The conventional division (structure) of an organization provides ample opportunities to establish standard performance measures and highlights the role of individual in different decision making processes (Jacobides, 2007) and the intrinsic resource that moves across whole organization is knowledge.The knowledge based view (KBV) of the firm maintains that the knowledge is the most significant resource of the firm from an strategic standpoint (Alavi, 2001). This knowledge enroutes across whole organization in the form of routines, procedures, policies, plan, program and processes (Kogut, 2000); it can be said that knowledge exists in organizational members networks, tasks and equipments (Argote & Ingram, 2000). Tacit knowledge covers most of the organizational knowledge and it is even harder to have it articulated (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995) and once we can formulate a system for this articulation then the competitive advantage of organization can be accelerated at a rapid pace.
The above mentioned organizational structure defines the management structure (Walczak, 2005) within its cross fold and success of knowledge flow depends upon the balance between these two and organization structure even plays an important role in establishing inter-staff relationships and paves opportunities to break possible barricades in knowledge sharing (Al-Alawi, 2007). The functional and operational division of every organization even divides the tier of managers in two different fold and it seems complex to guard their interest in the perspective of their specific tasks, if this task-interest balance is shattered (Pierce, 2012) then this imbalance would generate impediments in knowledge management activities. The effectiveness of any organizational structure lies in its strength to facilitate the personal interaction and provide better opportunities to capture tacit knowledge (Anantatmula, 2005).
Knowledge Sharing in Organizational context: Factors Affecting the Process
The effectiveness and comprehensiveness of knowledge sharing in organization has been a topic of core interest for researcher and knowledge scholars as converting Tacit into explicit especially among the sub units of organization (Zander, 1995); in this very regard the nature of relationship is a very significant point to be ponderd [the relationship between both the parties] (Tsai, 2002). In order to develop a smooth knowledge sharing process the informal relationship or reltional approach seems playing a pivotal role (Levin, 2004). Organization culture plays a pivotal role in knowledge sharing across different departments and it rather revels the organizational capability to control the flow of knowledge (Davenport, 1998; Delong, 1997; Davenport, 1998) and it is utmost necessary on the part of top management to derive whole organization through a clear vision in order to get the contribution and involvement of all employees (O’Dell, 1998). It is even important to consider along with vision that emplyees’ trust, autonomy and openness give way to eliminate the barriers and manage the smooth flow of knowledge to all relevant quarters (Von Krogh, 1998). In another study the significance of individual knowledge repositories and departmental coordination was emphasized (Soonhee Kim, 2004) as the combination of these two accelerates the process of holistic knowledge sharing.
Organizational norms and employees’ attitude towards these norms considered an important factor that affects the process of knowledge sharing (Bock, 2005) as it relates with organizational design and culture, on the other hand social networks and shared goals facilitates knowledge sharing (Chow, 2008) and get all the employees on board in a smooth and agreeable fashion. Individual identification, mutual trust are the key factors (Nahapiet, 1998) affecting contexts of knowledge sharing in an organization. The notion of benefits play a considerable role in taking all the emplyees on a forum and gain consensu reflecting their readiness for knowledge sharing, these benefits and allied costs relates to extrinsic benefits (repute and reciprocity), intrinsic benefits (cooperating with others and self-efficacy), and costs (opportuneness and collaboration) (Chang, 2008; Kankanhalli, 2005). Another trail of benefits as focused by researcher in terms to exemplify them as key factors affecting the sharing process are individual benefits (Constant, 1994; Wasko, 2005), group benefits (Kalman, 1999) and organizational benefits (Kalman, 1999).
Three core factors were highlighted in another empirical study as individual, organizationa and technological (Lin, 2007) that affect not only the knowledge sharing process but also the innovative capacity of the firm. Job related factors were highlighted in a research like job performance, job satisfaction, job characteristics and job involvement (Rehman, 2011) as core in leaving drastic impression over the flow of knowledge within the close proximity of an organization.
A unique Malysian research looked into the significance of demographic factors (gender, age, Organizational tenure, job position and ethnicity) in the process of organizational knowledge sharing; in previous studies gender was not very focused as an influential factor hampering the process but this empirical study took into account the variable of gender and derive its significance as an important factor.
Socio-cultural factors as technology assets, human networks, social capital, intellectual capital, and change management (Ling, 2007) are considered as a comprehensive set of allied factors that accelerates/hinders the knowledge sharing process, and it is evident that organization relies upon a set of coordinated factors to run its functions and operations; so is the case with knowledge that runs like blood in organizational veins.
In align with captioned organizational factors there are number of social factors which affect the individula as well as organizational productivity (Putnam, 2000) which are significant to be considered in the process of knowledge sharing as (social interaction ties, trust, identification, norm of reciprocity, open mindedness, and shared language & goals) develop dual affect on knowledge sharing as these influence the attitudes and expectations on the one hand and quality of knowledge sharing on the other (Nikbakhsh, 2010). More recent socio-cognitive approaches undertook incentive, rewards, trust and relationships as core social factors (Chow , 2008) affecting knowledge sharing at all relevant levels. Other important social factors encircling the said process are Trust, empathy, willingness to help, openness to sharing/ criticism, group identity (Chua, 2002); while social relations as Trust, commitment, communication, influence (Requena, 2003) are considerable driving reasons in knowledge sharing circles, on the other hand Generalized trust and reciprocity (Lang, 2004) among employees create social integration required for effective and uninterrupted knowledge flow. In a recent research study the network connection is emphasized to maintain vertical-horizontal flow of knowledge keeping Relationship strength, relation quality, and Common norms (Rhodes, 2008) as fundamental causes needed to be focused once an organization is designing a knowledge sharing process in a holistic manner.
