Knowledge Management Cases in a University in Asia/Knowledge Management Study in a University Counseling Unit
With the great improvement in efficiency and effectiveness towards the organizational performance, more organizations become increasingly aware that knowledge is their most valuable strategic assets and engage in developing knowledge management within their organizations. Based on an exploratory study of KM practices, this chapter will be focused on analyzing the application of Knowledge Management (KM) in the counseling unit in a tertiary institution. This chapter mainly provides a conceptual framework on how the KM strategies and tools are employed in the unit so as to help manage its knowledgeable resources. By considering the challenges encountered by the unit, the chapter will suggest some KM tools and strategies to cope with it. Further development trend in counseling industry and its feasibility will also be discussed in this chapter to grasp the idea of building and nurturing the knowledge sharing culture within the supporting unit.
This paper examines the current status of knowledge management and reviews the highlighted features of the traditional theory, definition and concepts, strategies and tools that involved in knowledge management in the departments of universities. Through conducting the research and doing the analysis on the key concepts of Knowledge Management, several phrases are identified which are Knowledge capture and codification, Knowledge sharing and dissemination and Knowledge creation. Benefits and shortcomings of the application of Knowledge Management in departments will also be summarized in this paper to obtain a clear picture on how Knowledge Management helps organize its knowledgeable resources effectively.
The purpose of this literature review is to provide an overview of available publications investigating the theory and the application of knowledge management in both consulting industry and tertiary institutions.
Sporleder and Moss (2002) defined KM as an integrated approach to identifying, creating, managing, sharing, and exploiting all information and knowledge assets of an organization. Later Dalkir (2011) further studied over a hundred published definitions of knowledge management and introduced ‘’knowledge management from the cognitive science or knowledge science perspective: Knowledge-the insights, understandings, and practical know-how that we all possess- is the fundamental resource that allows us to function intelligently’’ (p.6).
Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) defined that there are two dimensions of knowledge: tacit and explicit and brought its importance to organizational attention. Tacit knowledge is embedded in the expertise and experience of individuals and groups, not yet explicated (Leonard and Sensiper, 1998). Explicit knowledge is created in organisational rules, routines, and procedures so as to improve the efficiency. In Nonaka’s Model, it suggested that the key to knowledge creation lies in four forms of knowledge conversion. They are socialization, externalization, internalization and combination respectively.
Knowledge Capture and Codification
Knowledge capture and codification is an important process to an organization since learners can internalize the others’ knowledge and construct new form of knowledge. The knowledge generated from the interaction between the learners should be captured, stored and reused in order to maximize knowledge construction. Barchan (1999) suggested that six conditions, which are maintaining an open dialogue, sharing values, keeping knowledge flowing, embracing flexibility, building trust and surrounding with the right people, to enhance the knowledge capture among the whole organization. After capturing the knowledge, appropriate knowledge codification is needed to store the knowledge systematically. Janicot and Mignon (2012) proposed a model of the service’s time value and cognitive value, assessed through the integrative and interactive ITs used as a channel for codification. Time value refers to the time saved by using organizations’ cognitive resources. Cognitive value is regarded as the enhancement of quality and ability to indicate their competitive advantages to clients as a result of leveraging knowledge. Integrative technology means disseminating knowledge through database and interactive technology develops workplaces for sharing. Through this model, the methods utilized by the organization can be evaluated and spaces can be spot for improvement.
