After having examined the organization thoroughly, Kathryn Everest has found that the lack of information sharing is impeding the delivery of education. Ontario’s Ministry of Education (EDU) is divided into divisions, branches and different units and due to the nature of these operating procedures, employees are experiencing constant changes in tasks, job positions and reporting relationships. There is a need for the employees to feel as one and function as a ministry with modest limitations. As Kathryn Everest, I would recommend EDU to implement a combination of knowledge management solutions including communities of practice (CoP) and expert directory (ED). In doing so it will help employees to work mutually as a company rather than a department. It will direct the development and use of a knowledge management process to promote the sharing of knowledge, experience, expert insight and vulnerabilities. It will also facilitate stronger connections between employees across the entire organization. Once the implementation is complete, I anticipate it will result in improving the knowledge and experience level of the ministry’s workforce that will increase productivity to support the overall objective of driving excellence in knowledge sharing.
Most of the ministries’ knowledge management is tacit
Employees often refer to other people as information source instead of looking on particular web sites or documents. There are pockets of specialized tacit knowledge and strong research skills within the organization. For example, at EDU, there were two different experts in child psychology with specialized knowledge relevant to a particular education policy formation project, but neither expert had ever met the other because each one was located indifferent offices.
Documented knowledge is difficult to locate and share
Employees less rely on documented knowledge versus key personnel contacts. The concern is that documented knowledge is incomplete, obsolete or unavailable for public consumption. In performing their duties, staff at EDU relies on 38 different Web sites for knowledge and information gathering and sharing. It is estimated that there is three million different documents on EDU’s hard drives. These documents vary in levels of confidentiality and format. It is very common when the same document can be found on several different hard drives.
Multiple structural and organizational changes
EDU is divided into multiple divisions, branches and units. Over the past 15 years, EDU and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities have been combined and broken up frequently. These changes resulted in constant and significant changes in tasks, jobs position and reporting relationships. As a result, in their day-to-day work employees mostly relied on informal relationships that crossed functions and levels.
Significant cultural issues that inhibit knowledge sharing
Confidentiality issues inhibited and restricted collaboration and knowledge sharing. Employees are extremely careful with the data, information and knowledge that they use, preferring limited disclosure versus full disclosure. They believe that being conservative with regard to how much information is released will be a good safeguard against unwittingly releasing sensitive information both internally or externally.
Weak knowledge-sharing infrastructure and management can’t readily identify experts in the field
Limited knowledge and information-sharing result in duplication of efforts. As it was mentioned above, there are instances where two different parties proceeded to conduct similar research on the same topic because each was unaware of the other’s intentions.
Environment and Root Cause Analysis
The Ontario Ministry of Education has a great deal of impact within the present provincial economy and the future economy, which today’s students will form tomorrow. With the job of regulating elementary and secondary schools across the province, the ministry is responsible for over one million students and 130 000 teachers. Weighted-Average Chart (Exhibit 1) produces a brief yet detailed representation of the different facets of EDU.
Time required for implementation. Considering that this is being implemented at a provincial level, time is taken into consideration when I look at the implementation process.
Cost of Implementation. Considering the assumption that EDU has only sourced from IBM and has a budget of $8.1 Billion, cost wasn’t weighed heavily. I’m assuming that one of these alternatives will be chosen and implemented based on other considerations.
Communications. One of the biggest concerns that was addressed was the communication breakdown between the different departments and sections of EDU. There was often concurrent and redundant activity that was happening due to the lack of communication.
Trust in Community. According to the social survey, there was a deficiency in willingness to share. This stems from a lack of trust within the community itself. People are unwilling to share knowledge for fear of overexposure. They tend to keep tacit knowledge within the silos of hierarchy. If a greater sense of community was developed there would be a greater appreciation for sharing.
Knowledge Availability. Having access to knowledge is important for the redistribution of work. Currently there is a fair availability of knowledge, however due to the reluctance of many people in the EDU to post or distribute their work there is a gap in knowledge across the whole organization. Exhibit 2 shows the results of the Social Capital Survey. The survey allowed employees of the Ministry to identify what they believed to be important. They then give value to the current status of these criteria on a scale of 1-5 (5 being “strongly agree”). This table shows that employees value sharing information and the ease of consultation with experts, but are not satisfied with the ability achievable with their current culture and current structure.
Alternatives and Options
A SWOT analysis would produce a brief yet detailed representation of the different aspects of the Ministry of Education (EDU). One assumption is that EDU cannot go bankrupt or is not threatened by the arrival of new competitors as the Ministry is in the business of spending money and not making it.
- $8.1 billion is available for education funding allowing investments in organizational infrastructure
- Many well-trained experts in many fields
- Strong community culture, individuals have many informal relationships within the organization
- Many geographic locations with capabilities of interacting with the various school districts
- Available technology and means to maintain web-based services for the organization
- Knowledge is mostly tacit and is not recorded
- Many Web-based services are not used and take-up resources
- Documented knowledge is often hard to locate or share
- People do not want to rely on documented knowledge
- Conservative confidentiality restrictions limits inter-organizational communication and creates issues
- EDU has a weak knowledge-sharing infrastructure leading to multiple redundancies
- Experts are difficult to identify within the organization and are even more difficult to reach
- Tracking work/progress of projects internally is near impossible
- Unclear structure of authority/ formal reporting authority
- EDU employs many different types of experts, who can produce knowledge for the ministry
- Tacit knowledge can be transferred to explicit knowledge using expert systems
- Explicit knowledge can help lower level employees do their jobs more efficiently
- EDU already has internet-based software and has the hardware to access it
- To create a new web-based or intranet based communication system would greatly benefit the organization
- The Ministry can streamline many research projects and have experts work together, reducing redundancy throughout the various departments
- Addition of expert systems would allow the Ministry to locate experts and better exploit their knowledge base
- Addition of an integrated expert system will allow the organization to look in one place for an answer to Frequently Asked Questions
- A high turnover rate for employees could cripple the Ministry’s pocket of tacit knowledge
- Re-merging with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities will create redundancies and more communication problems
- Inability to head a reform with so many internal communication problems
- Without educational reform headed by the Ministry, student performance will remain unsatisfactory
Recommendations and Implementation
Based on the information from the weighted average comparison, both ED and CoP are favored. These systems can be designed and built to complement each other. ED is an easy system to implement when compared to CoP. It is a quick solution that will readily address the concern of where to find the knowledge. CoP implementation will take longer as it has much higher social aspect, and ED implementation will eliminate the gap in communication and make knowledge more searchable. I would develop CoP and ED at the same time, and once ED is established it will help to provide a baseline for reputable sources that CoP can capitalize to address the issues.
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