Informality meets Formality: When Management’s and Employees’ Practices of Knowledge Sharing Diverge
Knowledge sharing, as a significant part of knowledge management, is a difficult but important objective for organisations to achieve. Previous research in this field calls for more attention to knowledge sharing in an organisational context and studies of the means and consequences of management’s and employees’ diverging practices. Answering this call, the following article is based on a case study at Smart Planning Solutions AB, a Swedish IT service providing company. This study shows that knowledge sharing among employees mainly occurs within communities of practice. Moreover, we find that management wants knowledge sharing to take place formally via guidelines, IT systems and meetings, while employees adapt given instructions and share knowledge informally. These diverging practices lead to a paradox. We argue that employees need formal managerial tools which they de-formalise in order to share knowledge informally with each other. We found that de-formalisation is done in three ways: transformation, extraction and avoidance. This study shows that management can influence knowledge sharing, but not the way knowledge is shared among employees.
MSc in Management