Social Technical Theory in Knowledge Management Essay

ITM 501 Module 1 Case Assignment By Social Technical Theory in Knowledge Management May 20, 2010 Henry David Thoreau once said, “True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance”. (Lewis 2006) If we look at friendship as an organization, and relationships within, you will find that Thoreau’s statement is relevant to knowledge management. Information sharing between divisions, branches, and individuals is critical to the success of all.

Additionally, John Adams has stated, “The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of rich men in the country”. (Lewis 2006) This directly supports Thoreau’s concept that (business) relationships will not fall apart with full disclosure or education, and reinforces the idea that seeking knowledge and access to knowledge is important, even in the lowest levels of organizational structure. In my attempt to examine or explain the application of Social Technical Theory in Knowledge Management, I must first define the key terms and their individual principles.

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After you define the terms and understand how each is applied to the worker and the work center, you can begin to examine the affect of knowledge management on organizational learning and organizational knowledge. The Social Technical Approach is the understanding or consideration of two major principles when developing new innovations and technology. The designer considers the humanistic and the benefits of applying the new technology which includes the interaction of the two. At a glance this seems to be a simple deduction, technology makes our lives easier and more efficient.

However with every introduction of technology, a human worker’s occupation either gets reduced or eliminated. Social Technical Theory is theory about the social aspects of people and society which includes the technical aspects of machines and technology. Socio-technical refers to the interrelatedness of social and technical aspects of an organization. Socio-technical theory therefore is about joint optimization, with a shared emphasis on achievement of both excellence in technical performance and quality in people’s work lives.

Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice. Organizational knowledge is the data collected as you go through process of learning. Organizational knowledge can also be the knowledge and experience that individual members bring to the table. Denham Grey likens knowledge to be “… action, focused innovation, pooled expertise, special relationships and alliances. (Newman 2002) The knowledge management process is critical where innovation and creativity is essential for an organization’s success. Global competition, the advancement of technology and communication tools and systems, more effective, efficient processes, demanding customers, and the drive for improving financial performance has created a shorter shelf-life for products and services and the need to improve and differentiate what an organization delivers to its customers in the shortest time possible from idea creation to market.

An effective knowledge management process can excel an organization’s effectiveness and growth as well as drive more learning in order for them to be even more effective. It has become apparent that an organization’s sustainability may be linked to how effective is its knowledge management process. CIO’s Introduction to Knowledge management points out that “better collaboration is not an end in itself; without an overarching business context, KM is meaningless at best and harmful at worst” (Levinson, 2007).

Levinson also talks about how organizations must be willing to toss out extraneous information, recognize valuable information, and realize that “not all information is valuable”. (Levinson, 2007) The position of knowledge management traffic cop is key to the rate at which an organization is able to learn. A single repository for the assembly and deployment of tools and applications is critical to the success of a KM program. Levinson also warns that KM is not just about a web portal, collaborative data base, or other electronic tools.

It’s about Social Network Analysis (SNA) – how does knowledge thread its way through an organization, and does everyone speak the same language. Social Network Analysis is a diagnostic method for collecting and analyzing data about the patterns of relationships among people in groups. Applied to knowledge management, SNA can identify patterns of interaction in an enterprise, including its properties, such as the average number of links between people in an organization, the number and qualities of subgroups, information bottlenecks and knowledge brokers.

SNA provides a view into the network of relationships that gives knowledge managers leverage to: • Improve the flow of knowledge and information; • Acknowledge the thought leaders and key information brokers (and bottlenecks); • Target opportunities where increased knowledge flow will have the most impact on your bottom line. The method includes a simple survey that requests that people in an organization indicate their rating of the importance of a given class of information and the person who holds it, as well as the frequency and quality of interactions with that person.

Visualization tools process the data to produce a snapshot view of the patterns of knowledge flow in the network. An organization needs to understand what knowledge it has and what knowledge it needs to achieve its objectives. It must decide how to acquire the knowledge it doesn’t have as well as how to capture, transfer, store, and make accessible the knowledge it possesses. It must decide what knowledge is accessible to whom and for the employees, what knowledge it needs and how to access it when they need it. References: Levinson, M. March 7, 2007) ABC: An Introduction to Knowledge Management (KM): The basic guide to Knowledge Management (KM). Retrieved May 20, 2010 from http://www. cio. com/article/40343/ABC An Introduction to Knowledge Management KM Lewis, J. J. (2006) Knowledge Quotes From Wisdom Quotes: Quotations to inspire and challenge. Retrieved May 20, 2010 from http://wisdomquotes. com/cat_knowledge. html Newman, B. D. (2002) KM Forum Archives – Denham Grey offers the following views on knowledge and knowledge management. Retrieved May 20, 2010 from [email protected] org


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