Project Knowledge Management and Decision-Making

Introduction

This topic aims at establishing an understanding of how project managers and their teams obtain and share knowledge and the influence of the surrounding, among other factors, on their decisions. The topic covers various concepts and theories from different sources related to project management and knowledge exchange. In today’s changing markets, driven by rapid competitive pressure, organizations are forced to adapt faster by shifting from one project to another rather than stopping to reflect on experiences. In this light, it has become necessary to incorporate effective knowledge management techniques to save time and money.

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A project can be defined as an interim effort to generate a unique commodity or service. A project has a defined period, target, a budget, and a defined level of quality to be attained. However, from this definition, it becomes evident why organizations need to have a clearly defined framework of knowledge management. An organization’s success and competitiveness largely depend on how well it handles and utilizes its knowledge resources. For sustainable management of project knowledge, project managers should foster an organizational climate that reckons barriers as an aspect of a project development process (Oluikpe 2015). This aspect enhances collaboration, prevention of major impediments, and the integration of planning and reviews with learning.

Literature Review

As Heagney (2012) states, knowledge has become a major development resource and the fundamental origin of competitive edge for entities today. Gaining and applying knowledge is becoming the ultimate competitive edge that organizations can capitalize on in operations. Lal (2008) echoes this assertion by identifying that most of the top competitive organizations in the United States see their knowledge as essential for their continued stability. Knowledge resource has often been viewed as a critical contributing factor to their organizational success. However, it is not an emerging issue that they realize the essence of preserving this knowledge. Therefore, firms have embarked on the course to seek effective management practices to attain this success.

Consequently, this has introduced the concept of the initiative referred to as the management of project knowledge. Unlike the ancient days, practitioners are now aiming at the so-called lighter issues, such as the human perspective of management of project knowledge. According to Pemsel and Muller (2012), management of project knowledge is linked to human elements more than it is concerned with information technology. Therefore, this review will put more weight on human factors that ought to be factored when implementing management of project knowledge. Main themes arising will be evaluated, as well as the theories that underpin their contributions to the prosperity of the initiative. Reflections and recommendations are made concerning the relevance of management of project knowledge.

Culture

According to Ruuska and Vartiainen (2005), the type of culture that propagates within an organisation is critical to the prosperity of knowledge management. The organisational culture should be nurtured to favour knowledge management process. However, it is within the understanding of the researcher mentioned above that the culture in an organisation should be knowledge oriented to ensure that knowledge management is a success. Knowledge management thrives where organisational members have the privilege to interact freely, communicate, share, innovate and learn without fear of failure or sanctions. From this researcher’s perspective, it is evident that culture that is people-oriented is the basis for the favourable application of management of project knowledge.

Maier (2007) suggests that one of the vital success factors involves motivating people to share their information with others. However, the question arises on how organisations should realise the needed type of culture to facilitate the meaningful implementation of this initiative. Many researchers have found this question a tough one to answer. Culture is diverse, making it hard to define, and an organisation cannot decide its culture overnight. In many cases, culture is rooted in an organisation so deep that it often seems obvious when it comes to the management of project knowledge. However, ignoring organisational culture is making the first step in the wrong direction. As much culture stands out as a vital aspect of consideration, the next entails leadership.

Leadership

According to Love, Fong, and Irani (2005), support for management of project knowledge must be present in all sections in an organisation. This aspect includes senior management right down to the hierarchical system. This author emphasises that, when any project is given the concern it deserves and supported, then its application becomes easier and effective. If the top management shows gratitude and reckons the significance of the staff, then the staff will respond positively by showing enthusiasm being part of a certain project. This author seems to express no doubt that top management must ensure that they issue guidelines to all the staff if the management of project knowledge is to be prosperous in an organisation.

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Employee involvement is another factor highlighted by (Koskinen & Pihlanto 2008) proper management of project knowledge will result in positive change. This change has to be managed to in a coordinated manner. Organisations avoid uncertainties but favour predictable situations. People tend to resist change even when is meant to better the future. Since this resistance is a natural response, organisations should ensure that everyone is allowed to participate in the process. Studies have identified that workers will come out productive if they are given the mandate to initiate, plan and articulate their tasks.

