Personalization and codification at NASA : a case of an evolving knowledge management strategy

Moll, John Kieren Quarry (2019-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : Ikujiro Nonaka proposed the distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge in his classic paper “The knowledge-creating company”. Nonaka’s archetypes proved foundational for the field of knowledge management, dominating subsequent theoretical discourse and strongly influencing knowledge management strategy in the years that followed. The influence of Nonaka’s tacit-versus-explicit distinction on knowledge management strategy can be seen most clearly in a paper published by Hansen, Nohria and Tierney entitled “What is your strategy for Managing Knowledge?” in the Harvard Business Review. Building on Nonaka’s tacit-versus-explicit distinction, Hansen et al. contend that an organization’s knowledge management strategy must either focus on codification or on personalization, highlighting how each of these strategies exhibits distinct organizational characteristics and warning that attempting to straddle both strategies risks organizational failure. While Nonaka’s tacit-explicit paradigm remains influential as a foundational concept in knowledge management, Hansen et al.’s extension of this concept has subsequently been criticized and disproved by several authors. This thesis takes a fresh look at Hansen et al.’s theory in the context of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to determine whether NASA conforms to Hansen et al.’s theory and whether this conformity/non-conformity has any effect on NASA’s effectiveness as a knowledge organization as predicted by Hansen et al. However, while authors to-date have focused on whether an organization conforms to one of Hansen et al.’s extreme archetypes, none have looked at the evolution of an organization’s knowledge management practices over time through the lens of Hansen et al. NASA is a knowledge-intensive organization with a long and publicly-available record that not only documents its of knowledge management practices but also its successes and failures as well as the considerations that shaped its knowledge management strategy. This analysis uses the organizational characteristics identified by Hansen et al. to evaluate NASA’s current competitive strategy, knowledge-economics model, knowledge management strategy, I.T. strategy and human resources strategy. The analysis also shows how NASA’s previous knowledge management strategies focused alternately on personalization and then on codification, and how NASA experienced and responded to the respective limitations of each strategy. The results of the analysis show that NASA cannot be classified as either pursuing an archetypical codification or personalization strategy, and that despite straddling both strategies the organization is showing a strong positive performance.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Ikujiro Nonaka het in sy klassieke artikel "The Knowledge Creating Company" 'n onderskeid tussen stilswyende en eksplisiete kennis getref wat in die veld van kennisbestuur 'n fundamentele onderskeid geword het en die teoretiese diskoers oorheers het. Die onderskeid het onder meer die kennisbestuurstrategie in die daaropvolgende jare sterk beïnvloed. Hierdie invloed is duidelik waarneembaar in 'n belangrike artikel deur Hansen, Nohria en Tierney, getiteld "Wat is jou strategie vir die bestuur van kennis?" in die Harvard Business Review. Die artikel beweer dat 'n organisasie se kennisbestuurstrategie óf moet fokus op kodifikasie of op personalisasie, en beklemtoon hoe elk van hierdie strategieë met afsonderlike organisatoriese eienskappe gepaardgaan en waarsku dat 'n poging om beide strategieë te volg waarskynlik onsuksesvol sal wees. Terwyl Nonaka se idees steeds 'n invloedryke grondbeginsel van kennisbestuur is, het verskeie latere outeurs Hansen et al. se toepassing van hierdie idees op kennisbestuurstrategie gekritiseer. Hierdie tesis oorweeg Hansen et al se teorie in die konteks van die "National Aeronautics and Space Administration" (NASA) om te bepaal of die organisasie se kennisbestuurstrategie Hansen et al. se teorie gestand doen en of enige effek op NASA se doeltreffendheid as 'n kennisorganisasie soos voorspel deur Hansen et al. naspeurbaar is. Hoewel skrywers tot op datum gefokus het op die vraag of 'n organisasie aan een van Hansen et al. se uiterste argetipes voldoen of nie, het niemand tot dusver na die evolusie van 'n organisasie se kennisbestuurstrategie en praktyke gekyk deur die lens van Hansen et al. se teorie nie. NASA is 'n kennisintensiewe organisasie met 'n lang en publiek toeganklike dokumentasie van die kennisbestuurspraktyke wat gevolg is, sowel as oor suksesse en mislukkings, en die oorwegings wat bepalend vir hulle kennisbestuurstrategie was. Hierdie analise gebruik die organisatoriese eienskappe wat deur Hansen et al. geïdentifiseer is om NASA se huidige strategie, kennis-ekonomiese model, kennisbestuurstrategie, informasie tegnologie strategie en menslike hulpbronne strategie te evalueer. Die analise toon hoe NASA se vorige kennisbestuurstrategieë afwisselend gefokus het op personalisering en kodifikasie, en hoe NASA die onderskeie beperkings van elke strategie ervaar het en daarop gereageer het. Die resultate van die analise toon dat NASA nie geklassifiseer kan word as 'n organisasie met 'n tipiese kodifikasie- of personaliseringsstrategie nie, en dat die organisasie, ten spyte van Hansen et al. se argument, 'n sterk positiewe prestasie getoon het.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105983
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