Knowledge Management Contribution in Succession Planning: A Case Study of Abu Dhabi Public Sector

The following chapter reviews the studies that have been conducted on knowledge management contribution in succession learning and how they inform the current study. Effective knowledge management plays a crucial role in addressing shortcomings experienced after the retirement of key employees both in the private and public sectors (Nonaka & Peltokorp 2006). The review focuses on prior studies on knowledge management and succession planning in the public sector. Thus, the literature review centers on articles that have examined the issue both in the private and public sectors.

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The predominant research methodology employed in knowledge management studies has mainly been qualitative. For example, studies carried out by Durst and Wilhelm (2012), employed semi-structured interviews to obtain information from medium-sized enterprises on how they were involved in knowledge management. In the study, the use of a qualitative approach helped Durst and Wilhelm (2012) to describe how the firms tackled the issues of knowledge management. Similarly, a study carried out by Riege and Lindsay (2006) was qualitative; the study drew on various theories about knowledge management and other related fields to determine the experiences of knowledge management. The use of qualitative approaches has been key in ensuring that the researchers explore how various human behaviors and perceptions influence the management of knowledge in organizations.

Many theories and frameworks which are applied in the management of knowledge both in the public and private sectors are not well understood. As a result, there have

been a need to bridge the gap and enhance understanding; this has necessitated the interpretive approaches that use qualitative methods. The qualitative approaches are used as the basis for some quantitative findings studies (Arora 2011). Quantitative studies are used to draw correlations and test hypotheses, in the case of the knowledge management and succession planning; the hermeneutics nature of the topic has made many scholars to be inclined to the qualitative methods. In the context of public sector, the qualitative methods are critical in description of public policy development and in examining the challenges and opportunities that inform succession planning. However, it is worth noting that there are researchers who have employed quantitative studies to provide empirical findings on the subject though limited. For example, Anvari et al. (2011) carried out both qualitative and quantitative study to assess the pointers that contribute to knowledge management.

The qualitative methods are used to gain understanding of opinions and motivations, uncovers thoughts and opinions. In the qualitative studies, the types of data collection include the use of individual interviews, observation, participation, and focus group discussions. Majority of the studies reviewed in this paper relied on interview to gather data.

The fact that most of the studies are inclined towards the qualitative approach, the research philosophy informing the studies have mainly been interpretivism paradigm because of the need to capture meaning in the knowledge management, which is normally based on human interactions. Also, it is worth noting that research philosophies are important assumptions used by the researchers to discover meaning or reason for existence of a phenomenon. The interpretivism approach is basically based on examination of meaning and reasons in order to understand social phenomenon by application of social constructionism and hermeneutics. Issues that relate to human construct such as knowledge management are better studied by qualitative approaches that use the interpretivism paradigm (Weber 2011). The main study goal of interpretivists is to comprehend and interpret meaning in the human behaviour instead of generalising and predicting causes and effects. Therefore, in the discovery of knowledge that relate to the field of knowledge management, the philosophical paradigm of interpretivism predominated the studies. The paradigm is important in assisting the researchers to investigate the constructs that relate to knowledge management.

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In studies about knowledge management, the issues being examined are the perceptions of top management about knowledge management, and the attitudes of employees both in the public and private sector on succession plans. Furthermore, the researchers are concerned with how employees of different ranks in an organisation interact and the processes employed in the businesses to create an environment that promotes learning among the employees. As such, most of the studies are explorative in nature; hence, the inclination towards interpretivism paradigm.

Various studies have been undertaken to investigate issues, challenges and opportunities of knowledge management in organisations. For instance, a study by Bhatt (2001) found out that there are interactive processes that constitute knowledge management. The key themes identified by Bhatt (2001) were creation, storage, and organisation and sharing of knowledge. Concerning creation, Bhatt (2001) noted that private and public organisations should have the ability to put in place strategies that build and enhance skills of their employees. This can be achieved by training and putting in place strategies that promote capability of the entire workforce. Based on this perspective of creation, Bhatt (2001) asserted that creation can be through creation, storage, and organisation and sharing of knowledge. The themes are made possible by use of operational, human and technological aspects that drive the creation of knowledge and measures that underpin the use and succession of knowledge from individuals to the overall organisational knowledge (Conger & Fulmer 2003).

The creation is based on innovation, storage requires documentation, while sharing entails use of technology to ensure that the asset of knowledge is disseminated to the right people through learning from experiences (Bhatt 2001).To exemplify the assertions, Bhatt (2001) indicated that storage involves measures used by the organisations to tap tacit knowledge and map the key employees with the relevant knowledge. Storage is then made possible by putting in place strategies that capture and share knowledge within the organisations. For instance, in a study about talent management, a discipline related to knowledge management, it has been stated that there is need for policies that outline the measures to ensure that skills and expertise are maintained within an organisation (Ruël, Bondarouk & Dresselhaus 2014). Bhatt (2001) found out that the key to knowledge management and succession planning is informed by the organisational ability to reconfigure and put together pieces of knowledge based on strategic management.