Communication

Gourlay (2006) identifies communication as an integral part of successful management of project knowledge. Staff will be more organised if the essence of the initiative is well analysed to them. This author argues that staffs that experience challenges often end up making bad conclusions about the management. Such workers lose confidence and suspect the intentions of those seeking change. However, managers should stay open and honest about the motive to initiate change through the management of project knowledge. In this light, an employee should be made aware of how these changes are going to affect them, for instance, will the staffs need to undergo training or assume new duties. Communicating becomes an essential tool towards ensuring open-mindedness and a culture of trust within an organisation.

Training and Learning

Gasik (2011) defines training as the intended and organised advancement of knowledge, expertise and capabilities needed to improve performance in a certain field. The importance of training has been evidenced in the vast growing organisations. When an organisation needs to acquire a competitive advantage, then it has to embark on the quality training of its staff. When employees generate confidence and requirements needed to perform specific tasks and targets, they are less likely to fail. Training reduces interdependence and helps workers realise what knowledge is vital. This transfer of information helps an organisation gain a competitive advantage.

Continuous learning ensures that the processes are informative and helps the process as well as manage knowledge. A learning organisation knows how to improve and manage the knowledge to benefit a wider range of people. While many teams learn after events happen, a sure way to maintain a competitive advantage should entail detailed short-term strategies and plans for knowledge sharing. Managers should encourage staff to learn from each other through focusing on joint problem-solving strategies. On the other hand, reporting of failure should be discouraged to ensure that workers feel free to share knowledge. Leaders should also let team members exercise flexibility rather than creating pressure to make them act in predictable ways (Srikantaiah, Koenig, & Al-Hawamdeh 2010).

Developing Collaboration

Staffing the project with the relevant expertise right from the beginning is an essential responsibility of the management staff. For a successful project, it has to possess two kinds of team members, functional and process teams. The functional team seeks to oversee the technology of the project. The process team focuses on planning, tracking and scheduling of events. Due to this diversity of roles and responsibility, it becomes difficult to manage the project knowledge effectively. Therefore, for a successful project management knowledge handling, team leaders must nurture a culture of collaboration.

They should also ensure team members create mutual interdependence and trust among each other. Since the projects are temporary, project managers should choose team members basing on their ability to collaborate (Maier 2007). Besides, it is essential for the team managers to collocate their groups to ensure fast and effective communication and embrace interdependence. Failure by a team member should always be viewed as a failure for the entire team. When the staff can relate to a common framework, it becomes easy for them to figure out patterns hence stabilising the organisation.

Sharing project knowledge

Exchange of project knowledge can be done from various platforms within an organisation including seminars, company portals or magazines. However, a portal can be an effective way to share valuable knowledge since it can access knowledge from outside sources. It also enhances knowledge development through incentives and practices. Portal also facilitates movement of existing knowledge into intended sections of the organisation. Sharing project knowledge increases the understanding of new situations and changing it to suit the new situations (Srikantaiah, Koenig, & Al-Hawamdeh 2010).

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. Through team collaboration, it becomes easy to identify what information and skills are relevant thus maintaining competitiveness. Several ways can be used to enhance transfer of project knowledge such as creating a good understanding between the source and recipient of the knowledge and the ability of the recipient to absorb. This capability is facilitated by the presence of good interpersonal skills and the will to help each other. Knowledge sharing can also be enhanced by offering rewards since it encourages staff to value knowledge sharing over individual knowledge generation.

Anticipating Disruptions and Change

Organisational disruptions have become common in today’s marketplace. However, the kind of preparation and flexibility an organisation possesses determines the way it manages its way out of such adversities. Organisations are meant to ensure stability and predictable results. Leaders who instigate change invite disruptions and this is contrary to expectations of most organisations (Gasik 2011). Team leaders should emphasise to its members that anticipating and discussing failure aid sustain the main objective. Besides, success can only be achieved by having prior knowledge of what can sabotage a project. Failures will always happen, and thus organisations need to hold valuable lessons and training for project teams. This continuous learning can be done through sharing of experiences. Such experiences help pass down organisational memories from veterans to upcoming leaders. Furthermore, it creates a culture of consulting and honesty.

