Readiness for knowledge management implementation : the case of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Department of Public Works in Pietermaritzburg.
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A knowledge management (KM) readiness assessment is essential before implementing a KM initiative within an organization. The KwaZulu–Natal Department of Public Works (KZN DPW) Head Office (HO) in Pietermaritzburg was chosen as the case study. The main purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which the KZN DPW demonstrates readiness to implement KM through the assessment of KM enablers present within its components. This study’s objectives were to investigate if there is awareness of KM within the Department; determine whether the Departmental culture supports KM practices; examine the Departmental structure influence towards KM implementation; assess the Departmental strategic plan towards the promotion of KM implementation; and explore the communication tools and human resources available for effective KM within the Department. The study contributed to the need to implement KM initiative across governmental departments, both at provincial and at national level. Additionally, the study also contributed to the body of knowledge and literature on KM, especially in the context of KwaZulu-Natal. The socialization, externalization, combination and internalization (SECI) model underpinned the study to conceptualize the influence of the dynamic process of knowledge conversion to organizational efficiency towards service delivery. The mixed method approach was used, where both the qualitative and quantitative methods were adopted, with latter predominant. The targeted population consisted of 81 respondents from KZN DPW HO with particular interest on four sections namely: strategic management; human resources; information technology; and monitoring and evaluation. Quantitative data was collected from seventy-seven respondents, which consisted of employees from junior to deputy director level; qualitative data was collected from four Directors of each section. A census of the study population was taken; data for both approaches was collected simultaneously. For qualitative approach, structured interviews were conducted, consisting of standardized, open-ended questions; and for quantitative approach, survey questionnaires consisting of closed questions were distributed. Quantitative data was analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS) and qualitative data was analyzed through content analysis. The analysis of quantitative and qualitative data were done separately. The findings of the study revealed that the KZN DPW is practising KM informally and there is high level of awareness for KM. The preservation and sharing of knowledge through computer files or folders was identified as one of the practices commonly used to manage knowledge within the Department. It was unclear whether the Departmental culture will be favourable towards the implementation of KM initiative since there was lack of common perspective regarding this matter. The findings also showed that the KZN DPW’ structure is hierarchical in nature, which will be problematic for the success of the KM initiative if implemented as KM requires a less rigid structure. The Department’s strategic plan does promote the management of knowledge as it encourages employees to create and preserve knowledge for better service delivery; however, there is a deficiency in terms of ensuring that a formal initiative to achieve this is implemented. The findings also revealed that there are basic communication tools available within the Department though the ICTs required for an effective KM initiative still need to be acquired. It was also revealed that a KM unit as well as the Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) does not exist within the KZN DPW, which impacts negatively on the success of KM initiative due to the absence of personnel or unit dedicated to oversee its progress when implemented. This study therefore concluded that the KZN DPW holds certain features required for an effective KM and is ready to implement a KM initiative. However, as some of the key issues such as KM enablers are not yet conducive towards the success of the initiative, the Department will need to improve them further before the formal implementation of KM. Recommendations to help the KZN DPW to be effectively ready to implement KM initiative included increasing awareness of KM across the entire Department; developing further all KM enablers and establishing a KM directorate managed by a CKO. Furthermore, incorporating the formal implementation of a KM initiative in the Department’s strategic plan and in the employees’ personal development plan (PDP), conducting exit interviews when employees leave the Department and review these interviews regularly, implementing formally a KM initiative was also recommended. Suggested areas of research included conducting the same study with other KZN provincial departments and private organizations to determine their readiness to implement KM and to compare findings. A knowledge audit within KZN DPW before implementing KM initiative was suggested as another area of study as well as a further study to determine the effectiveness of the initiative after being implemented.