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Monday, September 26, 2005

Main findings: knowledge management and knowledge transfer in CEE

The new EU member states have already performed a large part of the transformation process and can therefore be better understood using this logic. Organisations in the west, as in the east, are structured, ie hierarchical and work very strongly with the component of power. For knowledge management this means to face the same problems in several cultures.

Parallel to establishing knowledge management, organisations need to build up mutual trust if there are retentions which result from the political system or from a tense relationships. The most important aspect concerning knowledge management is the correct interpretation and understanding of these cultural differences.

Today's understanding of management transfer has to be understood as a learning process, in which concepts and practices in East European transformation countries are analysed, interpreted and modelled newly, not as simple adoptions of approved western solutions, structures, concepts, instruments and practices. Management concepts often consider implementation to be a purely technical topic. However, knowledge management implementation becomes more complex if knowledge management is understood as an intervention in the depths of the organisation, its habits and routines and as a change of communication for and in complex learning processes. A balance must be found between people, processes and technology.

Knowledge management will be successfully implemented if it is adapted to the organisational culture instead of trying to change it. Visible and invisible dimensions of organisational culture must be reconciled with knowledge management by building on visible corporate values. But this is only one task for knowledge management. Knowledge is designed socially and if the social competence of an organisation is not developed sufficiently, there is no other possibility other than adapting the instruments of knowledge management to the organisation or culture. Knowledge management needs to be tailored to an organisation's condition and stage of development and, if necessary, its complexity has to be reduced in order to do so.

Organisations in East European transformation countries tend to build up a facade that makes them appear western and modern while simultaneously they make use of their old local practices. Patterns of the old culture are confronted with patterns newly institutionalised and continue to work hidden under the surface. Two perspectives, the concept of knowledge management and the East European corporate culture, clash. Knowledge transfer is more effective if the operating organisations are integrated in national contexts with the same cultural patterns. The obstacles that can arise from communication and translation should not be under-estimated. The differing perspectives (of west and east) that have led to different KM contexts have to be understood and learned in order to act adequately. Historical and/or political backgrounds can provide an indication of why certain rules arose.

This organizational knowledge has to be acquired before knowledge can be transferred from one system to another. History and infrastructure which were built up over years cannot simply be changed. These are challenges and tasks that a knowledge management strategy has to deal with. The eastern as well as the western perspective have to be understood; only then it is sensible to select knowledge management instruments according to the context, the complexity and the social competence of the East European organizational cultures.

Only seldomly are knowledge management initiatives started by East European enterprises. But transfer from the east to the west does happen, so the question remains: what can the west learn from the East European transformation states?

Firstly, there is significant knowledge between transformation countries about dealing with transformation processes and neighbour countries and their economies. So companies that want to start businesses (e.g. in Russia) can search for specialists of the Russian market in its neighbouring countries.

Secondly, East European organisations are able to transfer implicit and systemic knowledge very effectively. Likewise, Russian companies are very flexible, with a distinctive intuition for the turbulent and unpredictable environment in which they work. In this region, companies are able to achieve a great effect with simplest means and without high demands.

Modern companies operate in a very unstable environment. In order to be successful and survive, they need to observe their environment and react to changes and information in a fast and flexible way. Within the last five to ten years, Russia has made a big step from collectivism towards a more individualistic culture. However, a national culture does not change fully in such a short time frame.

Thus, even in today's Russia, Western European companies have to be aware of former business routines that still influence business context and behaviour.

taken from Knowledgeboard editors ~

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