. This may explain why specific inhibitor of effective knowledge sharing [10, 34]

Public Sector KM

KM Perceived
Organisational
Parameter PROCESS Outcome

Figure 2: Public Sector KM: A Generic Model


Public Sector KM

Knowledge
Management Efficiency
Policy
ICT
Innovation
Culture
Knowledge
Work Learning
Politics
People
Quality

JANUARY - JUNE 2009 VOL.3 NO.1


Parameter Process Outcome

Figure 3: Expanded pattern of Public Sector KM

Public sector culture continues to remain aligned with According to Maddaloni [30] organisations without
traditional bureaucratic models [67]. In addition, recent a direct challenge or competition are not motivated
research suggests that public sector organisations to create more efficient processes, and public sector
are fundamentally different from private sector organisations do not always permit utilisation of skills.
organisations on a number of dimensions including the It is possible that Maddaloni is correct that the culture
diversity of their goals, access to resources, and the in the public sector, with processes aligned with a
nature of organisational constraints [46]. De Long & fairly rigid hierarchy, leaves little room for innovation
Fahey [10] postulate various characteristics that shape or individual knowledge initiatives. Certainly this issue
social interaction (see Figure 4). was of concern to public sector agency representatives 7

Discussability of Sensitive Matters

Senior Managers Approachability

Frequency of Interaction

Collective Responsibility for Problem Context Behaviour


Solving
for Social that leverages
Orientation to Existing Knowledge Interaction Knowledge
and Expertise

Knowledge Sharing Vs Accumulation

Teaching

Learning from Mistakes

Figure 4: Cultural characteristics that shape social interaction, Source: De Long & Fahey [10]
at a recent actkm forum where it was argued that some good reasons why individuals may not wish to
the public sector has traditionally been considered participate, or may modify some aspects of their sense-
desolate to knowledge sharing and innovation. The giving activities, for reasons related to organisational
view was that unlike the private sector, the public sector politics [64]. There is an irony here, since an attempt
is characterised by asymmetric incentives that punish at knowledge-sharing with others is only valuable
unsuccessful innovations much more severely than if ones views differ from that of the other parties in
they reward successful ones and this is exacerbated the exchange, since one learns nothing from a total
by the lack of venture capital to seed creative problem homogeneity of views. Nevertheless, people are aware
solving. While KM aficionados agree that knowledge of power-knowledge relations as part of organisational
sharing is also an essential part of successful knowledge life, and take action accordingly [64].
management implementation, it is often poorly
PUBLIC SEC TOR IC T MANAGEMENT REVIEW

practiced in the more traditional areas in the public 8.0 PUBLIC SECTOR KM PROCESS
sector. As Chiem [7] noted, in the private sector, where The public sector provides strategic advice to government
the bottom line determines success, sharing can be on key issues affecting the economy, administration,
encouraged and rewarded financially, but in the public promoting standards, and defense service provisions,
sector (constrained by budgetary regulations) this is

Private Sector Public Sector

Institutional
Improves sales and profit Fulfil mission of social service
goals

Competitive reason such as


Restrictions on National security, privacy, regulatory and
safeguarding trade secrets and
information political concern
business strategies

Operational efficiency, sales


Decrease bureaucratic barriers, public
Aim of sharing growth, cost saving, innovation and
frustration and employee dissatisfaction
bottom line profits
8
Formal tied to job performance
Motive for Less often tied to performance evaluation;
evaluation; repercussions for under
Sharing more often with grass-roots origin
achievers

Table 2: Incentives for sharing knowledge, Chiem [7]

which involves coordination of various knowledge


not always possible. Some aspects of employment in resources like knowledgeable people and ICT aided
the private and public sectors are different enough that knowledge repository, thus calls for a seamless KM
managers should take them into account when trying to capability framework. However, the literature and case
motivate people to share knowledge [7] (See Table 2). study reviews reveal that the focus on KM in the public
sector is limiting with its reliance on explicit knowledge.
7.3 Politics
The tacit aspect (and knowledge management generally)
The material to date in this section has assumed that has been overlooked to date. This leads to the aim to
individuals in communities-of-practice want to share highlight the value placed on people, knowledge work
their knowledge and expertise with others in the and ICT as the process involved in public sector KM. As
community, and that the issue is how to achieve this in in Figure 3 the public sector KM is proposed to involve
an effective way. However, writers such as Foucault [16] the three major dimensions of ICT, knowledge work and
have noted the inseparability of knowledge and power people. Similar KM issues continue to be a focus for
in the sense that what we know affects how influential many public sector projects across the globe.
we are, and, vice versa, our status affects whether
what we know is considered important. The implication 8.1 Knowledge Work
of this for knowledge sharing is that there may be Tacit knowledge is a kind of expertise that is not
editable and this knowledge is obtained through these kinds of knowledge might lead to the creation
informal learning behavior and a sequence process [24] of new knowledge. The combination of the two
whereas explicit knowledge can be editable, archived, categories makes it possible to conceptualise four
discovered, disseminated and visualised. Knowledge conversion patterns: externalisation (tacit to explicit),
work can be defined as a work which involves sharing, combination, internalisation (explicit to tacit), and
creating, utilising, retaining tacit knowledge and socialisation (SECI). Each of the four conversion modes
archiving, discovering, disseminating and visualising can be understood as processes of self-transcendence.
explicit knowledge. It is the kind of work where the However, this SECI model serves only as an outline for
organisation adopts a knowledge based approach, of knowledge creation and the idea of self-transcendence
creating value and gaining competitive advantage. is quite abstract. Despite its seminal contribution, this
Maier et al. [31] defines knowledge work as one that list of activities seems to be too conceptual and even
creates, translates or applies new knowledge. Meso, et philosophical to be used in actual practice. Heretofore,

