Friday 10 August 2018

4 management styles and how they affect KM

We know that culture and management style affects KM; here is a way of characterising management style through 2 dimensions.

The Boston Square shown here explores four management territories, and their impact on Knowledge Management.

The two axes of the square are

  • management by power v management by empowerment; i.e. how much the leadership operates through command and control, rather than through inspiration and enablement, and 
  • the levels of internal cooperation v internal competition (often reinforced by reward and recognition schemes such as forced ranking, or competitive bonuses).

These two axes give us four territories.

  • Where there is strong internal cooperation, and management by empowerment, then Knowledge Management will thrive. 
  • Where there is strong internal competition, and management by empowerment, then Knowledge Management will find things more difficult. Leaders can, if they try, use KM as a sort of coopetition tool, where the groups will cooperate to a certain extent through knowledge sharing and re-use, but will compete regarding the application of that knowledge. This is a difficult line for leaders to tread, as the internal competition can be used as an excuse not to share with and learn from each other. Sometimes people will "go underground" and share knowledge without their managers knowing, but more often the sharing is stifled.
  • Where there is strong internal cooperation and management by power, then formal Knowledge Management will find things more difficult, but informal KM may arise in unexpected ways.  Here KM definitely will go underground, and can become a way for the workers to share knowledge and gain some sort of personal power without the managers knowing. I have seen this happen in organisations, where the communities of practice become "grumbling shops". KM can turn from being a grassroots movement to a workers revolutionary force. You can see an extreme geopolitical version of this in the "Arab Dawn" where Government by Power met a collaborative and networked populace.
  • Where there is strong internal competition, and management by power, then Knowledge Management will never take off. Everyone will keep their knowledge to themselves. 

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