What makes W.L. Gore and Associates famous is not only the Gore-Tex, but also the unique management pattern within the organization. It is important to reiterate the main characteristics of Gore’s management because it is the very management pattern that has formed a potential problem related to Knowledge Management (KM). Firstly, the organization was structured in lattice, which is a type of unstructured organization. Lattice organization’s main characteristic is that there is no conventional hierarchy. Employees communicate with each other directly without intermediary and equally. Secondly, there is indeed a leader for each project; but the leadership is defined by followership, which means that the person who can make some certain workers follow is the leader. There is no assigned person in charge in a department or project as a boss, manager or the like. All the employees are equal within Gore. What should be noticed is that if anyone has a good idea and successfully make some of his co-workers positive about his idea, then he will be the leader of the team in the process of carrying out the idea. That can be described as figure 1.
① The rectangle stands for Gore;
② The four circles stands for different projects or teams;
③ stands for individuals;
④ The lines mean the connections between individuals.
Knowledge sharing is one of the main contents of KM. Some researchers, for example, Prahalad and Hamel (1990), demonstrated that the ability of knowledge sharing is one of the major drivers for companies to gain sustainable competitive advantages. Although knowledge creation derives from individual level (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995), a specific context of individual relationships is necessary for the sharing of knowledge. That is to say that knowledge sharing is of vital importance for Gore’s development. However, this is the very area which in Gore has a problem。
It can be seen in Figure 1 that every team or project is independent from others in the process of carrying out its specific idea, which forms the basis of the problem that knowledge cannot flow fluently through the whole organization. The motivations behind knowledge sharing are based on the social relationships between employees within the organization (Burke 2011). The range of the social network will influence the effect of knowledge sharing (Tohidinia & Mosakhani, 2010). Yet, the fact in Gore is that the whole social network is divided into several sub-networks and there is no connection among these sub-networks, just as mentioned before that each team or project is independent from others. The results can be demonstrated in the following case. If team A has solved a problem which team B is facing, the obstacles of knowledge sharing make team B has to “reinvent the wheel”. Obviously, it is a waste of time and resources. Vice versa, if a problem faced by any team or project can seek for experience from other teams or projects, and then the efficiency of Gore will be raised to a higher level because it saves time and resources for Gore.
Statement of purpose: The policy will create a mechanism to eliminating barriers in the process of knowledge sharing.
Scope of Policy: the company as a whole
Definitions of key words: Lattice organization: unstructured organization in which all employees are equal and can be a leader of a certain project.
Knowledge sharing: an important aspect of KM
Responsibilities: Gore needs to think about developing a mechanism in order to remove obstacles in knowledge sharing within the organization and ultimately raise the whole work efficiency.
Key principles: the following rules can be considered as the key principles of the new mechanism.
l Commitment: Evoking contributions from employees. Because individuals are the sources of new knowledge according to Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995). Make all the employees realize that they are responsible for knowledge sharing.
l Availability: If all employees can get benefits from the mechanism, they will be motivated to share new knowledge. Besides, this can help employees from all aspects and can finally achieve the desired goal of improving work efficiency.
l Quality: Quality of knowledge is important especially there knowledge will be shared with all employees in Gore. There should be audit programme to make sure that new knowledge that will be shared is qualified. There should also be ways and policies to let the original contributor to update the knowledge they shared.
Guidelines for implementation: Through a knowledge sharing mechanism, Gore can actually improve employees’ work efficiency. This will be beneficial not only to Gore, but also to all the employees. So the framework of the new mechanism can be like what shows in Figure 2 (all the symbols stand the same with Figure 1, the circle in the middle is the mechanism).
Burke, M.E. (2011) “Knowledge sharing in emerging economies”, Library Review, vol. 60, 1, pp. 5-14
Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995) The Knowledge-creating Company, New York: Oxford University Press
Prahalad, C.K. & Hamel, G. (1990) “The core competence of the corporation”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 68, 3, pp. 79-91
Tohidinia, Z. & Mosakhani, M. (2010) “Knowledge sharing behavior and its predictors”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol.110, 4, pp. 611-631
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