JANUARY - JUNE 2009 VOL.3 NO.1


al. [35] says that knowledge work entails the creation, a number of researchers have attempted to classify the
transfer, codification, search, discovery, storage and major activities of KM. Among these the most recently
use of knowledge in the effort to develop the desirable seen work may well be that of Park, & Kim,[45] based
IS solution. They add to say that any problem solving on their review of the literature that they conducted,
activity, software development activity is a knowledge and suggest major knowledge work as: acquisition,
work activity. Specific knowledge work helps focus organisation, utilisation, disposition and sharing.
the organisation on acquiring, storing and utilising
knowledge for such things as problem solving, dynamic 8.2 People
learning, decision making [5], strategic planning and The workforce in the public sector is the largest carrier
innovation. It also protects intellectual assets from of knowledge. These are people who are employed
decay, adds to firm intelligence, provides increased in various processes, products and practices. They
flexibility and enhances existing organisational business represent the best of many nations. Public sector
processes. There are a lot of discussions on this issue employees are recruited through a rigorous process
in the literature surveyed, the most cited work being of screening and filtering against various competent
that of Nonaka & Takeuchi [41]. They focused on
the dynamics of knowledge activities and suggested
standards. They are well trained and qualified people. So 9
to make them share their knowledge, foster innovation
that the four major activities of KM are socialisation, and bring about quality and efficiency in their work calls
externalisation, combination and internalisation (see for a dedicated classification of roles and responsibilities
Figure 5). They theorise that interactions between among them. These classifications are subjected to the

COM
(Conceptual K) Explict BI (Systemic K)
NA
ON
Articulate ideas,
TI T Reformulate formal
experience into
A

IO

models and data,


IS

formal models &


AL

convert it into codes


embed into the
RN

system.
EXTE

Tacit Explicit
INTE

(Operational K)
(Sympathised K)
RN

Convert models and


Share experiences,
AL
N
IO

formulas into tacit


IS

ideas, & opinions


AT

TI
IS ON skills; learn/teach
AL
I how to use them.
SOC Tacit

Figure 5: The Knowledge Spiral, Source: Nonaka & Takeuchi, [41]


portfolios of the organisation. Woodford [67] comes up communities of practice; (3) providing leadership and
with 3 main classification viz., chief knowledge officer, strategy; and (4) using incentives and rewards.
knowledge activist, and knowledge worker. Therefore
8.4 Knowledge Activist
when developing public sector KM, we will need to
consider who will be tasked with implementing them Krogh et al. [29] prefer to talk of knowledge
and who will need to work with them on a daily basis. activists people who are responsible for energising
Implementation is likely to be the responsibility of the and connecting knowledge creation throughout the
chief knowledge officer (CKO) in the organisation or organisation. Knowledge activism is seen as not
the equivalent (e.g., knowledge manager) [67]. restricted to a particular role or area within the
organisation, but instead can be situated in an existing
8.3 Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO)
area, or taken on as a special assignment. While
PUBLIC SEC TOR IC T MANAGEMENT REVIEW

According to Adams (2001), CKOs are designers there is a case for managers taking on the role due
and architects who knit together the information in to their skills in motivation and coordination, anyone
databases, legacy applications, file cabinets, intranets, in the organisation is able to take on this role. There
and employees informal knowledge. One of their roles are said to be 6 main aims of knowledge activism: a)
involves creating workspaces that allow employees to initiating and focusing knowledge creation; b) reducing
share ideas in an environment of trust. The required the time and cost necessary for knowledge creation;
CKO skill set is: (a) business acumen (involving a keen c) leveraging knowledge creation initiatives throughout
understanding of business strategy); (b) visionary zeal the corporation; d) improving the conditions of those
(requiring energy for new and potentially risky ventures engaged in knowledge creation by relating their
and an ability to clearly communicate the vision); (c) activities to the companys bigger picture; e) preparing
interpersonal skills (personal skills including the ability participants in knowledge creation for new tasks; and

Knowledge Catalyst Knowledge Coordinator Knowledge Merchant


Historic understanding of the company's Ambassador for the company's
Motivational skills
development knowledge vision
10 Narrative skills: Detect, formulate, and tell stories
Interpersonal skills: Respected Skills in strategic tools and analysis
of knowledge creation
Intervention skills: Improve group dynamics Cartographical and visual skills: Develop and Broad understanding of the companys
and relationships maintain shared maps of cooperation strategy process

