The tacit knowledge transfer process: How middle managers facilitate knowledge sharing in organizations

by Khumalo, Felix, Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2012, 151 pages; 3512454


The current study investigates how middle managers in organizations facilitate tacit knowledge transfer, a practice that can protect intellectual property and lead to competitive advantage. Despite the widely recognized importance of tacit knowledge, many organizations do not have technological processes for facilitating its transfer to employees. Such organizations face a dilemma of lost intellectual property when incumbent tacit knowledge owners vacate positions without transferring their expertise to incoming employees. Drawing from literature, a theoretical model was developed that posits that knowledge transfer is influenced by the ability of middle managers to harness and transfer competences of tacit knowledge owners to all employees. After providing a definition of tacit knowledge that delimited it from other forms of knowledge, research questions were employed to explore the antecedents of knowledge sharing and to investigate how middle managers used technology to facilitate (a) tacit and explicit knowledge transfer, (b) the use of transferred knowledge for new product innovation and service improvements, and (c) the evaluation of knowledge transfer effectiveness in the workplace. Four tacit knowledge conversion cycles, referred to as SECI, were explored: (a) socialization, (b) externalization, (c) combination, and (d) internalization. The knowledge transfer process is a spiral that grows out of these knowledge conversion cycles and a key to positive change in organizations. Findings from this research revealed that tacit knowledge transfer materialized in work environments in which socialization behavior was practiced. Socialization comprised tacit knowledge owners transferring their expertise as they spent time interacting, mentoring and coaching recipients. Internalization, which included hands-on training, also emerged as an effective tacit knowledge transfer behavior that was practiced. Employees shadowed subject matter experts, participated in mentoring rings and began coaching others. Central to knowledge transfer were computerized systems for capturing, storing, and disseminating tacit and explicit knowledge to the whole organization's ecosystems. In order for knowledge transfer to succeed, leaders needed to offer verbal praise, employee recognition, and rewards. In the future, the success of continuous knowledge transfer practice will depend on transformational and situational leaders who are catalysts for change and promoters of an organizational culture that supports and rewards such behavior.

AdviserLilburn P. Hoehn
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Occupational psychology; Business education; Organizational behavior
Publication Number3512454

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