Knowledge support in learning operative organisations

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Doctoral thesis (article-based)
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129, [80]
Dissertation series / Helsinki University of Technology, Industrial Management and Work and Organisational Psychology, 2003 / 2
The aim of this study is to understand the requirements, critical success factors and outcomes of knowledge support, particularly in learning operative organisations. Initially, the work focused on support of individual employees performing individual work tasks, but it soon became evident that the perspective was too limited. First, it was expanded to cover smaller work units, and later the scope was extended to organisations. This study summarises many years of work, starting in the early 1990s and concluding on present day. It is based on five constructivist case studies, four of which address knowledge support of employees and teams performing light-weight end-assembly tasks, and one which addresses organisational learning and knowledge management in project organisations. The key findings include: Knowledge support system design and development requires system perspective, understanding that the system is an integral part of the work system and the work system may have to be re-engineered to accommodate the support system. User-centered design is essential for a successful knowledge support system, and this approach must include not only reader-users of the system but all the various user groups, particularly the author-users creating and maintaining the support content of the system. Improved organisational flexibility is one of the key goals and observed results of knowledge support systems. But in order to facilitate organisational flexibility, support systems need to be adaptable and tailorable in order to be able to react to rapid changes in the products, markets and the environment. Implementation is a particularly difficult stage of knowledge support system development. In several cases implementation has fully failed or it has had severe side effects. A knowledge support system can act as the technological infrastructure of a learning organisation. But in order to do this, a support system has to capture new knowledge created in the organisation in addition to distributing existing knowledge. While the results of a study consisting of case studies have limited generalisability, the results can be considered mostly valid in the domain of knowledge support of assembly work tasks. The assembly line cases studied had several similar key characteristics. But when it comes to findings concerning knowledge support in learning organisations, one should be more careful. Nevertheless, even those findings were most fascinating and indicate interesting possibilities for further research.
Supervising professor
Vartiainen, Matti
knowledge support system, learning operative organisations, constructivist case studies, organisational learning, knowledge management, project organisations
Other note
  • Eloranta, E., Mankki, J. and Kasvi, J. J. J., 1995. Multimedia and Production Management Systems. Production Planning and Control 6, No. 1, pages 2-12.
  • Kasvi, J. J. J., Vartiainen, M., Pulkkis, A. and Nieminen, M., 1997. Information tools for the shop-floor. AI & Society 10, No. 1, pages 26-38.
  • Kasvi, J. J. J., Vartiainen, M., Pulkkis, A. and Nieminen, M., 2000. The Role of Information Support Systems in the Joint Optimisation of Work Systems. Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing 10, No. 2, pages 193-221.
  • Kasvi, J. J. J., Vartiainen, M. and Hailikari, M., 2003. Managing Knowledge and Knowledge Competences in Projects and Project Organisations. International Journal of Project Management. Accepted for publication.
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