Design research on anecdote-based knowledge elicitation for organization development

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Design research on anecdote-based knowledge elicitation for organization development


Author: Yip, Yuen Tung
Title: Design research on anecdote-based knowledge elicitation for organization development
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2016
Subject: Organizational change.
Knowledge management.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Pages: xi, 320 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: The emergence of factory and office automation brought about by the growing adoption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) technologies has changed the business landscape tremendously. Nowadays, product life cycles have become much shorter, and the mobility of workers has increased. In addition, business processes have become less structured. This is especially true for the knowledge intensive sectors, such as business, education, marketing, finance and accounting and various professional services. Under these rapid changes, organizations recognize that the correct diagnosis of organization development (OD) problems is crucial to their continual success. OD is the study, as well as the professional practice, to enhance organizational performance and effectiveness through appropriate intervention methods. OD intervention aims to bring about changes in an organization in different aspects such as technostructural, human process, and human resources management. Some common examples of intervention are business reengineering, team building, leadership training, job enrichment, performance appraisal, planning and goal setting. In the formulation of OD initiatives, good understanding of the problems and issues facing organizations is essential. The correct diagnosis of problems hinges on the information solicited and the knowledge input from various stakeholders of an organization, as well as their interpretation, that is, how such information is being made sense of. However, existing OD problem diagnosis processes are found to be inadequate in tackling complex business problems. In conducting OD intervention, very often the implementation relies on an externally appointed consultant or an internal champion backed up by a working group nominated from the management, or a combination of the above. In the existing OD literature, the importance of knowledge elicitation (KE) for problem diagnosis has been generally neglected. There have been few research studies that have explored KE issues in the organizational context, such as in OD, as well as on the role of the researcher in eliciting the different kinds of knowledge inputs to facilitate the OD process. The objectives of this study are thus (i) to identify the OD problems and interventions in several reference sites (ii) to design a KE method for diagnosing OD problems based on use of anecdotes (iii) to implement, test and modify the design solution through iteration.
A six-step research model related to the multidisciplinary research framework on how we see the world (based on a constructivism paradigm), how we elicit knowledge (based on a social complexity paradigm) and what the role of researcher is (based on a participatory research paradigm) is proposed. These steps are: identification of the OD problem, elicitation of relevant anecdotes and knowledge, post-processing of anecdotes, design of interventions, delivery of output and evaluation and seeking for improvements. Three case studies were conducted to investigate respective OD problems and design the relevant interventions in the reference sites, with regard to how to report intellectual capital (IC) in a company, how to audit knowledge assets and how to assess organization culture. The design solution used in Case I succeeded in harnessing real-life anecdotes, and used them as basis for KE, but it still requires experts. interventions to sort out the required knowledge from the anecdotes. Case II of the research was conducted in an electronics manufacturing company for the purpose of auditing knowledge assets. The design solution focused on the introduction of collective wisdom during the KE process. Anecdote circle and sense-making elements (SMIs) were introduced in the design solution such that the participation from organization members was enhanced. However, the design solution in Case II still requires the researcher to assist in jotting down knowledge items on post-its during anecdote circles for use in the sense-making exercises. In Case III, the reference site was a public transportation company. The design solution was used for identification of strategic goals, staff's concerns and proposed action for the development of organizational learning culture. The SMIs were elicited from the anecdotes told by the participants, in which the themes of their concerns were then mapped to the strategic goals elicited from the senior management, and action items based on these were derived. In Case III, the researcher involvement was minimized. An anecdote-based KE process, which is only facilitated by the researchers, but has content elicited and post-processed by the participants was developed. This developed KE approach is named as the GRIP (Group Reflection and Inquiry Protocol). Traditional KE methods based on questionnaires and interviews would project the ideas and assumptions of the researchers. Therefore, the level of the researcher's role in interviews and questionnaires is considered high. The more complex type of OD problem is found to be better studied by the use of anecdote-based KE methods as applied in Cases I (card sorting), II (focus group) and III (collective sense-making) with different degrees of involvement of the researcher in the OD interventions. The method of GRIP, which combines knowledge elicitation and OD intervention, has minimum interference from the researcher to bring about changes in an organization. An open communication platform is created for the participants as well as there being no demand for any special expertise of the consultant or researcher in the OD interventions. This is significant in the KE literature as the researcher's role has shifted from being an expert or investigator to a facilitator, who no longer depends on a standard set of factors, nor experts' presumptions, to diagnosis OD problems. The method developed in this study is the first of its kind in KE and OD studies.

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