Intra-organizational networking is a prime focus of every organization as configuration of these networks creates an aura of cooperation among all employees and they begin socializing keeping Mutual trust, norms, obligations and identification (Huysman, 2004) as the foundations of their relationships which is required to establish a knowledge sharing network. Personal attitudes and expectations are closely linked with the process of knowledge sharing (Chiu, 2006). Social outcomes of organizational culture and design envelops many factors trust, collaboration, empowerment, politics, power and autonomy (De Long, 2000) as influencing factors that relate organizational culture and society in a loop.
Knowledge Flow in Organization
Knowledge revolves around whole organization theorugh its patent repositories as in case of tacit (human) and if explicit (non-human) (Ferlie, 2006) and this continuous movement of knowledge across organization maintains the knowledge flow; this knowledge flow is categorized in six subcategories as creation, organization, formalization, distribution, application and evolution (Nissen, 2002). The close relationship between knowledfe flow and organizational structure as explained earlier is evident and the hierarchical model which performs the desired function is given as under, in order to comprehend the structure-How relationship
Organizational policies are basically” planned or agreed course of action based on particular principles” (Dictionary, 2010) and these laid down priciples are derived in the perspective of set goals that an organization planned to achieve during its course of life. These set of policies provide standard guidelines to all employees so that they may understand the fundamentals of organization they are working for and comply accordingly. On the other hand plans are “intended account of future course of actionaimed at achieving specific goals within a specified time frame” (Dictionary B. , 2012); once the plans are derived, the next step is to go for scheduling (program) “A plan of action aimed at accomplishing a clear business objective, with details on what work is to be done, by whom, when, and what means or resources will be used” (Dictionary B. , 2012). Business process can be defined as a “structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specific output for a particular customer or market”(Davenport , 1993) and finally the procedure is ” a set of actions or operations which have to be executed in the same manner in order to always obtain the same result under the same circumstances” (Cook, 1998) and people are the corporate citizens who take along this whole cycle in an orderly, objective, continuous and required manner towards achieving well designed organizational goals.
Organizational and Social factors as discussed earlier, affect employees and eventually affect the functions and processes in which they are involved; especially the process of knowledge sharing and knowledge flow across organization is strongly effected in the presence of these factors which cannot be totally eliminated but it is possible to tame down their severity up to the negligible extent.
Since that people are the key to success in every organization and they are the ones named as human capital comprises of training, experience, judgment, intelligence, relationship and insights (Barney, 1991); they empower a firm to gain sustainable competitive advantage against competitor(s), since that the sole resource that neutralizes mobility threats and provide an edge is managerial talent (Hambrick, 1987) that is needed even to implement all the chalk down strategies and moves along with knowledge stock across organization. In order to streamline the reluctant flow of knowledge to the firm’s boundaries (Kreiner, 1999) protective governance structure (Williamson, 1981) is needed to establish the desired structure. Organization’s survival depends upon maintaining plausible balance between different human divisions as labor, practices and knowledge and to establish an uninterrupted flow of knowledge across these divisions (Hoopes, 1999) and this coordination takes these divisions from interpersonal behavior to inter communal/divisional behavior (Schon, 1987) which helps all the concerned individual to talk relevant terms in an understandable manner.
The resultant impact of organizational and social factors on organizational knowledge is that by virtue of experience, inventions, innovations; it becomes obsolete and this obsolescence does not relate with individuals but collective (organizational) which even affects the career of different individuals (Rothman, 1969) and on the contrary new knowledge is inducted in organization to fill the gap. External pressure, economic recession, troubleshooting, deadlines driven production, socio-political compressions and related external factors are pushing organizations round the globe towards drawing situational strategies (Kirkbride, 2001) and knowledge workers are getting more of this pressure as they are the ones carrying organizational load and productive balance.
Shift to avoid Internal/External Pressure
Knowledge workers have to live with organizational and social pressures and not only to live with but to carry forward their responsibilities in allied fashion to achieve desired goals with in due course of time. For this very purpose, knowledge circles are formed so that the flow of knowledge and involvement of workers in the process becomes a routine activity and they feel like living with this knowledge which runs like blood in their veins. Instead of initiating knowledge discussions on specific occasions as technological advancements, strategic changes, Policy shifts and management decisions etc., it must be a continuous process that is undertaken to keep the concerned workers on board with reference to knowledge resources in an organization. Socialization, externalization, internalization and combination (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995) are the most important phases that attract employees and establish a favorable environment needed for mental absorption and intellectual change; the more they are habitual of it the more they are into it.
Purpose of Knowledge Circles
Functional circles are more focused upon human relations, interactions and group behavior as they mostly revolves around the tacit knowledge interfaces and their core output is MAN based which revolves around the issues that are to be identified, recognized and resolved that are to be addressed without zero-waiting of time to avoid lags between individuals that result in knowledge failures. On the other hand the Operational circles are more diverted towards explicit side of knowledge as the output is machine based which encircles problems that are to be understood, controlled and solved in order to avoid interruption in related processes and knowledge flow.
Four Step Process
The establishment of knowledge circle in an organization would be a four step process as: