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Knowledge Management:An Airline Industry Firm Case

SUMMARY. Knowledge management projects suffer from concepts which overemphasize a single factor. e.g., information technology. This single factor frequently dominates other factors as processes, structures or strategies. The research question of the paper is how to develop and apply a knowledge management tool that balances different factors in knowledge management projects. The introduced tool, called knowledge supply chain matrix, is derived from a generic business model and four knowledge management processes. The paper describes how the tool is applied within a knowledge management project in the airline industry.
Knowledge management initiatives sometimes fail. The paper assumes that the failure is due to inappropriate tools. There is wide variety of knowledge management concepts in the literature. However, the concepts and their tools balance business factors (strategy, core processes, organization and resources) insufficiently. The research question therefore is. how to develop and apply a knowledge management tool that balances business factors.
The paper is divided into two parts. The first part develops the knowledge supply chain matrix as a knowledge management tool. It is due to a business model (high performance business model) and four generic knowledge processes (knowledge generation, knowledge storing, knowledge transfer/application and knowledge measurement) that span a matrix. The matrix represents the knowledge supply chain matrix.
The second part describes the application of the knowledge supply chain matrix in a case study. The company offers services for airlines concerning revenue accounting. The question is how to link business processes with knowledge supply chain matrix so as to structure knowledge management project.
The theoretical background for the know ledge management model is due to the “fit”-idea (Ansoff. 1979: Chandler. 1962), which is still popular in the strategic management field (Bea & Haas. 2(X)1: 9 f.). The "fit"-idea basically says that different business factors as strategy, organization or IT should be aligned in order to work efficiently. As the business environment permanently demands new requirements, it Is an ongoing task to line up and adjust the interdependencies among business factors. A well-known business model that is built upon the "fit"-idea is the 7-S model of the consultants Waterman and Peters (Waterman & Peters & Phillips, 1980: Waterman & Peters, 1982) that encompasses seven business factors. They are divided into three "hard" (structure, strategy, systems) and four "soft" (shard values, style, staff. skills) factors. "Hard" factors can be analyzed, designed and controlled, but the management of "soft" factors is relatively limited. Nonetheless, it is the goal to align and balance all of them.
An example for the "fit"-idea in knowledge management is Arthur D. Little's knowledge management concept which consists of four integrated factors or dimensions: content/context, culture, process and infrastructure (Arthur D. Litlle, 1999; Bergmann, 1999: 34 f.; Bock. 1998: 5 f.). Content and context answer the question which knowledge is relevant for the business. Strategically relevant knowledge has to be identified and evaluated. Knowledge management projects frequently underestimate the meaning of cultural dimensions, e.g.. employees are reluctant lo share their knowledge. Hence, to promote knowledge transfer in terms of benefit programs might be an appropriate instrument to support change policies. The process dimension pursues to implement organizational processes in order to support the knowledge management activities, for instance by designing an organizational structure in terms of knowledge stewards, knowledge officers, etc. The infrastructure dimension provides the adequate technology so as to support processes in the knowledge management framework. Questions about appropriate tools for capturing data or databases for storing knowledge need to be responded.