The Communicative Accomplishment of Knowledge Work in the Construction Industry
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The domestic construction industry consists of project based, dispersed organizations that face unique challenges when compared to other sectors. These challenges have largely slowed the innovative capacity of the industry. Knowledge management is a communicative practice that moves beyond data and information management systems approaches to engage the largely tacit know-how and expertise of organizational members and project stakeholders. This study attempts to further the understanding of the communicative accomplishment of knowledge work in the construction industry by engaging in both ethnographic and survey data analysis to help determine (1) how organizational members communicate what they know with others to solve problems and create capacities for action in our everyday work practice; (2) the level of knowledge management use among domestic construction organizations; (3) what motivates organizations to adopt new knowledge management practices; and (4) whether communicative knowledge management practice had measurable benefits to the organizations who were attempting to implement it. The first study is an ethnographic investigation of the communicative practice that one construction company utilized to help manage its knowledge resources. Everyday knowledge management practices observed included the use of structured occasions and planning meetings where project stakeholders engaged in the use of questioning and mentoring in a way that promoted an organizational learning culture which relied on a complex and largely unregulated network of expertise. The findings also suggest that embodied knowledge should be considered to help explain how organization actors approach problem solving episodes. Lastly, the study highlights the possibility of an organizational transactive memory system that helps organizational members know who knows what. The second quantitative study takes stock of the current levels of knowledge management practice among a sample of domestic construction companies. The study found that knowledge management systems were still relatively rare, despite the uniform belief in their value and importance. The motivation to adopt knowledge management practices was shown to indirectly increase project benefits, being mediated by both the obstacles to knowledge management adoption and specific knowledge management tool use. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed in regard to each study, as well as the research project as a whole.
Sommer, Paul Allen (2016). The Communicative Accomplishment of Knowledge Work in the Construction Industry. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from