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Scientific Papers (www.scientificpapers.org) Journal of Knowledge Management, Economics and Information Technology Fusing Knowledge Management into the Public Sector: a Review of the Field and the Case
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Scientific Papers (www.scientificpapers.org) Journal of Knowledge Management, Economics and Information Technology Fusing Knowledge Management into the Public Sector: a Review of the Field and the Case of the Emirates Identity Authority Author: Ali M. Al-Khouri, Director General, Emirates Identity Authority, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Professor of Identity and Security, British Institute of Technology and E- commerce, London, UK, Organizations worldwide are showing increasing interest in knowledge management practices to address the contemporary challenges of today's digital age. Knowledge is becoming a critical core asset to sustain competitive advantage and as a vehicle for continuous improvement and innovation. However, most of the developments in the knowledge management field are driven by international organizations or private commercial companies. Considering the impact of knowledge management practices, government organizations have the potential for significant improvements in performance, transformation, and the development of a more responsive citizen-centric government. This article has two objectives: The first is to provide an overview of knowledge management and highlight the importance of this field of practice, and the second is to provide a case study of the successful implementation of knowledge management in a federal government organization in the United Arab Emirates. This article outlines the adopted approach and framework and elaborates on each of the implemented components. The presented case study and lessons learned are benchmarks for best practices and contribute to the existing experimental cases. This, in turn, should help organizations and researchers to better understand how public sector government organizations perceive and practicing knowledge management, which should enable them to reflect and propose improvements. 1 Keywords: knowledge management, organizational excellence, public sector, organizational learning, public sector, competitiveness. Introduction The control of knowledge is the crux of tomorrow s worldwide struggle for power in every human institution. Alvin Toffler Organizational competitiveness and decision-making capabilities today are very much reliant on the knowledge base. The stronger the knowledge base, the higher the chances of decisions to address the complex and unpredictable forces shaping competitive business conditions (van Winkelen and McKenzie, 2010; Figure 1). Figure 1: Differences between information and knowledge when making decisions This requires organizations to capture and streamline all their knowledge and piece it together systematically to create a knowledge pool that can be used to facilitate better and more informed decisions. This 2 knowledge-based 1 perspective builds upon and extends the resource-based 2 theory of the firm. Such a knowledge-building approach is based on the view that sustainable success comes predominantly from constructing and consolidating distinctive resources and capabilities (Barney, 1991; Prahalad and Hamel, 1990; Stalk et al., 1992). Knowledge management concepts have penetrated into many different business functions and processes (Grover and Davenport, 2001). As a disciplined approach, these concepts focus on the various management processes that facilitate finding, identifying, capturing, creating, storing, sustaining, applying, sharing, and renewing knowledge to improve an organization s performance (Gupta and Sharma, 2004; Husain and Nazim, 2013; Nonaka and von Krogh, 2009; Sanchez, 1996). Knowledge management practices are becoming increasingly imperative for various reasons (Quast, 2013). The three foremost motives are to 1) improve decision-making capabilities, 2) develop learning organizations, and 3) stimulate cultural change and innovation (ibid.). With an increasing awareness and importance of the knowledge residing in organizations, there has been a rise in the awareness of the concept, methods, and tools to retain and grow this knowledge (Ahmad and Khan, 2008). However, existing practices of knowledge management are largely derived by international organizations and private commercial companies. Limited evidence is found on the use of knowledge management at organizational levels and more specifically from developing countries. In light of the potential value of knowledge management practices, such qualitative views and case studies should act as a significant prospective for benchmarking and reflection. 1 The resource-based view (RBV) sees knowledge as a generic resource that, to some extent, can provide a competitive advantage if, together with other resources, it is expressed in skills and utilized strategically (Barney 1991; Penrose 1959; Grant 1991; Penrose, 1980; Wernerfelt, 1984; Barney, 1991; Grant, 1991; Peteraf, 1993; Makhija, 2003). The resource-based perspective has an intra-organizational focus and argues that performance is a result of firm-specific resources and capabilities (Barney, 1991; Wernerfelt, 1984). 2 Knowledge-based (KBV) is viewed as an extension of the RBV of the firm (Grant, 1996; Roos, 1998; Hoskisson et al., 1999; Sveiby, 2001b; Bontis, 2002; De Carolis, 2002; Huizing and Bouman, 2002; Balogun and Jenkins, 2003). KBV considers organizations as heterogeneous entities loaded with knowledge (Hoskisson et al., 1999) that can create productive arrangements that the market, by itself, cannot produce (Demsetz, 1997). According to the KBV, competitive success is governed by the capability of organizations to develop new knowledge-based assets that create core competencies (Pemberton and Stonehouse, 2000). 