In the case of management of knowledge management in the UAE public sector, different factors come to play. This is due to different factors that are associated with the work dynamics in the region. For instance, factors such as managerial, leadership, and management of work environment affect the strategies for knowledge management in different contexts (Conger & Fulmer 2003). The factors are further informed by culture of the organisation, social and economic factors, technological and trust among the employees in an organisation. The study by Bhatt (2001) explored data on the sub-factors that influence knowledge and succession planning. For example, in the sharing of knowledge, Bhatt (2001) identified some of the factors used in public sector such as shadowing, formal and informal meetings that are applied in the transfer of knowledge from the experienced to least experienced staff.

Even though the study by Bhatt (2001) provided coherent argument on knowledge management, it focussed more on the sharing of knowledge; hence, negated some of the issues that may influence succession planning. A case in point is the role of private sector in influencing succession planning in the public sector. In the UAE there have been increased inflows of expatriates to the region. This has been due to the growing number of multinational enterprises that have extended their operations to the regions. As such, the workforce in the region is characterised by cultural diversity which affects management strategies either directly or indirectly. In the context of the public sector, the happening in the private sector have had trickledown effect characterised by high attrition rate for key personnel who are attracted to better work conditions in the private sector.

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Similarly, Alrawi (2007) conducted a study to find out how perceptions influence knowledge management. In the study, Alrawi (2007) established that the main challenge that affects knowledge management in any organisation whether public or private is the determination of information that qualifies as valuable. This is based on understanding that not all information can be categorised as knowledge and not all knowledge is valuable to an organisation. Based on the findings of the review, Alrawi (2007) claimed that there is the need for realistic expectations in the succession planning process. These arguments are informed by past studies that have pointed out that knowledge management and succession planning are based on “identification, optimisation, and active management of intellectual assets, either in the form of explicit knowledge held in artefacts or as tacit knowledge possessed by individuals or communities” (Alavi & Leidner 2001). In the, various literature on Knowledge management were used to substantiate the arguments.

The ability to manage knowledge in a strategic and sustainable manner in public sectors has been challenge due to the limited capacities. This is due to the fact that public servants have not fully accepted that the sector should be competitive just as the case in the private sector (Cong & Pandya 2003). Therefore, there is the need to put in place initiatives that create organisational culture that aligns to the new phenomenon of knowledge management. In a study to review knowledge management and succession planning in UAE, Alrawi (2007) found out that the component organisational culture is crucial in establishing the perceptions that in turn affect strategic management of knowledge. Organisational culture entails shared values and beliefs, thus, provides a platform that informs the behaviours of people. For instance, the review of the studies established the key factors that influence knowledge management were managerial, cultural and informational; these findings are similar to those by Bhatt (2001). Even though the study provided an overview of the influences of organisational culture in the UAE public sector setting, similar findings have been ascertained in manufacturing, energy, consulting, government, consumer products among other industries.

Knowledge can be tacit or explicit; therefore, the themes identified by Bhatt (2001) normally revolve around the two types. In that context, Cong and Pandya (2003) discussed the essence of managing organisational knowledge. In this context, it was established that the main reason for managing knowledge entails determination of who the knowledge is to be shared with. The arguments by Cong and Pandya (2003) revolved around the themes of knowledge creation, storing and sharing. As a result, it is evident from the study that value of knowledge sharing is achieved when in the organisation there are processes to establish, create, store and the ability to share the knowledge. Cong and Pandya (2003) emphasised that knowledge sharing and succession planning leads to various benefits. Therefore, Cong and Pandya (2003) pointed out to the capability of the knowledge management in improving performance of the organisation in terms of efficiency, productivity, quality and innovation. Furthermore, they added that organisations that have developed processes for knowledge management have high rates of productivity and continuity.

Also, the management of knowledge is important for public sectors due to the emergence of knowledge economy in which knowledge has become a fundamental determiner of competitiveness both in the private and public sectors (Cong & Pandya 2003). Even though the study is a great milestone in understanding the concept of knowledge sharing, generalisations cannot be extended to the case of public sector in UAE bearing in mind the work dynamics which change from organisation to organisation and from region to the other. For instance, efficiency, productivity, quality and innovations have been pointed out as new initiatives in the public sector in which for a long time leadership processes have mainly been bureaucratic, while knowledge management is inclined to transformational leadership.

Maintaining of knowledge within an organisation is crucial for continuity and productivity. Organisations encounter intellectual and financial losses on separation of an employee if they are ignorant on attrition of knowledge which usually happens in absence of succession planning strategy. Durst and Wilhelm (2012) established that attrition costs organisations both financial and intellectual capital. Durst and Wilhelm (2012) asserted that the loss of knowledge in an organisation arises due to lack of a good succession planning. The study established that knowledge management influences the succession planning. The key anchor of the study was provision of insights on how established firms deal with the issue of attrition of knowledge and the implications to the firm. Even though the study established key implication of lack knowledge management, by considering employee turnover, succession planning, and knowledge attrition, it was based on one organisation; hence, limiting generalisations. This is based on the understanding that different organisational cultures affect the field of knowledge management and succession planning processes. Furthermore, the study was for a German firm and hence, such findings may not be applicable in the case of Abu Dhabi public sector.

