Key Strategies to Maintain Competitive Advantage

This research is designed to reply the inquiry What are the cardinal characteristics of a Knowledge Management Strategy which can lend to competitory advantage for UK knowledge-based SMEs in the high-technology fabrication sector? ‘

The research worker works for an SME which manufactures hi-tech optical maser processing tools. The company relies on a scheme of distinction, where attempt is concentrated on high-level R & A ; D to keep technological domination over its rivals. The bulk of employees are ‘knowledge workers ‘ with specializer accomplishments, working in research groups or undertaking squads.

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Using a PESTEL model ( Johnson and Scholes, 2008: 99 ) to analyze the external environment high spots the dependance of the concern on the Technological factors. It is indispensable that the house capitalises on its nucleus competences of proficient cognition and invention to keep competitory advantage. The company ‘s growing from 30 to 80 people has changed the working environment from a ‘family ‘ ambiance with a ‘Simple ‘ construction in Mintzberg ‘s ( 1979 ) categorization to a more ‘Functional ‘ construction. Cross-functional undertaking squads are formed for client undertakings. There is a strong dependance on single proficient cognition and accomplishments with mostly informal systems for cognition transportation based on personal contact. The effectivity of this attack is now limited by the size of the administration. A cognition direction ( KM ) scheme is needed to guarantee that cognition sharing is a portion of mundane pattern and that single cognition becomes a portion of the organizational memory. These jobs of KM are common in high-technology SMEs where there is a high dependance on cognition workers. There is much range for research in this country, illustrated by Staples et Al. ( 2001 ) which highlights forty-two unreciprocated research inquiries in the direction of knowledge-based endeavors.

Knowledge Management

Although the construct of cognition as an plus has long been recognised, growing of the field of cognition direction was chiefly through the 1990 ‘s and now forms a staple portion of a consultancy toolkit. KM has been driven by the development of a ‘knowledge economic system ‘ where concerns must continually accommodate and utilize their cognition efficaciously to keep competitory advantage. Allee ( 2007 ) proposes that this ‘requires a extremist inspection and repair of the old cognition equation: knowledgeA =A power, so hoard it ‘ to ‘knowledgeA =A power, so portion it and it will multiply ‘ Allee ( 1997, p.71 ) . Nonaka and Takeuchi ( 1995 ) point out that the benefit from KM lies with the possible for cognition creative activity to take to invention, which in bend provides the footing for competitory advantage. Teece ( 2001 ) attributes superior public presentation to the ability of houses to be good at introducing, protecting intangible and hard to copy cognition assets and utilizing those assets efficaciously.

The field of KM has two distinguishable governments ( Tidd et al. , 2001 ) . The first has its footing in investing in IT ( i.e. intranet ) and the 2nd in people and processes promoting employees to ‘identify, shop, portion and usage ‘ cognition throughout the administration. It is clear that the organizational facets of KM must be addressed to to the full gain the benefits of the engineering. Tidd et Al. provinces there are five chief types of KM scheme. These are ripple ( bottom-up uninterrupted betterment ) , integrating ( functional cognition into procedures ) , implanting ( matching systems, merchandises and services ) , span ( fresh combination of bing competences ) and transportation ( bing cognition in new context ) . The optimal cognition scheme is likely to be a mix of these and will depend on the construction and civilization of the administration, the market environment and the handiness of resources.

Knowledge Sharing and Organisational Memory in High-Tech SMEs

For big houses, organizational design and formal processs form the footing for cognition integrating. In contrast, for high-technology SMEs, the function of senior direction is far more of import in the integrating of technological cognition in production and selling, make up one’s minding on investings, and inventing scheme to work cognition competences. Tidd et Al. ( 2001, p.156 ) states that it is the directors ‘level of proficient and organizational accomplishments ‘ which determine whether they ‘will be able to develop and commercially work a firm-specific technological advantage ‘ . Though as houses grow, it is clear that organizational design, procedures and civilization demand to be developed to keep and further the environment of cognition sharing which was built-in in the smaller administration.

The five chief acquisition activities described by Garvin ( 1993 ) are ‘systematic job resolution, experimentation, larning from experience, larning from others and transportation of cognition rapidly and expeditiously throughout the administration ‘ . For hi-tech SMEs pattern is frequently missing in the application of past experience and the systematic recording and sharing of frequently silent cognition throughout the concern. McAdam and Reid ( 2001 ) compared SMEs to larger administrations and found they had a deficiency of investing in formal KM. The deficiency of formal recording and transportation procedures in SMEs was besides demonstrated by Woodcock et Al. ( 2000 ) .