Analytical skills: Help the group to develop a Analytical skills: Draw connections between
Motivational skills and to sell ideas
charter of their tasks and responsibilities knowledge creation initiatives

Broad social network inside and outside the Broad social network within and outside the Unconventional thinking and visionary
company company skills

Operational understanding of the business,


key products, and markets
Table 3: Ideal Knowledge Activist: a skill profile, Source: Krogh et al. [29]

to negotiate and obtain cooperation through influence f) including the perspective of micro communities in
and persuasion and high credibility); (d) technical the larger debate on organisational transformation
knowledge (concerning knowledge management [67]. A knowledge activist must meet these aims by
systems and architecture at a broad level). Neilson taking on 3 primary roles catalyst, coordinator, and
[38] noted that CKOs in the public sector play a merchant of foresight [29]. The table above highlights
different role than Chief Information Officers (CIOs). the skillprofile for a knowledge activist (or team of
While CIOs focus on physical computer and network activists).
assets, CKOs focus on an integrated set of activities
8.5 Knowledge Workers
that address organisational behaviours, processes, and
technologies. As such, the CKOs role involves: (1) According to Brown [6], the globalisation of work and
creating a knowledge-sharing culture; (2) championing advances in technology have changed the workforce
so that we now have knowledge workers who can [27] sees several business environment factors as
think, work with ideas, and make decisions and driving forces for the new uses of ICT: industry de-
who are sometimes identified by their professional regulation, to which we could add market de-regulation
specialty. Knowledge workers can also be described and changes in organisational structures and roles,
by their characteristics (i.e., people who can analyse, e.g., team (or process) organisation; frequent mergers
synthesise, and evaluate information and use it to and acquisitions; and the outsourcing and geographic
solve problems). A third way of describing knowledge spread of organisations [26, 27]. On the other hand,
workers is by their skills and abilitiespeople who are many changes in business organisations were either
highly educated, creative, computer literate, and have directly caused, or speeded up, by technology changes.
portable skills. The role of a knowledge worker is to In the beginning of the 90s, computer networks began
use their intellect to convert their ideas into products, to enable radically new ways to organise business
services, or processes [6]. Knowledge workers are operations, work and the intra- and inter-organisational

JANUARY - JUNE 2009 VOL.3 NO.1


able to work collaboratively with and learn from each supply chains. The deep impact of ICT in the strategies
other; they are willing to take risks, expecting to learn and operations of enterprises has been indisputably
from their mistakes rather than be criticised for them pointed out [20, 55, and 65]. Organisations require
and are continually learning, aware that knowledge has comprehensive KM through the leveraging ICT. It is
a limited shelf life [6]. evident that the activity of storing data or information
is completely different from the problem of extracting,
8.9 Information Communication Technology for transferring and creating knowledge. Therefore KM
Knowledge Management
can involve a broad range of knowledge processes
ICT has become a key business enabler and a or activities; each of them can require substantially
competitive factor for organisations. The central role different technologies [11]. Furthermore, firms deal
of ICT and its strategic use was recognised early [58], with knowledge in different forms, which may require
but only in the past decade this has become reality in different technological infrastructure to be handled
business organisations to a larger extent. There might [66]. As a result, it is apparent that any technology
be different perceptions of what the mandates of IS, IT innovation should be suitable for a particular kind of
or business strategy are [18], but the merging of these knowledge process or activity [1]. This study identifies
is inevitable due to recent developments. Johansen five major categories of technology innovation enabling
11

Knowledge I N
U Services E
N
S T
T Knowledge Repository
E Collaboration W
E O
R System
G R
R K
Learning A
I I
System T
N N
I F
T
Expert O R Knowledge
E
System N A Base
R S
F T
L
A Discovery R
A U
C System Y C
E
E T
Publication R U
R
System E

Figure 6: ICT infrastructure for KM: An integrated framework. Source: Abdullah and Date,[1]
knowledge management viz., network infrastructure, 4. Blackler, F., (1995). Knowledge, Knowledge Work
knowledge repository, knowledge services, integration and Organisations: An Overview and Interpretation.
layer and user interface (See Figure 6). Organisation Studies 16(6): 1021-1046.

5. Bouthillier, F. and Shearer, K. (2002), Understanding


9.0 CONCLUSION knowledge management and information
KM research and practice explores the development and management: the need for an empirical perspective.
use of ICT to facilitate sharing, learning, integration and Information Research, 8(1), paper no. 141. Retrieved
application of individual and collective knowledge. This September 5, 2006, from http://InformationR.net/
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parameters which enable or inhibit public sector KM Training for Employment, Ohio State University
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7. Chiem, P. X. (2001), Knowledge management
public sector organisation. This study discloses public
in the public sector: Government employees
sector KM concerns like people, knowledge work and
also need incentives to share what they know,
ICT involved in KM initiative. Significant knowledge
Destination crm online article September 27 2001,
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Knowledge Management in the Public Sector,
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Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol
management roles were uncoordinated. The study
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