3 The purpose of this article is to address this gap. The article provides a pragmatic example of how knowledge management was implemented at one of the most successful organizations in the United Arab Emirates: The Emirates Identity Authority. This article illustrates the implementation approach and framework and how it was linked to achieving organizational objectives and strategic targets. It also outlines some lessons learned that were aggregated during the implementation of knowledge management initiatives. Taking into consideration the fact that governments all over the world have been facing tremendous challenges in the implementation of similar large-scale programs (Al-Khouri, 2011; 2012b), this study also stands as a good example to build upon and benefit from. The case study can also act as a framework with which to develop specific organizational initiatives. This article is structured as follows. In Section 2, we present the research strategy and the underlying philosophical assumptions as well as the applied research methods. In Sections 3 and 4, we define knowledge and knowledge management and highlight some conceptual underpinnings. In Section 5, we provide an overview of how knowledge management is practiced in the literature review findings and the factors contributing to the development of the field as well as those factors challenging organizations to make the best of such initiatives. In Section 6, the case study is presented and a detailed overview is provided on the followed knowledge management approach. In Section 7, a reflection is made with some key learned lessons. Finally, in Section 8, the article is concluded. Research Methodology Translational research relegates basic science to a back burner individual curiosity-driven science has been replaced by large consortia dedicated to the proposition that gathering vast amounts of correlative data will somehow provide an answer to life s fundamental questions. Nobel Laureates Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown The purpose of this study was to (1) explore the literature to understand the critical role of knowledge management and (2) describe how knowledge management is implemented in government organizations. The research approach followed in this article is a case study. The case study research design has evolved as an ideal tool when a holistic, in-depth 4 investigation is needed for investigating trends and specific situations (Feagin et al., 1991). Case studies are tailor-made for exploring new processes or behaviors or ones that are not well understood (Hartley 1994). Moreover, researchers have argued that certain kinds of information can be difficult, or even impossible, to tackle by means other than qualitative approaches, such as case study-based strategies (Sykes, 1990). The contextual nature of the case study is illustrated in Yin s (1993:59) definition as an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context and addresses a situation in which the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident. The case study strategy has been argued to be particularly useful for practice-based problems where the experience of the actors is important and the context of action is critical (Lee, 1989; Galliers, 1991). In addition, the case study approach allows for thick descriptions of the phenomena under study (Yin, 1994). Such thick descriptions give the research access to the subtleties of changing and multiple interpretations (Walsham, 1995) that would have been lost in quantitative or experimental strategies (Yin, 1994). The case study approach has also been suggested for projects of a procedural nature extending over a long period of time (Benbast et al., 1987; Yin, 1994; Walsham, 1993; Mitev, 2000b). As stated, the purpose of this article is to create a better understanding of how knowledge management is being pursuit in government organizations. This entailed conducting a detailed study of the context and the processes of implementation and the changes resulting from the implementation process. Such a focus led to the adoption of an interpretive stance that seeks to uncover truth by understanding the phenomena in the real-life context (Walsham, 1995). The selected organization was one of the most successful government organizations in the United Arab Emirates: The Emirates Identity Authority. Single case studies have been under criticism based on the fact there is little basis for scientific generalization. However, there are several rationales for single case research. The first rationale for is that it represents the critical case in testing a well-formulated theory, and the second may be that a single case may represent an extreme or unique case worth documenting and analyzing. The third rationale is the revelatory case that 5 exists when a phenomenon not previously accessible to scientific investigation is revealed. We mainly subscribe to the second rationale. The selection of the organization was based on two issues: accessibility and its renowned international reputation for success. The research design for this study is a descriptive and interpretive case study that is analyzed through qualitative methods. Data collection involved secondary and primary sources. Primary data sources included observation and group discussions that provided face-to-face contact with the social actors in order to explore and probe the responses. Secondary data sources mainly covered publications and technical documentation analysis. The literature review provided an essential content preparation for this research article that helped to provide an overview of the research field and practices and enabled cross-checks between the case studies and literature findings. Knowledge: What Does It Really Mean? Knowledge is the only treasure you can give entirely without running short of it. African proverb Figure 2: Human brain as a source of knowledge The first thing that comes across when we refer to knowledge is the wondrous and wonderful information store that we all have in our brains. This is the benchmark, the root, and cause of knowledge. Our brain 6 processes so much data and information to construct meaning by building relations that make sense of experience (Wittrock, 1992). Such meaning is then used to support our plans of action and response to perceived realities. This, in essence, is what constitutes knowledge. From an individual perspective, human knowledge is not stored in one single brain area (Supp et al., 2007). Access to knowledge results from the cooperation of several brain areas that jointly build a dynamic brain network (ibid). In an organizational context, knowledge is the product of a similar jointly built network. Knowledge comes from an understanding of the interrelationships between processes that need to be constantly maintained and those relationships are examined and changed as needed (Jones, 2011). It also means that learning processes include anticipating and attending to feedback, creating knowledge from that feedback, and taking action based on that knowledge (ibid.). There have been many perspectives in which knowledge has been defined in existing literature. Ayer (1956) defines knowledge as a justified true belief. O Dell and Grayson (1998) define knowledge as information in action. Davenport and Prusak (1998) define knowledge as a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experience and information. They indicated that it originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. But in organizations it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational processes, practices and norms (ibid.). Let us make this simpler. Knowledge is all about what we know. We know from our interactions, readings, and so on. When we process this and give it a meaning, it becomes information. When information is put into context, it becomes knowledge. This knowledge would normally act a source for further data. Knowledge is therefore seen as a cyclical process as depicted in Figure 3. 