Loughborough University
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Managing knowledge for through life capability

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posted on 2016-06-24, 08:07 authored by Sofia Ahlberg Pilfold
In 2005 the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) published a White Paper in which it detailed its Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) (UK MoD, 2005). The strategy involved a rapid transformation of UK defence towards a product-service, business-like paradigm through the adoption of Through Life Capability Management (TLCM). TLCM has since been succeeded by other initiatives. However, for organisations involved in the management of capability through life, the associated principles of operation as well as the challenges remain, including that of the management of knowledge. The confederated capability enterprise is a distributed knowledge system. Knowledge of the systems, for which a particular organisation has through-life management responsibility, may be distributed throughout an enterprise that comprises several commercial organisations as well as the customer. The bringing together of different components of capability and perspectives makes managing knowledge difficult. This is complicated further by the observation that in a decade one can expect a significant proportion of the manpower involved in a capability will have changed. Success in this type of environment requires a clear understanding of the value of particular knowledge within the organisation as well as effective knowledge management in the wider enterprise. Dstl and EPSRC have jointly funded this research which addresses management of knowledge for through life capability through modelling of the capability enterprise, a workshop on TLCM benefits and behaviours, a comparative case study at a commercial service company and the UK MoD including Dstl, and knowledge mapping within a specific exemplar capability. The results of the modelling illustrated the Systems of Systems (SoS) nature of the enterprise and the need to align capability and management processes across the enterprise. How well this can be achieved depends on the extent to which both the UK MoD and industry are willing to share, access and process information and knowledge. This would require trust between the individuals and organisations involved. The need for trust was emphasised in an international workshop where the participants discussed the behaviours that were required for the perceived benefits of TLCM to be realised. The workshop members highlighted trust in long term planning as industry seeks to manage skills and knowledge over time. ServiceCo provides communication and media services to customers globally. It comprises four customer-facing divisions and two operational units. The case which was based on interviews in one customer-facing and one operational unit revealed the following: • Focus on corporate values supports knowledge management behaviours across the organisation. • Succession planning is needed for all skills and knowledge that are critical or essential to the business. • Once the continual renewal of knowledge slows down and/or stops in an organisation, the knowledge is lost. The second case of the study was the Royal Navy Command Head Quarters and Dstl. Dstl is a trading fund that provides UK MoD and the wider UK government specialist Science & Technology services and operates and manages the Chief Scientific Advisor’s research programme. The case study revealed: • Security regulations and considerations impact significantly on effective management of knowledge. • Knowledge retrieval can be “hit and miss” as complicated filing structures and indexing practices are applied inconsistently, leading to individuals adopting a number of strategies to share knowledge. • Succession planning for people with rare skills is an issue that impacts business continuation. Comparison between the two cases showed that the two organisations experienced different problems but that the knowledge behaviours adopted by the individuals involved were essentially the same. This pointed to the need to address the issues associated with the management of knowledge as cultural and organisational in nature. Personal strategies to manage and share knowledge included individuals retaining copies of files on desktop hard drives and keeping paper copies in drawers; documents were emailed to ensure the intended audience would get it or be able to access it; and asking a colleague for advice on where to find out things. An important difference between knowledge management between the two organisations was that the UK MoD relied on processes due to the rapid change of personnel whereas the service company relied on personal relationships as people remained in the roles for longer. The knowledge mapping of “moving personnel and materiel using vehicles” revealed that each Line of Development (LoDs) has its own constituent (LoDs) indicating the requirement to manage organisational capability in order to deliver capability to customers. It also illustrated all the active knowledge that is required in order for the capability to be delivered. The research main contributions are: • Theoretical models for exploring the use of knowledge in acquisition projects over time • Comparing two organisations at separate ends of the organisational spectrum and identifying common organisational factors that influence the management of knowledge for through life capability • Recognising that the enterprise is a capability SoS. In order to successfully delivery capability, knowledge about and within the components needs to be managed. Other findings include: • Management of knowledge for TLCM puts the focus on managing knowledge for future capability requirements rather than on retention of knowledge products, bringing in aspects such as business continuation planning and consequently impacting on the organisation’s future development. • There is a strong relationship between knowledge conservation, human resource management and company policies. • Managing changes in design and/or function requires a good understanding of the different processes used within the various disciplines involved across the capability components and how they contribute to the final product and to each other. • An organisation’s goals and the manner in which it organises itself to achieve them with regard to the management of knowledge does not appear linked. Instead, focus falls on the organisational architecture and the human resource polices that it implies. • ‘Knowing’ is an individual capability and also a social one; communities of practice and networking are necessary components of an organisation’s knowledge base. • Knowing whom to ask and where to look is in a knowledge retrieval perspective nearly as important as knowing what to look for. • “Individuals know while documents, processes and tools support knowing”. This emphasises the need for a close connection between humans and IT-based knowledge repositories. • The role of IT in knowledge management can either be to correlate knowledge in people’s heads to relevant projects or to correlate individuals and knowledge in relevant projects depending on the key questions asked in the management of knowledge within the organisation. • The role of IT in determining issues related to the relevance and location of documentation differs depending of the organisation’s reliance on face to face interactions between employees as a means for communicating this information. • The capability end user is in some instances hard to define. How the end user is defined determines where the SoS boundaries are defined. It is probably better to define the boundary as a broad fuzzy border. The indeterminacy implied by this view becomes a complexity issue for management of knowledge. • The impetus to manage knowledge and how is influenced legal requirements and by the organisation’s relationships with its stakeholders including the extent it is subject to external scrutiny. Based on the research, a number of recommendations are made.





  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Sofia Ahlberg Pilfold

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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