Knowledge management and the codification of knowledge in the UK Post Office

Hall, Matthew (2003). Knowledge management and the codification of knowledge in the UK Post Office. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis explores the concept of knowledge codification in the context of Knowledge Management (KM) in an organisation. In the KM literature, codification of knowledge into information is viewed as central to the notion that knowledge can be managed and transferred. However, such literature pays little attention to knowledge codification as a process, or to the complex issues which the concept of codification raises. The research therefore examines processes of knowledge codification in an organisation, and how codification plays a part in its emerging approach to Knowledge Management.

The empirical research was conducted within the internal consultancy section of the UK Post Office, using a methodology of participant observation within the Knowledge Management consultancy group. The data were collected predominantly from participation in a KM project: This aimed to capture knowledge from consultants working on an overseas consultancy project, and to transfer their knowledge elsewhere in the Post Office through the medium of codified text.

The research has gained in-depth insight into an organisation's approach to Knowledge Management, and generated significant findings about knowledge codification as a process. In particular, the analysis focuses on different levels of social interaction in which the processes of knowledge codification occurred, and finds that codification involves more than just the codification of knowledge into information: Codification also involves the process of defining the codes needed to codify knowledge. However, the codified knowledge will have limited transferability to individuals or groups who do not share the underlying knowledge and experience to enable them to decodify the codes similarly. The thesis therefore concludes that further research is needed to bring attention to the importance of knowledge decodification within the Knowledge Management discourse.

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