Change Readiness Influences on Knowledge Management Processes: A Case of Three Professional Service Firms
Rusly, F. H. (2014). Change Readiness Influences on Knowledge Management Processes: A Case of Three Professional Service Firms (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8920
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8920
Introduction: The current dynamic market is characterised by stiff competition and ever-changing clients’ demand for better and innovative products and services. In this challenging environment, the need for developing and managing knowledge transcends the importance of accumulating physical capital. With an increasing awareness of the potential of knowledge as a competitive source for firms’ survival, there is an increased knowledge management initiatives and investments by firms. Nevertheless, literature highlights increasing failures of knowledge management initiatives, with reasons for the failure yet to be established conclusively. On the basis of the premise that implementation of the knowledge management process could induce changes in firms’ practices and culture, and employees’ beliefs and cognitive structure, the current thesis addresses the issue from the change management perspective. The main idea that drives the research evolves from the understanding that failure in knowledge management initiatives could be rooted in the lack of readiness to change. Objective: The primary objective of this thesis is to understand how the change readiness construct shapes the various processes for managing knowledge in professional service firms. Change readiness in this thesis was conceptualised as a multidimensional and multilevel construct. This thesis contributes to the body of knowledge by explicating the way these change readiness elements shape knowledge management processes. The study setting within the professional service industry offers unique insights, which is less explored in the extant KM literature. Method: The study was conducted within the professional service firms’ context, on the basis that knowledge represents the main source for survival and competitiveness in this knowledge-intensive industry. This research is grounded in the interpretive paradigm and is studied from the constructivist epistemological lens. This qualitative research employed multiple case study design in three New Zealand professional service firms. Two firms are accounting establishments and one represents an engineering maintenance firm. Sixteen semi-structured interviews, conducted over the period of two months, involved the managerial and operational professionals in these participating firms. Data were analysed following the grounded theory analysis and findings presented using cross-cases analysis. Results: This thesis contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of knowledge management (KM) by revealing the distinctive influences of multidimensional elements of the change readiness construct on the knowledge acquisition, knowledge application and knowledge sharing processes in the firms studied. The thesis proposes three dimensions of the change readiness construct, which are categorised as KM change understanding, KM change context and individual differences. The dimension of KM change understanding consists of change goal, change benefit, need for knowledge, perceived management support and collective commitment. The KM change context is comprised of learning, participation, communication and management support. Individual expertise and adaptability represent the individual differences dimension of the change readiness construct. Specifically, findings show that: 1) Readiness for the knowledge acquisition process is largely shaped by the individual’s change readiness elements, including the understanding of the need for knowledge and perceived management support, and the individual’s capability of expertise and adaptability. Learning and communication provides the essential contexts that shape the firm’s readiness for the knowledge acquisition process. 2) Readiness for the knowledge application process is largely shaped by the individual’s change readiness elements, including the understanding of change goal, change benefit and perceived management support, and the individual’s capability of expertise and adaptability. Collective commitment shapes professionals’ understanding of knowledge application at the firm level. Learning and management support provides the essential contexts that shape the firm’s readiness for the knowledge application process. 3) Readiness for the knowledge sharing process is largely shaped by the firm’s change readiness elements, consisting of professionals’ understanding of collective commitment, and the essential contexts of communication, participation and learning. Understanding of the need for knowledge and change benefit, as well as the professional’s expertise, shapes the individual’s readiness for the knowledge sharing process. 4) The way these change readiness elements shapes the distinctive KM processes in the professional service firms studied vary due to the effects of firm archetypes, inter-profession differences, change nature, knowledge nature and the demographic characteristic. These factors moderates the interrelationships described in in 1), 2), and 3).
University of Waikato
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