HOW SHOULD "KNOWLEDGE BASES" BE ORGANISED IN MULTI-TECHNOLOGY CORPORATIONS?
JONATHAN D. SAPSED
This paper addresses a key interest in Keith Pavitt's later work; the organisational arrangements for co-ordinating technological knowledge. It also concurs with Pavitt's insistence on the constraints on managerial agency and his nihilistic amusement at frustrated plans. The paper considers Pavitt's conceptualisation of knowledge bases as technical disciplines and argues that there is an inconspicuous sub-level of specialised knowledge base associated with tools, products, project experience and requirements that may hamper the intents of higher-level organisation design.Two contrasting case studies are analysed of organisations attempting to manage transitions that are aimed at improving co-ordination processes. The first has moved from organisation around functional disciplines to product-based, cross-functional teams, while the second has done the reverse. The paper reviews the effects of these opposing organizational solutions on the processes of knowledge integration within the firms, the effects on communities of practice and the ways in which the systems have developed and adapted in response to the reorganisations. The paper challenges some of the simplistic prescriptions offered in the literature and provides further fuel for the debates over organisation design and the knowledge integration task.
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