Managing knowledge and information in times of major organizational transition

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)
Initiative on the New Economy research grant (2003-2006)

Researchers:

  • Dr. Pierrette Bergeron, Universite de Montreal
  • Dr. Brian Detlor, McMaster University
  • Dr. Lorna Heaton, Universite de Montreal
  • Dr. Chun Wei Choo, University of Toronto (PI) []

Research Associates:

  • Scott Paquette, University of Toronto
  • Colin Furness, University of Toronto
  • Herman van den Berg, University of Toronto

Papers

Project Summary

The objective of the research is to increase our understanding of how organizations mobilize and leverage their knowledge and information capabilities during times of significant organizational change. We believe that organizations are most in need of being able to draw upon their knowledge as well as their collective capacity to create and innovate during times of major change or upheaval. By major change, we mean strategic organizational transformations such as mergers and acquisitions, privatization, technology disruption, and changes induced by external environmental forces. By knowledge and information management practices, we include formal elements such as intranets, portals, corporate libraries, information systems, archives and records, as well as informal elements such as information sharing behaviors, communities of practice, social networks, and communication roles and patterns. This study will identify and analyze knowledge and information management practices that enable organizational renewal and growth.

The study will pursue these research questions:

  • What formal and informal knowledge and information management practices are observed in changing organizations?
  • To what extent do these knowledge and information management practices help or hinder the transition process?
  • How can organizations integrate or interface formal and informal knowledge and information management practices in order to support organizational learning during times of disruptive change?

We have approached two large organizations undergoing major change that have indicated an interest in taking part in the study. Both organizations have relatively long histories, and have accumulated significant knowledge, experience, and expertise. Both organizations have also developed sophisticated IT and information infrastructures that are intended to facilitate communications and information sharing. Both organizations recognize that the ability to share and integrate knowledge would be crucial to their growth and renewal. We believe that the proposed research presents a unique opportunity to study two knowledge-intensive organizations as they journey through a period of fundamental change.

Knowledge management is best studied in the context of addressing and solving a set of concrete complex problems. Since organizational knowledge can be tacit, explicit and cultural, we believe that it is important to study both the formal and informal practices by which organizations access, share, and create knowledge. We will analyze knowledge and information practices at multiple levels of the organization, including individual, group, and organizational levels. We anticipate seeing different dynamics working at each level, and we will look out for ways that knowledge has been transferred across these boundaries successfully.

The study will contribute to our theoretical understanding of knowledge-driven change by developing an empirically grounded model that links knowledge and information management practices to the organizational capacity for learning and adaptation. The study will develop practical recommendations on how to nurture, interface, and integrate formal and informal knowledge and information practices. We will also present recommendations on how to improve the design of information systems and communication networks to support information and knowledge sharing during change. These recommendations would be of interest to administrators, managers, policy makers, as well as professional staff responsible for information systems and services, communications, and knowledge management initiatives.

Please send us your comments or feedback! []