Organisational Culture can be defined as the collection of traditions, values, policies, beliefs and attutudes that constitute a pervasive context for everything we do and think in an organisation. The success of implementing an effective knowledge management system would depend on the culture of the organisation and its priority in sharing and learning knowledge. Many of the ideas and concepts now being used in the new term “knowledge management” have their roots in the learning organisation. The culture in this organisation sounds ideal, it’s the type of company in which we might all like to work for.
The picture that is painted of this type of organisation is one that is ultimately highly flexible and open-minded. It is able to continually transform itself and learn from experience and thus always be ready to take advantage of changing external conditions. In order to promote knowledge management systems an organisation must be able to promote a climate that is conducive to learning. Knowledge of the organisational culture is a critical factor in understanding the extent to which learning is valued. The ultimate success of knowledge management depends on a supportive culture.
If knowledge management is to be an integrated aspect of how work gets done in an enterprise, it must become an integrated aspect of the culture. Culture, which is mainly shaped by people, is a basic building block to knowledge management and is a powerful force. It must be considered when introducing a knowledge management programme because it affects how the enterprise accepts and fosters that programme. Usually new programmes are overlaid onto the culture, that is, typically introduced and added onto the existing culture, instead of being integrated into it.
In other words, the culture is neither examined nor altered as to its ‘fit’. The beliefs, values, systems, policies and management styles in place within the culture will work against the knowledge management overlay. If the culture does not support knowledge management, obstacles continue to appear and eventually derail its success. Employees within the enterprise may continue to attend knowledge management and sharing workshops, only to return to a non-supportive culture. Because of the lack of results, the enterprise rationalizes that ‘knowledge management does not work.
‘ Today, however, enterprises have realized the need to manage knowledge and information as a critical way of accomplishing sustained business advantage. Enterprises are restructuring and continually implementing programmes that will ensure business success. However, the mistake they make is that the changes are just being overlaid onto the culture. Introducing a formalized knowledge management programme within an enterprise, like any other adjustment, requires a culture that supports and nurtures the programme
If enterprises are to be successful in managing their knowledge, there needs to be consistency in support and a reduction of obstacles. This does not imply that the knowledge culture will be the same in all enterprises embarking on knowledge management. There should be an assessment of the existing culture and a need for an enlightened and conscious decision to make the necessary changes to the culture for the knowledge management programme to succeed. People and culture can be viewed as primary enablers to the success of knowledge management.
The two are very closely related since people are a critical element in the organizational culture, as culture is about the values, beliefs, norms and behaviours that people have in the enterprise. People play a very crucial role in creating the right culture for knowledge management. They have the knowledge in their heads and should be encouraged to share their knowledge with others by making their knowledge explicit. Effective knowledge management requires creating a supportive, collaborative culture and eliminating traditional rivalries.
An enterprise cannot succeed in the attempt to formalize knowledge management unless it attaches the critical missing link, corporate culture, to the change effort. Therefore, enterprise leaders should not ignore corporate culture. Rather, it should be addressed in the enterprise’s mission, vision and goal statements as well as emphasized in enterprise-sponsored training and enterprise communication in order to ensure successful implementation of knowledge management.