Leadership role in making effective use of KM

Date24 October 2008
Published date24 October 2008
AuthorVittal S. Anantatmula
Leadership role in making
effective use of KM
Vittal S. Anantatmula
College of Business, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee,
North Carolina, USA
Purpose – The challenge facing knowledge management (KM) professionals is how to leverage
knowledge for improving organizational performance. From a management perspective, it is
important to utilize KM systems for improving communication, and collaboration to enhance
employee skills with a focus on improving productivity. From a leadership perspective, it is critical to
ensure that KM investments result in promoting collaborative culture both at individual and
organizational levels to encourage knowledge sharing for better decision making and innovation.
Ultimately, the purpose of KM is to leverage knowledge in order to improve organizational
performance internally and externally. This paper aims to address these challenges from leadership
Design/methodology/approach – This research addressed the following questions: how does an
organization manage knowledge resources to gain and sustain competitive advantage? What is the
role of KM leadership in making effective use of KM? A literature review was used to understand the
role of leadership and the relation between KM and organizational performance. Further, two research
studies, which employed interpretive structural modeling (ISM) were used to answer these two
Findings – The study finds that selection of a competent leader is critical first step establishing an
effective KM initiative as the leader plays an important role in obtaining top management and
budgetary supports and in building technology infrastructure to accomplish KM goals. Further, KM
leadership assumes greater importance during its initial implementation phase.
Practical implications EffectiveKM leadership is a prerequisite to implementing a KM initiative
and organizations will experience better results if they choose a leader before a detailed plan for KM
initiative is developed and implemented.
Originality/value – This paper provides useful information on the effective KM leadership role.
Keywords Knowledge management, Leadership, Organizational performance,Modelling
Paper type Research paper
Technology developments and a number of other factors have converged since early
1990s to create a shrinking world and expanding global economy. Many companies
joined the global economy intensifying the global market competition. Specifically,
advances in communication and information technology (IT) have revolutionized the
way business is managed. The global competition is compelling organizations to
develop products and services faster, cheaper, and better in order to sustain
competitive advantage in the market place. Organizations strive to meet this challenge
by improving their efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation.
New business trends are in place to utilize continuous advances in IT and
communication technologies. These technologies are adopted to meet growing new
business needs effectively and efficiently. They have also provided opportunities to
manage knowledge both at individual and organizational levels. Participating
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Making effective
use of KM
VINE: The journal of information and
knowledge management systems
Vol. 38 No. 4, 2008
pp. 445-460
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/03055720810917705
companies in the global economy have two distinct features associated with their
operations: outsourcing and geographically dispersed virtual teams. But for the
technological advances, outsourcing and virtual global teams would not have become
feasible. These two features have an impact on how organizations manage knowledge
and deserve further discussion.
Outsourcing and geographically dispersed virtual teams
Global economy is compelling organizations to establish operating divisions and
factories close to market places and other strategic locations where people of requisite
experience and resources are available at a lower cost. Consequently, virtual teams are
integral to many organizations in the current economy.
Outsourcing is a common business practice as it helps acquire quality services and
expertise at a lower cost. For instance, quite often you will end up talking to a service
representative in India when you call for a product helpline concerning an ap pliance
manufactured by General Electric. Many organizations employ outsourcing as a
strategy to cut down costs without sacrificing quality.
Often you will find that major software development projects use geographically
dispersed virtual project teams. A case in point is Infosys Technologies Lim ited – one
of the leading software consultants in the world – has a conference room in Bangalore,
India that can hold a virtual meeting of the key players from its entire global supply
chain on a super size screen to integrate project functions and work as an effective
project team (Friedman, 2005). These virtual teams span various time zones, different
languages and cultures, and possess a wide range of competencies, and skills. Needless
to say, outsourcing and consequent virtual global teams are challenging the traditional
structures of the organizations.
From the organizational standpoint, outsourcing and virtual global teams present
important challenges such as:
.adopting outsourcing and global virtual teams to business operations;
.managing outsourcing and virtual global teams effectively; and
.safeguarding individual and organizational knowledge.
It is critical for organizations to address these issues to sustain competitive advantage.
Both these distinct features outsourcing and virtual global teams have one
thing in common: the explicit and tacit knowledge of the organization is no longer
confined within the organization. The challenging task that faces organizations is
how do they manage knowledge resources to gain and sustain competitive
advantage? We will attempt to address all these important issues in this research
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In the next section, we will discuss
knowledge and knowledge management (KM) concepts as a background for the study.
In the literature review section, two topics are chosen for a detailed discussion and they
are the role of leadership in the context of KM and the relation between KM and
organizational performance. A literature review is followed by discussion about the
research methodology. In the results and discussion section, we present the role of
leadership using two research studies.

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