05 December 2009

Corporate cultures not conducive to knowledge sharing and collaboration

I thought of reposting my list of cultural traits that identify an organization where the corporate culture is not conducive to knowledge sharing and therefore creativity and innovation. This list combines the 16 from this post and 4 from this one.

And here is a challenge to anyone reading this: Do you know one medium or large company with an internal culture not bearing a single of these 20 traits? If yes, please post a comment with its name.

1. A strictly hierarchical top-down structure: The “you should not share knowledge outside your department without your manager’s approval” syndrome.

2. Focus on short-term objectives: the “no need to share knowledge since once objectives are met, it wont be needed anymore” syndrome.

3. Reward achievements of each individual based solely on personal objectives: the “you are judged on what you achieved, not on what others have achieved with your help” syndrome.

4. Organizational silos that do not (or poorly) communicate/collaborate: the “we cannot possibly need help from anyone outside our very experienced and specialized group” syndrome.

5. Lack of trust: the “why should I take the risk to help whom I compete with, I wouldn’t get the recognition for it anyway” syndrome.

6. Internal politics: “Knowledge is Power so I retain it” syndrome.

7. Lack of Awareness of internal knowledge: The “I do not expect anyone in the company to have the experience/skills I need” syndrome.

8. Lack of Availability of internal knowledge: The “others probably could benefit from my experience but I’m too busy to check, let alone actually help” syndrome.

9. Too much Pride: The now too famous "not invented here" syndrome.

10. The confidentiality issue: The “we fear that some vital competitive knowledge can get into the wrong hands, so the least we share it, the smaller the risk” syndrome.

11. Job Description framing: The "No-one's paying us to have a wider vision" syndrome.

12. Groupthink effect: The "We'll define our stakeholders as the people we already know" syndrome.

13. Only money talks: The "those so-called stakeholders aren't actually funding anything directly, so they're not real customers" syndrome.

14. Perfectionism resulting from fear of being wrong: the "I won't share until I'm certain it's perfect" syndrome.

15. Modesty resulting from lack of encouragement: the "who am I to teach others, of course they know" syndrome.

16. Top-executives misunderstanding KM challenges: The "this knowledge sharing sounds great! Can you order everyone to do it tomorrow please?" syndrome.

17. Dominance of explicit over tacit knowledge sharing: The "we only truly value what is written down and validated" syndrome.

18. Lack of social networks: The "only the networks which are supporting business processes are important and encouraged" syndrome.

19. Lack of knowledge management strategy and sharing initiatives into the company’s goals and strategic approach: The "Intellectual Property is the only Intellectual Capital that is worth managing strategically" syndrome.

20. Intense internal competitiveness within business units, functional areas, and subsidiaries:
The "we only share knowledge within our team since everyone else is potential competition" syndrome.

You can test your organization against these 20 cultural traits. The more of them fits your workplace, the more of a challenge you will have to promote knowledge sharing. Some are more difficult to deal with such as internal politics, but I would conjecture that you will need to address all the relevant traits at some point in the process. They all have their importance and only one of them - deep rooted in the organizational culture - can jeopardize leveraging knowledge efforts.


At 7:42 AM, Blogger Nimmy said...

20 reasons why, ahem, knowledge managers deserve to be respected (for the challenge they've taken up)? :-P

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Guy Debaux said...

Cultural obstacles? An old over-showcased argument. The 20 reasons you display are true reasons, but do not reach the core rationale. Push a bit further, and you will find the management policy, the rules set for strengthening each management layer's security, power and guarantees. Let's re-read Crozier and Friedberg's book...
Your interesting review is worth the So What question: how to manage the changes for offseting these obstacles, without damaging both people and corporate?
Guy Debaux

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Peter-Anthony Glick said...

Hello Guy.
"Over-showcased"? Really? Why do you think so? Judging by the number of companies still boasting cultures well defined by these 20 traits, I would disagree.
I wouldn't say that it calls for the "so what" question but more for a "so what next". I think the arguments for more knowledge-sharing speak for themselves but the management of the required deep cultural shift is not simple. You are right that if not done carefully, it can do a lot of damage along the way. The right "formula" greatly depends on the context as no company is identical. I have given generic ideas in other posts on this blog and will do so again in future posts.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger VigilantGuy said...

Guy, I think you are confusing cultural vs. environmental. Management policy and rules are environemtal. If the culture feels that the rules are there to protect them - ala executives and other leaders acting out of the betterment of the team and without regard to personal consequence- then culturally they will adopt this idea. Regardless of whether the actual rules or policy dicate that. No one reads those stupid handbooks anyway. We act (like children) in a way that is tollerated.


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