An Approach to Knowledge Management for SMEs

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An Approach to Knowledge Management for SMEs

Introduction

This is a DTI funded project that involves 10 construction companies, 3 construction networks and 2 universities.

The aim is to improve knowledge management (KM) in SMEs improving people, processes and products to provide economic, social and sustainability benefits. The objectives are:

  1. to test a semi-formalised technique for capturing, transforming and disseminating the learning of individuals in SME construction organisations.
  2. to assess the impact of the dissemination of transferable learning.
  3. to identify barriers to achieving knowledge transfer within SMEs.
  4. to investigate ways that this knowledge management process can become an endemic part of the project cycle.
  5. to investigate how IT can be used to operate this KM process.
  6. to develop a promotion and training package for SMEs on the KM approach.

Site managers and project managers solve complex problems in their day to day work, however, the industry does not capture this and may even not realise its significance. If this Knowledge was collected, structured and disseminated then there would be significant benefits to the companies. It is strongly recognised that there is a lack of a formal approach to the sharing, documentation, transferring, auditing and exploitation of “organisational working knowledge” (some of which lead to process, product and service innovations), as well as the utilisation of information technologies by SMEs in this regard. This lack of a formal approach in organisations and on projects is seen to affect the passing on of experiences and relevant knowledge to future projects and organisational development. It also limits continuous improvements in construction processes.

The Approach of this project to improve this phenomenon is a simple yet robust method; fitting in with the ways people and companies work. Each week, the manager dictates a problem solving event into a Dictaphone in order to Capture Knowledge. These recordings contain the personal knowledge and thinking of the manager. To see the significance of these events and to transform the knowledge in order to make it accessible to others, the managers are Debriefed each month about the set of recorded events. Once the significant knowledge is made explicit, it can then be Disseminated within the company and the industry. The longer term objective is that the companies can learn to operate the Approach by themselves.

The personal knowledge that is embedded in the recorded events is very complex as it depends heavily on the context and developing circumstances of the event. This knowledge is referred to as TACIT knowledge and is not generally available outside the person. However in practice, sometimes knowledge transformation and dissemination does take place through managers telling stories about their work. However, this knowledge is not validated nor is the process dependable. The Approach works with these ideas but in a more formal way.

The project is of 18 months duration and will evaluate the Approach with the companies and deliver refinements and training to operate it. This will be reported to industry workshops, disseminated in leaflets and broadcast on a dedicated web site.





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Copyright Professor Charles Egbu (2008), All Rights Reserved