7 Figure 3: Constituents of knowledge Experts have sought many to classify knowledge. Figure 4 depicts two of the schema in which knowledge has been sought to be defined. In the first classification, and according to the theory of knowledge, knowledge can be categorized in three ways 3 : personal, procedural, and propositional (Higgs and Titchen, 1995; Jensen et al., 2007; Russell, 1926). The second classification is based on a philosophical view 4 that differentiates knowledge as logical, semantic, empirical, and systemic. Essentially what this all means is that knowledge is something we know either inherently or acquired through learning or reasoning. 3 PERSONAL knowledge also referred to as knowledge by acquaintance. This is the kind of knowledge that we are claiming to have when we say things like I know Mozart s music. PROCEDURAL Knowledge: or knowledge of how to do something. People who claim to know how to juggle, or how to drive, are not simply claiming that they understand the theory involved in those activities. Rather, they are claiming that actually possess the skills involved, that they are able to do these things. PROPOSITIONAL Knowledge: the kind that philosophers care about most, is knowledge of facts. When we say things like I know that the internal angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees or I know that it was you that ate my sandwich, we are claiming to have propositional knowledge. (http://www.theoryofknowledge.info) 4 LOGICAL: is the result of the understanding of the relationship of ideas to one another. There are the rules or laws of logic that permit claims to knowledge that are further statements of ideas consistent with the rules and the ideas already accepted. SEMANTIC: is the result of learning the meaning of words. Knowledge of words is knowledge of definitions. Such definitions are set in dictionaries. So bachelors are unmarried males. You know this. People acknowledge this. You can look it up. SYSTEMIC: knowledge of Mathematics and Geometry, which is the result of learning a system of words, or symbols and how they relate to one another and the rules of operating in that system and then any claims made that are consistent with those definitions and rules is called knowledge. EMPIRICAL: comes through our senses. This knowledge is empirical knowledge. Science is the best example of a method for ascertaining the accuracy of such knowledge. Scientific knowledge is a result of the practice of the method: observation, abduction of a hypothesis, careful observation, refinement of hypothesis, deduction of test for hypothesis, testing and experimentation, confirmation or falsification of the hypothesis. (http://www.theoryofknowledge.info/) 8 Figure 4: Types of knowledge In principle, all types of knowledge are viewed as grouped into two primary categories: implicit (tacit) 5 and explicit 6 (Gamble and Blackwell, 2001; Koulopoulos and Frappaolo, 1999; Nonaka, 1991; Polanyi, 1966; Tiwana, 2000). See also Figure 5. Explicit means clearly expressed or readily observable, whereas implicit means implied or expressed indirectly. In other words, explicit knowledge is the one that comes from structured data and sources. Figure 5: The iceberg metaphor describing the relationship between explicit and implicit knowledge 5 Tacit Knowledge: Deeply personal experience, aptitudes, perceptions, insights, and know-how that are implied or indicated but not actually expressed it resides in individuals & teams. 6 Explicit Knowledge: Knowledge that is codified and conveyed to others through dialog, demonstration, or media such as books, drawings, and documents. 9 Implicit knowledge is either inherent knowledge or acquired by reasoning or learning. The complexity of knowledge management is compounded because optimal mechanisms for acquiring knowledge are related to these two types (Chang-Albitres and Krugler, 2005). Let us elaborate. Figure 6 depicts these two knowledge types in two layers: one at the individual level and another at the organization level. At best, part of the tacit knowledge could be captured and put into a paper format from writings or electronic documents. By contrast, the organization layer of implicit knowledge lies in unstructured, undocumented operations or processes. Procedures that are understood to be followed without documentation constitute implicit organizational knowledge. Thus, the management of implicit knowledge to move to the explicit knowledge is what constitutes knowledge management. The key here is how we capture implicit knowledge and convert it to make it explicit and use it to guide our decisions and improve performance. Figure 6: Layers of knowledge 10 In general, organizations are realizing that intellectual capital 7, which is widely referred to as corporate knowledge, is a valuable asset that can be managed as effectively as physical assets in order to improve performance (Sharma, 2014). In fact, in the new knowledge economy, the possession of relevant and strategic knowledge and its unceasing renewal enables businesses to gain a competitive advantage (Lee, 2005). This is based on the recognition that knowledge is a key factor of economic development in modern societies as well as human and sustainable development (D Antoni,, 2007; Mansell and Tremblay, 2013). In 1965, Peter Drucker pointed out that knowledge would replace land, labor, capital, machines, and other fixed assets of organizations to become the chief source of production (Drucker, 1965). Indeed, the role of knowledge today has become more vital as the key to the development of a knowledge-based economy and knowledge societies (Asogwa, 2012). Managing knowledge today is becoming a business imperative for those organizations that want to protect their present, build future opportunities, and stay ahead of the competition (Hadagali et al., 2012). This is elaborated on in the following section as we attempt to define knowledge management. Knowledge Management: A Growing Science In Africa, when an old man dies, it is a library that burns down. Amadou Hampâté Bâ Knowledge management in existing literature is defined in a variety of
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