Strategic policies are the key drivers for implementation of programs in an organization. In the public sector, the overall government policy on any aspect dictates the outcome of the probable outcome. Based on this understanding, Riege and Lindsay (2006) undertook a study on knowledge management in public sector which focused on stakeholder partnership in the development of public policy. Riege and Lindsay (2006) found out that existing processes and frameworks provide good starting point that helps to capture knowledge about stakeholders. Nevertheless, Riege and Lindsay acknowledged that there is little evidence published about knowledge management in public sector. In order to substantiate the arguments, various knowledge management theories were used and experiences from the public sector. Thus, it pointed out to the importance of policies in public sectors to guide the knowledge management and succession planning. In a specific case of public sector in the UAE region, the underutilization level in UAE public sectors in 2009 was 42%; while Oman was 25% and Saudi Arabia was 47% which shows clear abrasion of knowledge by more than half of the knowledge available in the region. These findings are significations of lack of clear government policies on management of knowledge in the region.

The changes being experienced in the public sector calls for new policies that will aid in the transformation from just service provision to competitive entities that value productivity and innovations. The influx of multinational enterprises in the UAE should act as one of the catalysts. With the increased attrition where key personnel in public sector leave for private sector, there is need for a change. This should be informed by the fact Knowledge management has an essential role in public administration especially in building intellectual capital (Wiig 2002). This helps in the enhancing the effectiveness of situation handling and decision making process. Knowledge management is crucial in the improvement, development and updating the existing knowledge; this helps public sector to rely on knowledge to increase success, engagement and responsiveness with informed decision making. The arguments advanced by Wiig (2002) are substantiated by exploring the various approaches and perspectives of knowledge management. Even though such arguments provide an in-depth description of management of knowledge in public sector, the article is not backed up by an objective study; instead, it is based on a research paper that draws from other studies that may not be contextualised to the case of Abu Dhabi.

Although the findings by Wiig (2002) may not be contextualised to UAE, there are similarities that relate to productivity both in the private and public sectors. For example, studies have shown that job satisfaction affects attitudes towards the work. This denotes that knowledge management and succession planning should be aligned to strategies that enhance personal output in the organisation. In this respect, Boateng and Agyemang (2016) explored the key determinants of knowledge sharing in a public institution in Ghana. The study established that mutual trust, respect and care for one another, the need for success and education level among the employees are the significant determinants of the factors that influence knowledge sharing. The data obtained through semi structured interview was analysed using thematic analysis technique. Thus, the main argument presented by Boateng and Agyemang (2016) is that the level of employee job satisfaction and the need to serve the public are crucial in the sharing of knowledge.

In the modern globalised society, change has become the order of the day; as a result, there is the need for knowledge management to ensure that any change in an organisation does not lead to operational gaps. Michalopoulos and Psychogios (2002) argued that middle managers are ‘knowledge engineers’; they execute the general strategy of the organisation based on their views and environmental operation conditions in the organisation. Michalopoulos and Psychogios (2002) pose the question whether the managers can operate as learning agents in public organisations. In examining whether the middle managers can operate as learning agents in the case of Greece, Michalopoulos and Psychogios (2002) established that external environment plays a critical factor in enhancing or hindering the learning. For instance, the bureaucratic nature of many public sector operations limits transfer of knowledge. Based on the study, it can be denoted that in the case of Greece, knowledge management has not been embraced due to complex nature of the public sector.

From the literature review, it is evident that knowledge management in organisations is influenced by many factors. This implies that whether in public or private sectors, there are crucial factors that determine how knowledge management and succession planning takes place; for instance, leadership of the organisation, organisational cultural orientation, technology and general work environment. The findings from the review of the literature have resulted into a new perspective that can be applied in understanding and examining knowledge management in the public sector. For example, in the study of middle managers in Greece, it was established that though in private sector they act as knowledge engineers, in the public sector, this is not the case due to environmental influences such as political interferences and the bureaucratic nature of government operations. This discovery formed the basis for the formulation of the current research questions aimed at investigating whether the UAE government influences succession planning in the public sector. Such questions will explore whether political appointees to government installations are based on merit or political affiliations.

An important finding was the recurring theme of creation of knowledge management strategies as a key theme. The theme is interconnected to sharing of knowledge and the overall productivity that is associated to knowledge management. As such, the present study is inclined to both the philosophical paradigms of positivism and interpretivism, but overbalanced towards the interpretivism philosophy in order to investigate more themes such as commercialisation of knowledge in the public sector. Besides, the literature review forms the basis for the selection of the overall study methodology in which explorative study design is to be used to direct the entire study. The literature review provided a wide scope understanding of knowledge management both in the private and public sector. For example, it was established that job satisfaction, managers and the organisational culture influence knowledge sharing. Therefore, in the current study, this becomes the basis of choosing the study participants who can shed light on the issues of knowledge management and its contribution in succession planning in case of Abu Dhabi public sector.


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