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Systemic organisational knowledge management: an action research study in a high-performance sport institute

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posted on 05.02.2020, 11:42 by Divyata Sohal
Knowledge management (KM) is increasingly gaining significance in the academic and professional realms as a source of organisational competitive advantage. However, despite the promise of competitive advantage, knowledge management initiatives can sometimes be unsuccessful. Historically, the discipline of knowledge management has multidisciplinary roots in various organisational sciences. Added to that, there exist multiple definitions and perspectives in the field, all influencing the way in which knowledge management is implemented in organisations. Further, the organisational context in turn plays a key role in outlining the knowledge management strategy. As such, there is a lack of a standard framework for knowledge management implementation, adding to the dilemma of how organisations plan and implement knowledge management.

The knowledge management literature points to the need for an integrated effort for knowledge management implementation, embracing the complexity inherent in the field marked by the interconnectedness of multiple critical success factors, networks of knowledge and the critical role of knowledge management in facilitating competitive advantage. Knowledge audits have been cited as the critical first step in the design and implementation of knowledge management practice. However, the current knowledge audit methodologies in the literature predominantly adopt a systematic, snapshot and fragmented approach to inquiry conducted by external consultants in order to recommend and design independent knowledge management solutions. This appears to be at odds with the need for an integrated effort for knowledge management implementation.

This research contributes to the knowledge audit literature by rethinking the audit methodology. A knowledge management review methodology is proposed emphasising a systemic and iterative approach to inquiry, facilitated by the embeddedness of the researcher in the context. The study contributes by arguing that knowledge management practice that is systemically embedded across the organisation is more likely to be sustainable and resilient to changes in the context and provide continuous competitive advantage. The knowledge management review methodology draws from an interaction of three action research approaches, insider action research, systemic action research and critical participatory action research, to contribute to theoretical understanding and practice of knowledge audits.

The research is conducted in a high-performance sport institute where the researcher was embedded as an employee. The case study organisation is further recognised as a knowledge intensive firm and a public-sector organisation, with specialised and esoteric knowledge that interacts in multilinear ways to facilitate the attainment of the organisation’s strategic objectives. As such, the case study organisation presents a unique opportunity to conduct and review the methodology for informing their knowledge management practice. The iterative and systemic approach to inquiry, facilitated by the interaction between the three action research approaches, was instrumental in simultaneously enhancing the learning across the organisation and facilitating systemic organisational knowledge management.
The research further positions itself amongst the ongoing debates on the future of the discipline of knowledge management, emphasising true systemic integration of knowledge management practice in the organisational context, functions and objectives for sustained competitive advantage.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


Loughborough Universirty

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© Divyata Sohal

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




Gillian Ragsdell

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