Knowledge SharingManagement consulting is an industry whose core product is knowledge itself. Managing knowledge is the most critical process in the consulting industry. (Sarvary, 1999) Hansen, Nohria and Tierney (1999) identify that there are two different knowledge management strategies employed by the consulting businesses which are codification strategy and personalization strategy respectively, as shown in Table 1. Codification Strategy refers to the “strategy centres on the computer” in which the knowledge is being codified and stored in the designated databases. This allows the staff within the company can easily access and use the knowledge stored in the databases and encourages the reusability of knowledge in a large scale. Personalization Strategy implies that “knowledge is closely tied to the person who developed it and is shared mainly through direct person-to-person contacts” such as face-to-face meetings, email, video conferences and telephone. This strategy focuses on communicating knowledge among people, not storing knowledge. The choice of KM strategy depends on the way the company serves its clients, the economies of its business, and the people it hires. Hansen, Nohria and Tierney (1999) also found that effective firms excelled by focusing on one of the strategies and using the other one in a supporting role. (Roughly an 80-20 split)
Knowledge Management MetricsKM Metrics is used to assess the effectiveness of KM strategies and applications. KM strategy should include the assessment framework that will be used to monitor progress toward and successful attainment of the targeted KM objectives and initiatives. (Dalkir 2005 p.268) There are several KM measurement techniques that can help assess how well an organization is progressing. For example, Benchmarking method is the search of industry-wide best practices that can lead to superior performance. It usually consists of a study of similar companies to determine how things are done best in order to adapt these methods for their own use. (Dalkir 2005, p.272) Besides, Balanced Scorecard Method provides feedback on both internal business process and external outcomes in order to continuously improve strategic performance and results. The result enables us to clarify the vision and the strategy and to translate them into action. (p.275) Moreover, there are four types of measures : Awareness, Behavior, Outputs and Outcomes (Brown, 2010). Awareness refers to whether we have the knowledge of what to document, how to document it, how to access KM databases. Behavior refers to whether the participation in KM activities is high or low to indicate high-level participation in key meeting. Outputs refer to whether there is any databases, white papers, lessons learned reports, best practice documentation. Outcomes refer to whether the impact of new knowledge on key measures of organizational performance is big or not.
KM Strategies and Tools
KM systems are usually designed to integrate the knowledge process into work processes. (Labedz, 2011) eGain® Service™ is a concrete example that is used to integrate knowledge management with customer relationship and services. Many companies such as HMV in Canada, WebCentre and Business Evolution’s @Once Service Centre used eGain to manage numerous daily e-mails to maintain customer relationships by learning customer knowledge management technique. Another one is WebFOCUS from Information Builders Inc. (ibi.com), which was being used by several higher education organizations including the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (Lamont, 2011) Besides, YELLOW PAGES, which is a Web 2.0 tool, helps people within the organization to locate the person who possesses the expertise in solving a particular problem. (Rumizen, 2002) Recently, a more interactive Q&A system is launched which allow users to ask questions and the system will response directly to the users with solutions provided. (Iske and Willem, 2005) Carleton (2011) added that the organizational culture is important in nurturing KM. Many organizations like the World Bank and UN has used km4dev as a form of community of practice (CoP) to promote knowledge sharing. (KM4DevWiki, 2006) Nevertheless, some staff may be reluctant to share their individual knowledge in order to maintain their position. Amar (2004) suggested using people-oriented strategies to solve the case. This strategy focuses on encouraging the younger generation or new comers of the organization to share their own knowledge in order to create a knowledge sharing atmosphere. He also suggested the psychological driver like money incentive can also be a driven force in initiating KM.
Moreover, knowledge map is introduced as a tool to display internal members and their impact in terms of know-how, expertise and relational intelligent capital(IC) on the firm’s value chain. Here is a typical example of a knowledge map in SME with technical staffs and sales. The different activities of the firm are represented by oval shapes. Relevant activity coming from outside the firm is shown as a dashed oval shape.A – Head of Department – Process PlanningB – Group Leader – Electrical EngineeringD – Group Leader – Prototype AssemblyE – Managing Director – SalesF – Managing Director – Production and PurchasingG – Managing Director – Research & DevelopmentAssistant – Assistant of GCNC – CNC ProgrammerBy locating the central expertise and skills held by a few members of staff, which the department highly dependent on, managers can understand the reason of the organization’s success. Moreover, the map allows information gathered about the types of knowledge that exist in the firm, enabling the managers to identify the areas where knowledge gaps may need to be filled. It therefore can be a guide for knowledge management for locating what to capture and know-who, which can be an initiative of further strategic moves on knowledge capturing.
