Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The importance of speaking up

I reviewed an article recently on communication and the effects of employees speaking up on managerial style and company communication flow.  It was an interesting article, which although only focussing on Asian companies, illustrated a number of important lessons including the implications not just for managerial style and management skills but also I felt on knowledge sharing within organisations.

Knowledge sharing is a part of the much larger continuous learning cycle – learn before, during and after doing.  This itself relies on a willingness and freedom to communicate, something that the study above shows is an increasingly complex task particularly in large multi-national organisations.

It reminds me of a project I worked on for an organisation about 12 months ago helping them to develop a learning programme that would be deployed globally and taught through e learning and virtual learning.  The method of deployment relied heavily on participants to proactively communicate freely, effectively sometimes in a language that was not their mother tongue.

We found that the most effective way to encourage communication was through development of a learning charter that everyone (students and teachers alike) agreed to before commencement of the programme.  The learning charter set out a set of guidelines for behaviour, interaction, time keeping and consideration of others.  It was the basis for developing an open environment where individuals felt they were able to express themselves and would be listened to and where there was no fear of repercussion for getting something wrong.  In addition to the learning charter, part of the success of the programme was getting the ‘teachers’ to develop a consultative coaching style to provide flexibility in the programme – giving more time and encouragement to those that needed it.  The programme was so effective that within six months of launch it had a waiting list of participants.

We hope to be covering more on communication, learning and associated KM techniques in later issues.  We would be keen to hear of your experiences.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Knowledge Management – Don’t Forget The SME’s!

Blog post by Stephen Dale of Business Information Review Editorial Board

The research paper by Cheng Sheng Lee and Kuan Yew Wong in the December of issue of  Business Information Review raises a number of interesting points that deserve wider discussion. The research focused on the effectiveness of knowledge management techniques in Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) in Malaysia. Though the scope of the research is limited to one geographic region, the findings could – and should – be tested against a wider and more international cohort.

According to the research paper, in Malaysia, SME’s account for up to 98.5 percent of the total number of businesses and contribute up to 33.1 percent of GDP. They employ 57.5 percent of the total workforce.

To offer some comparison, UK, SME’s account for over 99.8 percent of the total number of businesses, they contributed over half of UK output in 2013 (GVA) and employ 48 percent of the total private sector workforce.

It is clear from this data that SME’s make up a significant, and growing, contribution to the UK and European economies. It seems quite odd, therefore, that so little research has been undertaken into how knowledge management strategies and techniques have been utilized within and across this sector.

The Cheng Sheng Lee/Kuan Yew Wong research gives us some insights that could be tested against a wider geographic sample of SMEs. Some key points from the research as follows:

·        The literature research identified that the size of an organization affects its behaviour and structure (Edvardsson, 2006; Rutherford et al, 2001) and how it influences the adoption and implementation of KM (Zaied et al, 2012).

·        SME’s should not be perceived as homogenized groups. They themselves can be categorized according to relative size, e.g. micro, small and medium, which can influence the way that KM is implemented.

·         In terms of human capital, medium-sized businesses (SMEs) focus more on codification strategies (explicit knowledge) whereas micro-sized businesses (SMEs) are more dependent on socialization strategies.

·        An obvious point, but reinforced by the research – the need for better infrastructure, such as tools, office layout, rooms etc. increases as the organizations grows.

·        Knowledge Maturity is a key attribute that should be monitored measured. The value of an employee will increase in terms of their contribution to the success of the organization as they progress from beginner, intermediate and advanced staged of KM maturity. Clearly the impact of an employee leaving without an effective knowledge transfer process will be more keenly felt by a small organization. [NB. This is not an excuse for large organizations to treat this is a lower priority!]

·        Company size does make a difference to KM performance measurements. A number of factors are proposed, e.g. impact of high turnover, limited resource redundancy in smaller organizations, smaller organizations will likely prioritize implementation processes over performance measurements etc.

·        KM performance measurement (KMPM) is still new for SME’s, as the majority of analyst reports and case studies remain focused on large organizations, with a mindset that SMEs do not need or are not ready for KMPM.

Overall, this is an excellent piece of research, and highly recommended reading, which despite it’s limited sample size and geographic boundary, gives some very useful insight into how KM is being implemented across SME’s. Reassuringly it shows that a growing number of SME’s see KMPM as vital to the growth and success of their business.

The paper is also a wake-up call to academia, research, analyst and consultancy organizations in that we need for more definitive and comprehensive studies in this field, to embrace UK, Europe and other key industrial and economic zones.

To finish with a quote from the authors: “Enough with large organizations; SMEs should not be neglected as they play a major role in a country’s economic growth”. Who could disagree?