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Supervisors' emerging role in second-generation knowledge management

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Title: Supervisors' emerging role in second-generation knowledge management
Author(s): Mäkinen, Kalle
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Education, Department of Education
Discipline: Adult education
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2000
Abstract:
This study examines supervisors' emerging new role in a technical customer service and home customers division of a large Finnish telecommunications corporation. Data of the study comes from a second-generation knowledge management project, an intervention research, which was conducted for supervisors of the division. The study exemplifies how supervision work is transforming in high technology organization characterized with high speed of change in technologies, products, and in grass root work practices. The intervention research was conducted in the division during spring 2000. Primary analyzed data consists of six two-hour videorecorded intervention sessions. Unit of analysis has been collective learning actions. Researcher has first written conversation transcripts out of the video-recorded meetings and then analyzed this qualitative data using analytical schema based on collective learning actions. Supervisors' role is conceptualized as an actor of a collective and dynamic activity system, based on the ideas from cultural historical activity theory. On knowledge management researcher has taken a second-generation knowledge management viewpoint, following ideas from cultural historical activity theory and developmental work research. Second-generation knowledge management considers knowledge embedded and constructed in collective practices, such as innovation networks or communities of practice (supervisors' work community), which have the capacity to create new knowledge. Analysis and illustration of supervisors' emerging new role is conceptualized in this framework using methodological ideas derived from activity theory and developmental work research. Major findings of the study show that supervisors' emerging new role in a high technology telecommunication organization characterized with high speed of discontinuous change in technologies, products, and in grass-root practices cannot be defined or characterized using a normative management role/model. Their role is expanding two-dimensionally, (1) socially and (2) in new knowledge, and work practices. The expansion in organization and inter-organizational network (social expansion) causes pressures to manage a network of co-operation partners and subordinates. On the other hand, the faster speed of change in technological solutions, new products, and novel customer wants (expansion in knowledge) causes pressures for supervisors to innovate quickly new work practices to manage this change.
Keyword(s): activity theory knowledge management developmental work research supervisors high technology organizations telecommunication organizations second-generation knowledge management competence laboratory intervention research learning actions


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