To due with knowledge drain, structure interview can be arranged to the staff in order to produce a record of their knowledge, whether in audio, video, electronic or paper media. It helps capturing tacit knowledge to tangible knowledge. Similar to our research method, this intangible knowledge will usually be converted to produce a transcript, which can be accessed by any other staffs later. Since structured knowledge would preferably be recorded down, structure interview is more likely to be conducted. This allows no flexibility. All questions are pre-established. Experts, who have similar preliminary knowledge, are recommended to be involved in the interview to ask technical questions. Right questions should be formulated and asked, here is some typical types of questions which may be possible to be applied in counseling services: Type of questions Example Knowledge What information did you use in making this decision, and how was it obtained? Standard scenarios Does this case fit a standard or typical scenario? Does it fit a scenario you were trained to deal with? Aiding If the decision was not the best, what training, knowledge, or information could have led to a better choice? Errors What mistakes are likely to occur at this point? Did you acknowledge you’re your situation assessment or option selection could have been incorrect? How might a novice have acted or responded differently?
Challenges of KM in tertiary institutions
During the implementation of knowledge management in a tertiary institution, various difficulties may be encountered by the staff. Ian Caddy (2001) identifies some possible challenges in the implementation process. For example, staff in the organization may not know the existence of knowledge which has been stored in the database. Similarly, Frank McKenna (1997) also pointed out that some of the staff may not be familiar with the usage of software. This may lead to ineffective application of knowledge management. Another possible challenge may be the privacy and security problems against the information and knowledge stored in the database. Brankovic and Castro stated that there may be a risk of potential misuses from unauthorized tapping into the database and then retrieve the private information.Besides, Birkinshaw (2001) declared that many organizations actually managed their own knowledge through informal networks. In order to do it better, it “involves not only developing new tools, but alsoeliminating old ways of working”. As a result, it is difficult to change its culture which involves fundamental changesto people’s behaviour, and it typically takes many yearsto bring about.
Further development trend for knowledge management
Peng (2007) mentioned that people, technology and process are three key issues in KM research in 1990s. He suggested that the future of KM development should focus on a better integration of the common business processes, a concentration on the human-organization-interface and a better match of IT-aspects to human factors. With similar ideas, Holtshouse (2007) pointed out that raising the value of work, advancing workplace performance, reducing and streamlining work complexity and early detection of emerging market changes or disruptions should be the aims for the further development of KM.Besides, Kim (2007) also has an idea of having a better match of IT-aspects to human factors. He emphasized the linkage between information technology (IT) and knowledge management (KM). Kim (2007) criticized that many consulting firms only make use of some basic IT tools including email and search engines since they do not require much advanced knowledge for usage. It is suggested that managers should focus more on the matching of KM models and IT capability in order to maximize the benefits.Moreover, further development of KM can be done by combining theories together. Whelan et al. (2011) stressed on the superior benefits gained by combining talent management (TM) and knowledge management (KM) together. This demonstrates how TM can assist the implementation of KM throughout the KM life cycle. It includes knowledge talent identification, knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and positioning, knowledge competencies and knowledge retention. Whelan et al. (2011) suggested that the knowledge sharing of the top performing knowledge workers is the key to enhance the overall organizational performance and it is significant for the further development of KM within an organization.
Our research objective is to investigate what kinds of knowledge management activities have been implemented in the selected counseling unit. Firstly, qualitative approach was used to analyze the data collected from different sources such as in-depth interviews, books, journals and websites. Secondly, semi-structured interviews with the director of the unit will be also conducted so as to gather useful information. Four types of questions were asked to collect the information we need. They are simple fact, open-ended, judgment and comparison of fact questions respectively. Thirdly, we will analyze the information gathered from the interviews and summarize it findings discovered from books, journals and other sources.
Case Study of the Counselling Unit
Our group has interviewed the director of the counselling unit, which has around fifteen to twenty professional staff and a number of officers. Some information that is relevant to our study is shown as follows:
Application of KM Strategies and Tools
Two types of regular meetings are held to facilitate the knowledge sharing within the team. One is the 1-hour professional meeting which often holds every week. Counsellors and clinical psychologists are grouped together to review new cases during the week. They can freely express their opinions towards the cases or the problems they came across in order to provide better services for the students. Another type of meeting which mainly discusses its direction and daily operation usually holds once a month. Moreover, the director of the unit will visit each professional staff once a month so that the director can perceive their individual needs.