Power

The effective application of authority is a fundamental leadership skill. Managers derive their power from assisting others carry their duties since this is what reflects their performance. When the manager is tasked to oversee a project, s/he has to choose to lead by example by being a determined ethical player. Project managers should always facilitate social exchanges needed to maintain a relationship within the organisation. Managers should always lead a positive change by clarifying complex situations for the team. Moreover, they should treat their team members with value and acknowledge their talent. They should also nurture a culture of compassion and gratitude. Such appreciation helps build trust as well as unlock their positive potential.

Theories that underpin knowledge management frameworks

This section will examine several theories that explain why management of project knowledge is vital for any organisation. These theories include strategic management theory, core competencies theory, knowledge alliances theory and knowledge capability theory. Strategic management theory views knowledge as an indispensable resource that keeps organisations competitive in the marketplace. This body of theory suggests that top management should come up with defined goals and objectives to guide daily operations. However, these guidelines should be flexible and subject to alterations if the staff members see it necessary.

Core competencies theory regards organisational competencies as a fundamental resource that increases the quality production in the firm. Core competencies evolve gradually, and develop through collective learning and information sharing within the organisation. Both internal and external competition encourages a healthy contest for the acquisition of skills. In such a competitive environment, management of project knowledge becomes a priority to enhance organisational key competencies.

Knowledge alliances theory is an extension of the strategy theory since it assumes the key tenets of strategic management (Akhavan & Jafari 2006). This theory focuses on identifying knowledge deficiencies within a firm and knowledge strengths of other firms. However, knowledge alliances concentrate more on knowledge as opposed to resources. Organisational alliances encourage management to join strategic alliances with other companies to outsource knowledge, trap key competencies, or acquire new knowledge.

Knowledge capability theory argues that organisations must build capabilities to manage project knowledge as opposed to knowledge assets that can be sourced from potential partners. This theory suggests that positive organisational performance relies on effective knowledge capabilities within the organisation. This capability is needed to sustain the competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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Relevance of this topic to practice

Management of project knowledge is essential to accomplish projects. The delicate nature of projects necessitates applying meaningful knowledge handling practices for dealing with problems such as rework and leakage vital knowledge. However, due to the overload of data, knowledge management becomes exceedingly vital. The rationale for managing project knowledge includes enhancing decision-making abilities, creates learning organisations since learning is continuous and facilitates cultural change and innovativeness. The benefits of effective management of project knowledge spread to the individual, the team, the firm, the society, and eventually the world (Tseng 2010).

Enhances decision-making abilities

Currently, in complex activities there is a huge possibility of missing the intended path by teams that lack targets on their endeavours. Consequently, this leads to poor performance and waste of resources. Data provides managers with insights but when it comes to synthesising huge amounts, it becomes hard to attain effective results. Therefore, having a model for project knowledge management helps evade losing track thus allowing teams to concentrate on the productive initiatives. For instance, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) top management has knowledge management systems that assist the staff share information and advance their decisions. The management staff members hold frequent forums to share best practices that speed development, analyse challenges, failures, and design way forward (Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin 2011). When organisations ensure effective knowledge management systems, they save time and money leading to timely and highly informed decisions.

Creates learning organisations

Organisational learning can stimulate cultural change and product innovation through promoting a vast flow of ideas. When staff learns best practices of management of project knowledge, it helps streamline operations and attain targets. For example, the NASA’s agency executives carry focused workshops and capacity building forums to not only pass the latest knowledge but also open up talks and ensure cultural prosperity (Mueller 2012). This complex global market environment requires knowledge management initiatives to assist project managers to instil change and welcome ideas. This capacity building enables innovation and provides a competitive edge within an organisation.

Increases productivity

Effective management of project knowledge eases the burden on the project managers and the staff. The project is much easier when everyone understands his or her roles and responsibilities. Besides, job interdependence reduces when managers learn to transfer project knowledge to the staff. This approach dramatically reduces costs and speeds feedback. Furthermore, it minimises the employee’s tendency to repeat mistakes. Effective management of knowledge also gives organisations a better understanding of their stakeholder interests, consumer needs, as well as industry demands.

Helps increase the market share

Even though implementing knowledge management system is costly and time-consuming, in the long-term, the outcome is impressive. Due to the increased understanding among workers, they start to embrace teamwork. This team spirit translates to increased and quality production. Knowledge deficiency gaps are filled and balance achieved. Consequently, due to quality production, the demand for goods and services goes up thus expanding the market reach.

