Strategic Knowledge Management in Multinational Organizations

Vittal S. Anantatmula (Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina, USA)


ISSN: 0305-5728

Article publication date: 11 April 2008




Anantatmula, V.S. (2008), "Strategic Knowledge Management in Multinational Organizations", VINE, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 148-149.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Multinational organizations differ from traditional organizations in several aspects, all of which have an impact on how we manage people, and other resources. Differences such as culture, language, time zones, and less opportunity for face‐to‐face interactions will have an impact on communication. Further, differences in legal, regulatory, economic, and social environments are some of the other important aspects that we should be concerned about. Needless to say, these differences will have an impact on how we organize and implement knowledge management (KM) practices in multinational organizations. A suggested approach for this book would be to review the chapters from the standpoint of these differences.

This book has 22 chapters. Following Baldanza and Stankosky's popular KM four‐pillar model, these chapters are grouped into four general sections namely, organization, technology, learning, and leadership.

Section I – Organization

Knowledge management systems must be developed such that they are in agreement with and integral to the organization's structure and culture. Knowledge transfer is often hindered by structure of the organization and its work culture. Human resources Management (HRM) practices can help us overcome knowledge transfer barriers (chapter 1). A conceptual model of commitment‐based network strategy is presented for added value from relationships with suppliers, and customers. Using case studies, authors of the chapter 3 conclude that global organizations should focus on building communities of practice to overcome cultural differences. A contextually sensitive framework that recognizes the diversity in the organization's operating environment is presented in chapter 5 as a starting point for multinational organizations that accord importance to KM. Using a case‐study approach; chapter 6 presents a research study on the impact of culture on KM. In this study, the authors found that bureaucratic culture seems to have a propensity towards process‐based KM.

Section II – Technology

KM technology tools are developed to promote creation, transfer, and utilization of knowledge. In geographically dispersed teams that are integral part of global organizations, technology plays a critical role to facilitate collaborative efforts. However, technology must have common platform and be compatible. Rapid technological advances, however highly desirable, present some challenges. Chapter 7 explores the relationship between KM technology change within the organization and the theory of organizational loss of effectiveness.

Research has demonstrated the difficulty of associating investments in technology with business performance. Suggesting the need for a service‐oriented architecture to KM solutions, In chapter 8, the generic KM architecture is presented to discuss its implementation, and maturity levels of KM. Contending that many IS and KM efforts often do not deliver intended results, authors of the chapter 10, as a remedy, suggest the use of data, information, and knowledge from the organization's cultural and political perspectives.

Section III – Learning

Leveraging knowledge often leads to learning both at individual and organization levels. Obviously, learning should lead to improved productivity, and desired business performance. However, global organizations offer some unique challenges to the collaborative learning environment such as language barriers, differences in work and management cultures, and attitude towards work. Chapter 11 underlines the importance of host country workforce input in developing these strategies. Chapter 12 presents critical success factors to establish best practice standards for KM. Research joint ventures use structural KM approach to be more innovative (chapter 15). An interesting approach for multinational organizations is discussed in chapter 16, which recommends adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) because it supports learning and customer‐focus thereby creating knowledge about global markets in various countries. Top management attitude, IT vision, culture of openness and trust, and knowledge structure are considered important for enterprise system implementation, which affect learning (chapter 17) throughout the organization.

Section IV – Leadership

Due to decentralized structures, multinational organizations face the challenge of avoiding knowledge gaps. Such organizations must focus on controlling the diversity of processes while nurturing creativity (chapter 18). Virtual teams and outsourcing are commonly employed in global organizations. Effective use of IT, and communication technologies play an important role in managing and leading KM initiatives using virtual teams and outsourcing (chapter 19).

This book can be a good reference for academicians and KM working professionals.

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