Internal Operational Guidelines
It has its own internal operational guidelines to ensure that the employees be aware and comply with the policies and working procedures to avoid any leakage of the private information.
Its major communication channel is email which mainly uses for transmitting the information about the daily operation or the problems encountered by the staff. However, they rarely use email for transmitting the case information between the staff since they are aware of the confidentiality of the collected data.
The unit would prefer searching the information online through some search engines like Google rather than constructing its own online database. The staff will also search some journal articles and books through the libraries to enrich their knowledge on particular issues. They may also join as a member of The Hong Kong Psychological Society and refer to the postings on its forum to get more information.
Ways to evaluate and ensure the quality of service
Regarding quality control of services provided, there are four kinds of methods to evaluate the quality which are using the evaluation forms, managing complaints, supervising the performance of the employees and meeting with the staff regularly.
The unit has prepared some evaluation forms and distributes them after each workshop completed. Students are required to complete the form and express their opinions towards the workshops.Based on the evaluation forms collected from the students, the staff will analyse the feedback from students and prepare a report to be submitted to the Personal Development and Counselling committee as a reference.
The director suggested that managing the complaints received from students can be one of the indicators to spot out the problems in the unit and helps improve its operational efficiency.
Supervising the performance of employees is a usual practice to ensure the quality of services provided. All the staff will be asked to attend several training or workshops each year to improve their capability on work. Besides, referential books will also be bought to enrich the knowledge they have.
In order to get familiar with each employee, the supervisors need to meet each staff individually to discuss about their case load or any problems they came across so as to ensure the quality of their performance.
Ways to manage information
All evaluation forms received from the students are organized in statistics and saved as excel files.
The data collected from students will be classified into three categories. They are problem areas and issues, demographic characteristics and statistics. They will then be stored in the database and share among the staff.
Details of Personal Enrichment Programmes
Students can retrieve the detailed information of the programmes through the leaflets or booklets printed by the unit as well as its web page. Some reference materials like time management tips can be retrieved from its website. E-learning platform is provided to allow students to acquire knowledge. On the other hand, the materials like Powerpoint slides presented in the programmes will be stored within its own repositories.
Findings and Analysis
Background of Implementing KM
This counselling unit aims at empowering the students to build up their own character and strengths. It also encourages the students to maintain a satisfying and psychologically healthy life. In order to help them develop a positive attitude towards life and contribute to the communities, the director of the unit believes that knowledge management is a way to achieve the goals. Knowledge Creation Knowledge Creation refers to the continuous process of new ideas through interactions between explicit and tacit knowledge between individuals. Through handling the complaints and evaluation forms received from the students, knowledge is created since the students’ comments are collected and being used to analyze their needs. Besides, the unit also offers different kinds of workshops and programmes to the students which stimulates the knowledge creation by lectures, storytelling or video shows. Apart from this, community of practice and experience sharing are introduced to support the knowledge creation within the unit.
Knowledge Capture and Codification
Knowledge capture refers to the process of retrieving knowledge resides within people, artifacts or organizational entities. As mentioned by Barchan, there are six conditions that must exist if leaders want to foster learning, generate new knowledge and capture that knowledge to benefit the organization. They are maintaining an open dialogue, sharing values, keeping mobile knowledge, embracing flexibility, building trust and surrounding yourself with the right people. As regards maintaining an open dialogue, employees in the unit have enough opportunities to contribute their opinions and suggestions through regular meetings. Monthly meetings can help tracking all employees to follow the core values of the unit in order to drives a consistent and long-lasting operation.Information and knowledge can be captured by employees through a variety means which facilitates the mobility of the knowledge flow, i.e. share folders. They are also encouraged to join workshops which broaden their horizons to other fields of counselling service. The employees work as a team with common aims nurtures a knowledge sharing culture which facilitates knowledge capturing a lot. From the Janicot and Mignon’s model, time value and cognitive value are the indicator to evaluate the knowledge codification methods. The counselling unit makes use of shared folders, particular database and electronic case files. Stored past cases, workshop materials and statistics of the counselling cases can be used to evaluate the quality of service which reaches high cognitive value.