Swart and Kinnie ( 2003 ) used a case-study attack to analyze organizational construction and processes which successfully promote cognition sharing in a knowledge-intensive hi-tech SME. They conclude that organizational size is non needfully an obstruction to knowledge integrating, nevertheless people and KM policies are critical for success. This is supported by Chaston et Al. 2001 who show that to advance acquisition and the effectual usage of cognition, the acceptance of formalistic procedures is required.

Research Aims

The purpose of this research is to understand the features of the houses and their merchandises which determine the success of different types of scheme in sharing and utilizing cognition and retaining organizational memory. The research aims can be summarised as follows:

To place cognition schemes in operation in SMEs in the high-technology fabrication sector.

To analyze the importance of cognition direction and understand how the schemes and patterns in operation contribute positively or negatively to competitory advantage.

To understand the patterns which enable the development of organizational memory.

To understand the features, construction and merchandises of a house which determine the success of different types of cognition scheme.

To develop a list of cardinal patterns and a path for execution of a successful cognition scheme for an SME in the high-technology fabrication sector.

Research Methodology

Methodological Approach and Design

The field of KM lends itself to a phenomenological research doctrine as the capable affair is dependent on the organizational fortunes and single behavior and perceptual experiences ( Saunders, M, 2008 ) . The reading of research results is subjective, with accent placed on the underlying significance and apprehension of phenomena ( Estaby- Smith et Al 2008 ) . The analysis of the research will be mostly qualitative, nevertheless quantitative analysis will besides be used to foreground forms and do the analysis more robust. The findings will be compared to theory in context in order to depict the forms which exist. An inductive attack will be used in order to develop theory as a consequence of the research findings, although there will be an component of tax write-off in that the construction of the research will based on the academic literature ( Saunders M et Al 2008 ) .

The research will be performed as a series of instance surveies utilizing a mixture of structured interviews and questionnaires. The instances chosen all have the undermentioned features: SME, high-technology fabrication sector, important R & A ; D map as a footing for merchandise development, UK based.

3.2 The research Methods

The method selected is likely to be that of instance surveies chosen through personal networking and sweet sand verbena sampling to happen a figure of administrations with the needed features. Effort was besides made to choose a scope of administrations with different features such as markets, sizes and life-spans, so the sample has a mix of homogeneous and heterogenous features. Within the instance surveies the interviewees will be senior directors who understood the KM patterns and concern environment. I intend to interview one direction participant from each administration ( Saunders M et Al 2008 ) . The study participants will be either all, or at least 10, of the employees working in research or related countries, depending on the size of the company. As this is non statistical research, but needs to canvas the positions of the right subdivision of the administration, therefore the figure of participants per administration is non critical, but should take to be representative.

The semi-structured interviews may get down with an organizational questionnaire to derive company information such as figure of employees, figure of research staff, one-year turnover, market sector, merchandises ( type, figure of different merchandises, merchandise volume and value ) . The balance will cover a series of unfastened ended inquiries to discourse the KM patterns in order to derive an apprehension of the attack taken, the construction and effectivity, how and why certain schemes work whilst others are less effectual. Each participant will be asked to reply indistinguishable inquiries, but the order of the inquiries mayl non needfully be fixed as this may take away from the flow of the interview. ( Research book )

The study is intended to supplement informations from interviews and sample more widely the patterns and single perceptual experiences in the administration. The purpose is to derive an apprehension of how the cognition schemes work and besides the sentiments and apprehension of the employees. The questionnaire will hold structured inquiries with fit responses in order to map the KM features of the administration ( Britton, 1998 )[ 1 ]. There will besides be unfastened inquiries for participants to do remarks on the assorted facets of KM in their administration.

