The paper "Why Fluor Needed a KMS" is an outstanding example of a management case study. The way an organization manages knowledge in the present business organizations determines to a large extent how it performs. More than ever before the need for sharing and reusing organizational knowledge is being felt. Nowhere else is the need for Knowledge Management more vital than in the Engineering and construction industry. Knowledge Management is allowing companies to reduce the cost and duration of projects significantly. In this case study, the knowledge management practices of Fluor Corporation are analyzed with a focus on key Knowledge Management Systems concepts.
Fluor has been able to store the collective and individual knowledge of its more than 35,000 workers and can retrieve it whenever they need it (Koene). Fluor Knowledge Management System covers several areas of expertise as the organization operations are varied. Fluor operates in over 25 countries in operations spread across six continents. Fluor operations include oil and gas, chemicals and petrochemicals, life sciences, government, power, mining and telecoms. It provides project management, engineering, design, construction, and operation and maintenance services. Why Fluor Needed a KMS? Fluor conducts most of its activities through the project work model.
In this model, the organization forms a project team to complete an activity. Upon completion, these teams are disbanded and members join new teams to take on new demands (Koene). This model of work means that the knowledge gained by the team was lost and the only knowledge available to consequent teams was the learning and experience brought by an employee into the new assignment. At this point, we need to define knowledge as distinguished from Data and Information.
According to Kakabadse et al (2001), the three terms are closely interrelated but caution should be taken against using them interchangeably. Data is defined as raw facts that have not been processed, organized or analyzed (Dalkir, 7). On the other hand, information is data that has undergone processing to take on meaning. Information is sometimes defined as information that is interpreted in a given context (Dalkir, 7). Knowledge is defined as information that incorporates values, perspectives, beliefs, judgements and know-how. Knowledge is further divided into explicit and tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is defined as knowledge that has been formally and systematically documented in the specification, manuals, formulae and other documents (Dalkir, 8). In the case of Fluor Corporation project reports, specification, contracts, and drawings, data and orders contain the explicit knowledge of the organization. As with explicit knowledge elsewhere this knowledge is readily available for the newly formulated project teams. They can refer to this knowledge by accessing the documents it has been codified in. Therefore, explicit knowledge was not a vital concern of the Knowledge management system Fluor Corporation was developing as this was already available. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is defined as a combination of skills, experiences and understandings of people with information (Dalkir, 8).
Fluor Corporation realized that a repository of tacit knowledge would help in finding solutions to future problems and minimizing mistakes in the organization. In the case of Fluor corporation project-based work tacit knowledge includes technical know-how and work processes, Problems faced and their solutions, innovation, expert suggestions, experiences and innovations (Koene). Nonaka (2007) notes that tacit knowledge is highly personal and is hardly shared or formalised.
Tacit knowledge is part of an individual’ s memories and is hard to articulate as it is embedded with a person’ s experiences. Tacit knowledge is also mixed up with an individual’ s perspectives, beliefs and values.
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