Evolving Organizations

Knowledge Management and Behavior Modification

Knowledge management and behavior modification are tactics employers use to ensure organizational growth and adaptability.

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast the acquisition of knowledge and the modification of behavior as internally evolving organizational components

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Knowledge management is an organizational concept that takes the best knowledge from individual employees and organizes it into a functional learning and education system that all employees can learn from.
  • Knowledge management is usually implemented by a company’s information technology department via electronic collection of specific components of employee expertise, creation of online learning modules, and redistribution of the modules to the whole company.
  • Behavioral modification includes the alteration of an individual’s behavior through data collection and positive/ negative reinforcement.
  • In an organization, behavior modification is typically studied to examine how employees perceive their performance in relation to rewards. At a high level, it is used to develop strategies for improving performance behavior.

Key Terms

  • Knowledge management: Used in organizations to collect employee’s specialized knowledge and organize, redistribute, and share with the company.

Knowledge management (KM), and the modification of behavior through utilizing organizational knowledge, is central to an organization’s ability to grow and adapt. The value of knowledge management from the perspective of the organization is its ability to help employees learn and improve their skills, allowing the organization itself to evolve and achieve higher efficiency. Knowledge is an intangible resource which organizations can concretize by documenting experience over time. This helps them to avoid repeating mistakes and to improve current strategies.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is the range of strategies and practices used by an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable the adoption of employee insights and experiences. These insights and experiences constitute the company’s “knowledge,” either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices. KM includes courses taught in the fields of business administration, information systems, management, and library and information sciences.

More recently, other fields have started contributing to KM research, including information and media, computer science, public health, and public policy. Knowledge management also focuses on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, and continuous improvement. KM is similar to organizational learning but distinguishes itself because it focuses more on knowledge as a strategic asset of a company’s employees. It encourages the sharing of knowledge to further the company’s success.

Many organizations include resources dedicated to internal knowledge management efforts in their business strategy, information technology, or human resource management departments. Consulting companies are also sometimes hired to provide advice about knowledge management. Knowledge management in a company is sometimes seen as an organizational concept that takes the best knowledge from individual employees and organizes it into functional learning and education systems that all employees can learn from. The company’s information technology department can make this happen by electronically collecting specific components of an employee’s knowledge expertise, creating an online learning module, and redistributing it to the company.

For example, an employee who is particularly knowledgeable about a certain computer system. This employee may be asked to write a training manual or presentation about this computer system which is then distributed to the company so that others can also benefit from that individual’s knowledge. Knowledge-sharing is the most important component of knowledge management and is essential to helping an organization evolve and grow.

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B.F. Skinner: B.F. Skinner introduced the study of behavior modification, focusing on how animals and humans react to reward and punishment. His theories are still used in behavior modification today.

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification was first introduced in psychology as a collection of behavioral change techniques to increase or decrease the frequency of behaviors. In psychology, behavioral modification was made popular by B. F. Skinner, who analyzed the triggers and rewards for certain behaviors in a series of experiments with animals. Behavioral modification includes altering an individual’s behavior through positive and negative reinforcement.

Behavior modification in an organization is typically studied to examine how employees perceive their performance in relation to rewards. The process of behavioral modification in the workplace focuses on identifying the frequency of certain performance-related behavior, as well as determining what started or triggered that specific behavior. Once the trigger is identified, management can determine if it wants to develop a different trigger to change the employee’s performance or if it should sustain the current performance through rewards and appraisal.

Behavioral modification is generally used on a broader scale to determine how best to develop employee performance to move an organization in the desired direction. Knowledge management can help with this by providing employees with adequate training and skills and making sure that they know that they are valuable members of the organization worth investing in and empowering. Training employees and improving their knowledge, skills, and behavioral approaches to work helps an organization to evolve and improve.

Example

An example of knowledge management would involve an employee who is particularly knowledgeable about a certain computer system. This employee may be asked to write a training manual or presentation about this computer system, which is then distributed to the company so that others can also benefit from that individual’s knowledge.

Accelerated Change and Adaptation

Change management facilitates employee adaptation to organizational change.

Learning Objectives

Identify the role of change management with the larger context of organizational theory

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Change is essential to organizational growth and development. But employees can be uncomfortable with change, particularly when it affects their work on a daily basis.
  • Sometimes an organization faces accelerated change, from attempts to change its overall mission, for example, or to implement a disruptive technology. In this situation it is important for employees to be able to adapt quickly.
  • Quick adaptation to change is facilitated through change management strategies such as communication, employee alignment with expectations, training, and transparency of management.

Key Terms

  • change management: Change management attempts to use strategies such as communication and training to help employees become more comfortable with organizational changes.

