The National Academies

NCHRP 23-21 [Final]

Enabling Knowledge Management through Leadership Strategy and Culture

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Comments: This project has been combined with NCHRP 23-18 and is being conducted as NCHRP 23-17

This project has been combined with NCHRP 23-18 Incorporating Knowledge Management into DOT Business Practices and is being conducted as NCHRP 23-17  Assessing and Measuring the Business Value of Knowledge Management.

As workforce turnover has increased and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated remote work, the need for knowledge management (KM) has increased. Many state DOTs are striving to establish KM practices but with limited success.   Organizations that have succeeded in establishing a sustainable enterprise-wide KM practice have one common factor – they have put in place an intentional KM strategy that aligns their knowledge strategies with business strategies, and their knowledge cultures with business cultures.    In each case, active leadership support has been a critical success factor.  
Achieving a sustainable KM practice is challenging in a transportation organization for several reasons.
·         KM is still new within many transportation agencies so employees are unfamiliar with the concept and associated practices.
·         Transportation business strategies are dynamic and are influenced by many factors including geographical locations, populations, structure, modes of transportation, technical disciplines (e.g., engineering, planning …), administrative structures, and the financial environment.
·         Transportation cultures are complex. A single DOT will have an engineering culture, administrative culture, a business culture, a research culture, an operations culture, a political culture, etc.   One or more of these cultures may be dominant at a given level (e.g., organization level, team or unit level, or individual).   
Culture and strategy are co-dependent. Culture exerts powerful influences on the behavior of units, teams, and individuals and, therefore, a major impact on its ability to carry out objectives.   When a team or an organization’s culture is not well aligned with its strategy, activities fail to be sustained. In other words, as coined from Peter Drucker’s work “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  
In addition, it is critical in the knowledge economy that there is a good fit between the knowledge strategy and the knowledge culture. For example, a strategy to employ smart technologies will fail if it exists in an organization dominated by an industrial-era culture.
This project targets the alignment of KM strategies and cultures with business strategies and cultures and is specifically intended to help the KM leads in state DOTs and, through them, the business units they work with. However, it is anticipated that the outcome of this research will have value for any business area seeking to introduce new practices.
This research will help agencies identify the unique business strategies and cultures within their organization and provide guidance on how to use this information to (1) gain leadership buy-in for KM and (2) develop a KM strategy and culture that aligns with the business strategy and culture. Increasing recognition of cultural attributes will help improve the success of organizational change and transformation initiatives.
The objectives of this research project are to enable knowledge management professionals to
  • Identify and profile the business strategies that their knowledge management strategies should support
  • Identify a method guiding how to assess agency culture relative to knowledge and knowledge management
  • Identify methods for creating a resilient and relevant knowledge management strategy that supports business
  • Analyze and profile the cultural environment for the purpose of aligning and adapting their knowledge management strategy to support and be supported by leadership
  • Design effective culture-based arguments for leadership to adopt that will sustain knowledge management strategies
  • Outline success criteria for an agency KM strategy
  1. Conduct a literature review on culture change, the alignment of culture and strategy, cultural assessment, and knowledge management culture and strategy. This review should include literature generated within the transportation community and beyond.
  2. Characterize and assess the role that leadership, strategy and culture have played in successful knowledge management projects, programs and initiatives (transportation and non-transportation).
  3. Develop a framework for understanding and characterizing levels and types of culture in place and at play in an organization. The framework should help an organization to identify which factors and levels of culture are dominant at any point in time. The framework is essential to helping an agency “see” their organizational culture, and also see what factors will help them align those cultures to support KM strategies.   
  4. Develop a set of current awareness and training materials on organizational culture analysis and KM strategy alignment.
  5. Select a set of representative state agencies and conduct interviews with a set of business units representing different kinds of cultures and strategies, and conduct “desk exercises” at various position levels (e.g., from front line workers, management, and executives).
  6. Propose a framework and methodology that can be used and adapted by any agency to manage their challenges.
  7. Identify organizations that have a KM strategy and how it interfaces with their business strategies and cultures and best leadership buy-in approaches.
  8. Prepare a guidebook that walks the reader through the framework and methodology.
Research products are anticipated to include a report on the methodology used, a guidance document that is useable by knowledge management leads, and outreach materials about the results.

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