Ethical implications

Management of project knowledge is guided by an array of decisions every day. Some of these decisions are of less concern and rarely recognised while others are critical. Most of them command critical handling since they entail humans, rare resources, and the environment. Within most organisations, these issues conflict, generating confusion and great risks. Even though managers know the way out, how to do it is often a problem. It becomes a complication when stakeholder interests differ. However, ethics comes in to solve this puzzle by guiding interests and assisting tackle complex issues. The ultimate purpose of ethics is to promote the moral quality of decision-making at organisations (Yang 2007).

Fair behaviour

The issue of fair behaviour arises when employees are tasked with various duties and expected to ensure top performance. However, some complicated issues arise when determining, for instance, the level of accuracy needed for a particular task. Organisations should identify whether accuracy remains an explicit part of staff’s responsibility. To what extent should someone be needed to ensure accuracy? Organisations expect effective decision making that heavily relies on accurate information. Besides, the implications of possible error should be expected. Therefore, in the management of project knowledge, such errors should be anticipated, and workers made to feel free of criticism when such flaws are noticed (Marquardt 2006).

Knowledge ownership

Even though knowledge is embedded in individuals, it is viewed to be a possession of the company. Such appropriation and handling of project knowledge fuels conflicts between individuals and organisations making it hard to manage the project knowledge (Leseure & Brookes 2004). If not dealt with care this situation may endanger individuals’ knowledge processing ability, and create challenges to firms in managing knowledge efficiently. However, it is necessary for organisations to nurture ethical constructs of honesty, gratitude, and justice to ensure healthy knowledge management practices.

Conclusion

Organisations are quickly learning to be creative by searching for various sets of practices and means for knowledge management. Today, organisations that prioritise management of project knowledge come out strong. Effective knowledge management optimises internal performance, growth and enhances competitiveness within the marketplace. Nonetheless, it is crucial for the project managers to adopt a knowledge management criterion that matches the organisation’s demands. However, this analysis predicts that effective knowledge management at all grounds will always lead to success for any organisation.

Reference List

Akhavan, P & Jafari, M 2006, ‘Critical issues for knowledge management implementation at a national level’, VINE, vol.36, no.1, pp.52-66.

Dinsmore, P & Cabanis-Brewin, J 2011, The AMA handbook of project management, American Management Association, New York.

Gasik, S 2011, ‘A model of project knowledge management’, Project Management Journal, vol.42, no.3, pp.23-44.

Gourlay, S 2006, ‘Conceptualising Knowledge Creation: A Critique of Nonaka’s Theory’, Journal of Management Studies, vol. 43, no.7, pp.1415-1436.

Heagney, J 2012, Fundamentals of project management, American Management Association, New York.

Koskinen, K & Pihlanto, P 2008, Knowledge management in project-based companies, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Lal, H 2008, Organisational excellence through total quality management, New Age International (P) Ltd., Publishers, New Delhi.

Leseure, M & Brookes, N 2004, ‘Knowledge management benchmarks for project Management’, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol.8, no.1, pp.103-116.

Love, P, Fong, P & Irani, Z 2005, Management of knowledge in project environments, Elsevier, Oxford.

Maier, R 2007, Knowledge management systems, Springer, Berlin.

Marquardt, M 2006, Building the learning organisation, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Mueller, J 2012, ‘Knowledge sharing between project teams and its cultural Antecedents’, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol.16, no.3, pp.435-447.

Oluikpe, P 2015, ‘Knowledge creation and utilisation in project teams’, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol.19, no.2, pp.351-371.

Pemsel, S & Muller, R 2012, ‘The governance of knowledge in project-based Organisations’, International Journal of Project Management, vol.30, no.8, pp.865-876.

Ruuska, I & Vartiainen, M 2005, ‘Characteristics of knowledge sharing communities in project organisations’, International Journal of Project Management, vol.23, no.5, pp.374-379.

Srikantaiah, T, Koenig, M & Al-Hawamdeh, S 2010, Convergence of project management and knowledge management’, Scarecrow Press, Lanham.

Tseng, S 2010, ‘The correlation between organisational culture and knowledge conversion on corporate performance’, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol.14, no.2, pp.269-284.

Yang, J 2007, ‘Knowledge sharing: Investigating appropriate leadership roles and collaborative culture’, Tourism Management, vol.28, no.2, pp.530-543.

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