Managing Change and Adaptation

Change is essential to organizational growth and development. But employees don’t always embrace change, particularly when it upsets routines and/or the status quo. Employees can view change as a threat if it impacts their daily tasks, training, or possibly their job. Change management is an approach to shifting and transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. It is an organizational process aimed at helping change stakeholders to accept and embrace changes in their business environment.

Drivers of rapid adaptation are numerous, but one of the most relevant to modern organizations is the advent of new technology. When the smartphone was introduced and became popular, all companies in the phone industry had to react rapidly to switch their operational focus to smart phones, data plans, app stores, and multiple device integration. Companies that could not react and adapt quickly enough to the disruptive technology were left in the dust.

Sometimes an organization faces accelerated change when it is attempting to change its overall mission and refocus its vision. In the recent recession, this occurred within a number of organizations that thought that the best way to survive was to re-brand or reorganize their business strategy as a whole. Changing a company’s brand or overarching strategy (i.e., differentiation to low-cost or vice versa) is a massive overhaul that will undoubtedly upset a number of people internally and externally. Responsible change is a complex process.

Organizational Change and Employees

Major changes to an organization will force employees to adapt. Employees may not approve of the change, but they will be required to adapt to it if they want to keep their jobs. This is likely to create tension between what the employees want and what is occurring in the organization. Change management helps employees adapt to accelerated organizational change by attempting to eliminate the tension between employees’ resistance to and suspicions about change and the organization’s new direction.

Change management uses basic structure and tools to control an organizational change effort; these primarily revolve around ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of what’s going on and involving them in the strategic process. Managerial transparency about what is happening and why is critical to employee buy-in. Communicating effectively and comprehensively and hearing out employee fears, criticisms, and suggestions are integral to ensuring that everyone is on the same page. When changing the organization is required to remain profitable, employees will understand that they must pitch in to maintain the relevancy of their job.

The Role of the Manager in an Evolving Organization

Managers play a number of roles in evolving organizations, including leader, negotiator, figurehead, liaison, and communicator.

Learning Objectives

Break down the various and critical roles a leader must play in the transitional process from an organization perspective

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A manager needs to be a good leader. While a manager organizes and plans, s/he must also inspire employees with a vision for the organization.
  • A manager needs to be an effective negotiator. When organizations are developing or undergoing change, the manager is often required to negotiate with competitors, contractors, suppliers, and employees.
  • A manager must be a good figurehead who reinforces the mission and vision of an organization to employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
  • A manager needs to be an effective communicator and liaison between employees, customers, and other managers of the organization.

Key Terms

  • leader: A leader is thought to differ from a manager in that a leader’s intention is to inspire and motivate while a manager’s role is focused more on organization and planning.

Managers play an integral part in an organization’s growth and evolution. Organizational growth is a complex process, particularly in larger organizations with more inertia. Organizations are essentially a compilation of moving parts: motivating each individual, with her/his unique talents and motivation, to change direction simultaneously (and in the same direction) is extremely challenging, and requires highly effective managers with highly developed communication skills.

Managers must do more than accept change: they must facilitate the evolutionary process. In these situations, organizations need a manager who can fulfill several roles, including leader, negotiator, figurehead, and communicator. In each of these roles, the manager’s goal is to help employees through the change with the least possible number of conflicts and issues.

The Role of a Manager during Organizational Change

Leader

To effectively implement change, a manager needs to be a good leader. The manager must organize and plan the change and use leadership skills to inspire employees to embrace it. This is a complex and intangible skill, one which incorporates each of the roles listed below as well. Leadership is a broad term that incorporates communicating and inspiring those around you to embrace a perspective.

Negotiator

A negotiator is similar to a leader. When organizations are developing or undergoing change, the manager is often required to negotiate clearly and steadfastly with competitors, contractors, suppliers, and employees. A manager needs to be able to negotiate with all of these parties in a way that effectively serves the best interests of the organization.

Figurehead

A manager also needs to act as a figurehead of the organization. Upper management in particular is responsible for creating and reinforcing delivery of the mission and vision of an organization to employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Employees in particular must understand where the organization is headed and what its ultimate goals are. A manager-figurehead can come to symbolize the organization as a whole for customers. The manager who builds a positive rapport with both customers and employees creates a positive association of her/himself with the organization at large.

Liaison and Communicator

When managers effectively communicate their vision for the organization, employees are more likely to engage with their work and exert themselves to further the organizational mission. Communication is at the core of managing change effectively. Transparency and empathy are integral to making employees aware of and comfortable with the changes taking place. Managers in an evolving organization must stay in constant contact with their direct reports to ensure that everything is running smoothly and that all stakeholders are educated and on board.