Possible Challenges and Solutions
As regards the time value of the enquiries services, there may be a challenge of the staff to answer ad hoc questions. In case there is a student asking questions about the programs of the person enrichment workshop, they need to find out the answers from the leaflets and the website of the unit which is time-consuming. To due with this problem, an interactive Q&A system mentioned by Iske and Willem can be launched which allows the staff to type in the enquiries and the system will response directly to them with solutions provided.
Besides, since the counseling unit is relying heavily on tacit-to-tacit knowledge sharing, valuable tacit knowledge may not be retained completely. In addition, due to the high turnover rate of the professionals, knowledge drain may be aggravated. Arranging structure interview for the leaving staff can mitigate this potential problem by capturing the tacit knowledge from them into explicit documents.
Knowledge Sharing and Dissemination
Since this supporting unit regards “knowledge” as the core asset of the unit, it applied both “Personalization Strategy” and “Codification Strategy” to retain the valuable and useful knowledge.
The director of the unit plays an essential role in promoting the sharing atmosphere within the team. Meetings are held to facilitate the knowledge sharing within the team. Opportunities are given to the counsellors and clinical psychologists to freely share their opinions towards the cases or the problems they came across. It is a kind of knowledge exchange from person to person. Apart from the meetings aforementioned, as the unit only comprises twelve to fifteen professional staff, it is easy for them to gather together at lunch time and discusses the problems they have encountered. They can also simply send an email to transmit the information about the daily operation and share with one another. They are also a kind of socialization in which the tacit knowledge is shared via social interactions.
“Knowledge repository” is being used by the unit which can enable multiple users commonly share the resources together. The formal internal knowledge such as the internal operational guidelines, counselling data, student information and training materials is being codified and stored in the designated databases for the staff to access and use. This can facilitate the search and retrieval of the relevant data by the staff. Personal tacit knowledge is converted into the form of explicit knowledge and shared. Explicit to Tacit knowledge conversion is also involved in this case since the staff can make use of existing knowledge codified and internalizes others’ shared experience in problem-solving. Besides, with reference to the collected counselling data and student information, the data collected from students will be classified into three categories. They are problem areas and issues, demographic characteristics and statistics. They will then be stored in the database and share among the staff. This can show us that the discrete pieces of explicit knowledge is being recombined and converted into a new form of explicit knowledge like report and statistics and shared in the database.
Possible Challenges and Solutions
After analysing the knowledge sharing system in the counseling unit, there may be a lack of systematical storage of specific knowledge. As mentioned by the director, some of the counselors have their own specialties like Developmental Dyslexia and they possess their own particular collections in their rooms. The unit may suffer a great loss of knowledge in particular fields if the specialties are gone with the counselors. Thus, a regular storytelling held by the counselors is suggested to fill in this knowledge gap among them.
Moreover, it may not be sufficient for the counseling units to share the information with other units in their department only once a month. The director mentioned that the departments are not frequently interacted with each other, instead of when holding a big project together. Knowledge map is suggested to be implemented so as to allow the staff in the units and also the outsiders especially the students understand their scope of management.
KM Metrics is used to assess the effectiveness of KM strategies and applications. KM strategies should include some assessment framework to monitor the process of the KM applications so that the target of the KM strategy can be accomplished. As for the unit, there are internal organizational guidelines and crisis guidelines explicitly outlining the working process for the new staff. The experienced staff will supervise the newly employed staff’s performance. Moreover, PRSD, which is a kind of appraisal form, is used as an assessment framework to monitor the employee’ progress. The unit also establishes some evaluation forms to collect feedback from the students in order to further improve its performance. The unit also produces both qualitative and quantitative figures and statistics regularly in terms of the problem areas, faculty, sex etc. With the aids of the reports, the staff may find out what problem is frequently encountered by students and do the corresponding actions.
According to Brown, there are four types of measures for the KM metrics. They are Awareness, Behaviour, Outputs and Outcomes respectively.