My attack to the design of the interview and study is as follows:

Preliminary model built on the reappraisal of theory from academic literature prior to design of questionnaires and structured interviews

Pilot interview – restructure the inquiries as necessary

Pilot usage of questionnaire – restructure the inquiries as necessary

Interviews – notes taken during entering cardinal words and phrases and making full record instantly after interview

Survey – questionnaires explained and handed out/ collected during session

Data Collection and Analysis

The research worker intends to execute the research in the administration where he/ she is employed and hence has been granted entree to transport out the interviews and study. In add-on, It is believed that the research worker may necessitate at least 4 other administrations to do a comparing of the KM patterns and their effectivity. Contact of nine administrations has been made obtaining verbal understanding for entree from three of them so far. The research worker is confident that he will be able to derive the needed figure of take parting administrations, nevertheless if he will hold less participants, the research shall be somewhat modified in attack and increase the figure of interviews and study participants at each administration and finish a more in-depth survey. ( Saunders M et al 2008 )

In order to do the procedure run swimmingly and to obtain a speedy and efficient response to the studies the research worker intends to run one or two Sessionss in the administration where all of the participants will be present and during which he will manus out and roll up the questionnaires. This will both guarantee a high response rate and that the right participants answer the study. In add-on, it will enable the research worker to explicate clearly the purposes of the research, command how the study is administered and do clear the type of information required for the open-ended portion of the questionnaires. ( Estaby-Smith et al 2008 )

Using the inductive attack, the analysis of the interviews will be largely qualitative, with the interviews used to understand the concern environment, characterise cognition schemes and canvas single sentiment on their effectivity. Quantitative analysis of the questionnaires will be used to map the features of the administrations and discover forms in the responses within administrations. Consideration of the informations and forms found in all of the administrations will be used in concurrence with academic theory to seek to explicate the findings and reply the research aims posed in subdivision 2.

Validity and Reliability

In the design of the research attack I have considered the followers:

Internal cogency – Increased through usage of multiple beginnings of grounds, structured interviews and questionnaires ( both closed and unfastened inquiries ) . The design of inquiries and study will be based on apprehension of the theory from the literature and pilot testing of the interview and questionnaire will be used to do certain inquiries are understood as intended. ( Saunders M et all 2008 )

External cogency – Multiple instances considered to analyze whether findings can be generalised over a figure of administrations. There is no demand to do a statistical analysis of the consequences for generalization here as the attack chosen examines patterns and their effectivity. The purpose is to explicate the findings and explore generalisability through a comparing of findings with theory.

Reliability – Structured interviews with inquiries derived from literature in order to analyze instances in same manner. Surveies to endorse up the interviews and obtain positions from a wider group. Questionnaires all administered at the same clip and in controlled mode, account to guarantee participants all understand research in same manner. ( Saunders M et al 2008 )

Research Ethical motives

Please see Appendix A to this proposal, the Business School Ethics Review Form. This covers the chief points to be addressed here, but in drumhead:

The interviewees and study participants will be given a clear written description of the intent, range and intended results of the research. The type of information required for the research will be clearly stated as will the policy for namelessness and confidentiality.

The research will be carried out in a manner that will guarantee confidentiality of the participant administrations and the single participants in the studies. The administrations which participate in the research will non be named in the thesis, nor will the interviewees and the questionnaires will be anon. .

The interview inquiries and questionnaire will be designed to analyze merely the patterns of KM, no confidential merchandise or client information will be required. Even so, I have highlighted this country for possible ethical struggle in subdivision 5 of the Ethics Review Form. This is because confidential information may be discussed in the interviews and besides commented upon in the questionnaires, this information will non be included in a manner which will transgress confidentiality in the thesis.

Timescale and Resources

The program for the research undertaking timescales is shown in the Gannt chart below. In drumhead, there are the undermentioned considerations in the undertaking program:

Literature reappraisal -Already performed background literature hunt to assist explicate research thoughts, anticipate farther extended period of research before composing the Literature Review. Final literature study before completion of the manuscript to cover any freshly published work.

Questionnaire/ Interview Design – Have signifier of questionnaire which needs accommodating for usage. Intend to plan the structured interview and questionnaire after the bulk of the literature reappraisal is complete, will both be piloted and their design reviewed.

Interviews and Surveys -Visit participant administrations to transport out interviews and studies during March and April 2004. Visits booked in December 2003, so reconfirmed during February 2004. An efficient and rapid response is expected as studies issued and collected whilst at the participant administrations.

Data Analysis -Structured interviews with responses analysed qualitatively. Surveys coded and responses analysed quantitatively.

Dissertation Drafts – Produce bill of exchanges of the thesis subdivisions for content treatment with supervisor throughout the timescale below[ 2 ], so bill of exchange thesis will be of needed criterion with merely minor alteration required for entry.

The chief resource required to transport out the research is my clip, I have the support of my employers to transport out this research and I will be able to take yearss out of work to see the participant administrations. I have the agencies to see the participants ( who are all in the UK ) and besides to analyze the information and compose up the thesis.

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