Organizational Cultural Theory and Research Administration Knowledge Management.

Author:Lehman, Dwayne W.
 
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Background and Objectives

Research conducted at colleges and universities is big business. It is an integral part of a institution's mission and represents a significant portion of the academic activity on campuses. The research endeavors can increase the prestige and competitive standing of the institution (Turk-Bicakci & Brint, 2005). In response to this climate, higher education institutional leaders are promoting and developing more complex research strategies that include interdisciplinary, intercollegiate, and international collaborations (Derrick & Nickson, 2014; Langley & Huff Ofosu, 2007; Rutherford & Langley, 2007; Turk-Bicakci & Brint, 2005). As the political and global environment of sponsored research at universities increase, so do the management, fiscal accountability, and reporting requirements of research projects (Lintz, 2008; Rutherford & Langley, 2007; Smith, Trapani, Decrappeo, & Kennedy, 2011). These factors have expanded the administrative requirements of research and increased the essential domain of knowledge that research administrators must possess to accomplish their responsibilities.

The administration and management of research at an institution of higher education is a multifaceted task that spans an institution. Collectively research administrators at institutions of higher education form a community of practice. A community of practice is defined as a group of people, who share a craft or profession (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Research administration across institutions of higher education also forms a type of organization. March and Simon (1993) define an organization as a "system of coordinated action among individuals or groups whose preferences, information, interests, or knowledge differ" (Organizations, p. 2). An organization survives through the control of information, formation of an identity, creation of shared stories and incentivizing acceptable behaviors (March & Simon, 1993).

Research administration represents the business support necessary for the success of any exploratory initiative (Kulakowski & Chronister, 2006). The collection of knowledge that research administrators are required to grasp in order to accomplish their duties spans a diverse range of disciplines. These professionals require a working knowledge of business and project management, and the legal, ethical, scientific, and fiscal components of academic research (Kulakowski & Chronister, 2006; Shambrook & Roberts, 2011). In order for the profession to grow and evolve, this knowledge has to be collected, categorized, and shared among the research administration community of practice. The successful management of knowledge in any organization is highly influenced by culture. Applying organizational culture theory to the research administration profession and exploring the shared artifacts, espoused beliefs, values, and basic underlying assumptions of research administration, reveals common barriers to knowledge management and opportunities for creating a knowledge-sharing research administration community of practice.

Knowledge and knowledge management

Knowledge is the most valuable resource in any organization. It is the cornerstone of an institution's competitive strategy and necessary for an organization's survival (Davenport & Prusak, 1998; Naserieh, Pourkiani, Ziaadini, & Fahim, 2012; Serban & Luan, 2002; Schmitz, Rebelo, Gracia, & Tomas, 2014). Knowledge enables a person to interpret incoming information and data about a situation and identify the implications of that information to either take action or ignore it (Steyn, 2004). Davenport and Prusak (1998) provide a comprehensive definition of knowledge:

Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms. (p. 5) Knowledge differs from data or information. Data is a collection of separate, objective facts about an event that can be measured qualitatively or quantitatively, but provides no interpretation, or basis for action (Davenport & Prusak, 1998; Serban & Luan, 2002). Information is data that has been given shape and organized in some manner by the members of an organization to be relevant and purposeful (Davenport & Prusak, 1998; Drucker, 1988, O'Dell & Grayson, 1998). Knowledge therefore, "is the application of experience and judgement to information by an individual, group or organziation" (Serban & Luan, 2002, p. 8). Knowledge results when people personally transform information into their personal knowledge, store it, and use it to create new knowledge.

Knowledge can be characterized as having two forms: explicit and tacit. Explicit and tacit knowledge are not mutually exclusive, but coexist within an institution at the individual, group, and organizational levels (O'Dell & Grayson, 1998; Sabherwal & Becerra-Fernandez, 2003; Serban & Luan, 2002). Explicit knowledge is found in an organization's policies, procedure manuals, and institutional documents such as the mission, vision and value statements and is easily codified, stored and transferred (Gao, Meng, & Clarke, 2008; Kidwell, Vander-Linde, & Johnson, 2000). Tacit knowledge is personal and individualized. It is created and validated by personal experience, contextualized in specific situations, influenced by personal values, and cannot be easily communicated or transferred (Cardoso, Meireles, & Ferreira Peralta, 2012; Kidwell et al., 2000; Nonaka, 1994; Polanyi 1966). It is the management of this knowledge, specifically tacit knowledge, that promises to deliver huge returns for organizations and occupations that learn use it effectively (Kidwell et al., 2000).

Management of this knowledge is critical to the success of the profession of research administration and the institutions in which research administrators work. Knowledge management in higher education can lead to better decision-making capabilities, reduce costs, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of academic and administrative services by transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge (Kidwell et al., 2000; Steyn, 2004). Knowledge management can be defined as the systematic process of identifying, capturing, and transferring the know-how, experience, and intellectual capital of people within organizations (Davenport & Prusak, 1998; Nonaka, 1994; Steyn, 2004). There are six phases in the knowledge management process according to Cardoso (as cited in Schmitz et al., 2014): creation and acquisition; attribution of meaning; sharing and diffusion; organization memory; measurement; and recovering. "The success of a knowledge management program is measured using the dimensions of the impact on business processes, strategy, leadership, organizational culture, and the efficiency and effectiveness of knowledge management processes" (Jennex, Smolnik, & Croasdell, 2009, p. 183).

A key component of knowledge management is to create new knowledge within an organization, thus promoting its continued existence and value to stakeholders (Nonaka, 1994). The same is true for the profession of research administration. Knowledge management initiatives are accomplished by making intellectual capital available to others (Nonaka, 1994; Steyn, 2004). Knowledge creation is accomplished through four modes as described by Nonaka (1994): socialization, externalization, internalization, and combination. "New knowledge starts with individuals sharing their internal tacit knowledge through socializing with other people or by obtaining it in digital or analog form" (Steyn, 2004, p. 618). Culture plays a vital role in the accomplishment of knowledge management.

Organizational culture

Culture is an important aspect of any institution and yet, it is difficult to find a single, unified definition of culture. Shein (2010) defines organizational culture as "A pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems through external adaption and internal integration, which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems" (p. 18). An organization's culture can be divided into three levels: artifacts, espoused beliefs and values, and basic underlying assumptions (Schein, 2010). Artifacts...

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