The unit has a systematic way to organize the documents. Their documents are divided into 3 categories which are counselling data, case notes and training materials. They have a separated database to store the counselling data which contain the client personal information. The case notes are stored in case file and the files are organized in a systematic way. The training materials are stored in a shared folder in the intranet and particular staff can access it providing he has the access right.
Meeting is the main communication channel used by the unit. It conducts regular meeting once a month to discuss about the main goal of the unit. Some meeting held once a week for the senior staff to review the cases in the past week. Moreover, the director of this unit will visit each senior staff office to have an informal meeting. The top manager frequently participates in different meeting, which enhance the knowledge sharing, hence it can help documentation of valuable knowledge that currently only resides in senior employees' heads, and minimizing the impact of valuable employees retiring or quitting by first documenting what they know and have learned over the years.
It is seldom to form some lessons learned report within the unit but they can shared their experience in any meeting freely. For example, they will send a staff as a representative of the unit when there is a big function like Orientation to join the representatives of other departments and form a group. This staff will share his or her experience in the regular meeting.
It does not have any key measure like sales and cost reduction. By improving the processes, this helps save the cost and improve the productivity of the unit.
Future Development of KM in Counselling Service
In the literature review and case learned, the success of knowledge management is not just dependent on organizational culture like staff leadership but also on the general fiscal climate which may affect the implementation of the technology that support KM. A concrete financial support is the first priority in consideration to continue the activation of the knowledge sharing culture in the future KM development. The competing demands and budgetary constraints experienced by this counseling department shows that the knowledge management is not a new initiative, but as a reframing of information sharing and evidence-informed decision making. Still, patience is needed to let the developmental process of knowledge management. Knowledge management needs a permanent supporter who believes in the positive changes that KM will bring. Hiring a particular knowledge manager, the whole student resources centre of university including counseling part will be overlooked on knowledge practices. He/She may be retrospectively see what has been accomplished and the future needs that remain to be addressed as management always has space to be improved. Furthermore, the term “professional” should not be a box limiting the sharing of knowledge. The current turnover rate of professional may be an opportunity for recruiting new staff with common value in knowledge practices. The talent and willingness of working in collaborative environment of psychological expertise as well as other professional discipline would be the basic requirement in this knowledge age. Last but not least, it is important to have an ideal but also work hard toward the next best approach when current KM strategies are not sustainable for current circumstance, since knowledge management model needs to be flexible to accommodate rapid change under the information age. The upcoming development will be perhaps focusing on the sustainability of current approaches on KM as well as innovation strategies in foreseeable prospect.
All in all, knowledge management tools and strategy can undoubtedly bring benefits to the counselling unit. The tacit knowledge can be captured in explicit form well and shared across the companies so that all staff can reach a certain standard of knowledge. The explicit knowledge can be managed more systematically and further enriched in the database. Therefore, it is a global trend to utilize KM tools and strategies properly in order to maximize the benefits. However, not all KM tools and strategies are suitable to every industry. Tailor-made KM tools and strategies are needed when the counselling unit applys those tools in order to match its cultures and usual practice. From the case study, we recognize that some common KM practices are not adopted by it as there are difficulties to tackle the privacy problem with high cost. However, in long run, the cost of the KM tools may be possibly declined due to a massive demand of them since they are getting more popular in this knowledge age.
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Please post your comments here.
Ma Yim Hing: The Literature Review is too long. And for the four types of measures of the KM metrics,it is better to provide some methods to evaluate the effectiveness of the KM applications in these 4 aspects instead of simply mention what does the department do in these aspects.
Stephanie Tsui: It would be better if a summary is added to Literature Review to provide a scope.
Lee Pui Yee, Wendy: For the Literature Review, it is better to add the rationale to further explain why this review has those sub-parts. Besides, the potential difficulties may be stated in the "Future development of KM" part. Recommendations may be added.
Kwok Pak Lun: In the Future Development of KM in Counselling Service part, the writer stated the collaboration culture should be developed in the department. However, there are no concrete suggestion for how to develop the collaboration culture. The writer may consider to add more concrete solutions or practices to help improve the development of KM in the department.