Knowledge management enablers at the selected banks

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A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is a delight (Proverbs11:1)


In Chapter Two, the concepts and role of knowledge management in enhancing organisational performance, KM practices and retention strategies in South African banks were the most important features discussed. The literature review established that KM is applicable to any organisation. With that background from Chapter Two, this chapter describes the research design and methodology that were followed in the execution of this study. The ethical considerations, target population, sampling technique, and validity and reliability issues are also discussed in this chapter. The chapter also discusses data analysis to determine the role of knowledge management in the selected South African banks (FNB and Nedbank). An embedded case study design, with the aid of survey and interview data collection instruments to establish the role of knowledge management in enhancing organisational performance at selected banks, was used in this study.
Research is the process of undertaking or carrying out original investigation in all its forms: analysis, innovation, experiment, observation, intellectual enquiry, survey, scholarship, creativity, measurement, development, hypothesis, modelling and evaluating with a view to generating new knowledge or novel comprehension (Bushaway, 2003:161). Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) posit that the basic methods of conducting research can be adopted if the researcher understands what research is all about. Research may be identified as applied or basic. According to Powell and Connaway (2004: 53):
Basic research tends to be theoretical in nature and concerns itself primarily with theory construction, hypothesis testing, and producing new, generalisable knowledge. Applied research tends to be more pragmatic and emphasizes providing information that is immediately useable in the resolution of actual problems, which may or may not have application beyond the immediate study.
Leedy and Omrod (2005) believe that applied and basic research categories complement each other. Sharing similar views, Argyris (1993) suggests that the distinction between basic and applied research be reformulated by showing how basic research contributes to applied research. The roadmap for the research design and methodology for this study is shown in Figure 3.1.
The study seeks to generate new knowledge on the banks‟ KM practices (basic research). In this study, quantitative data is used as the primary data collection strategy, supplemented by qualitative data, thus providing the study with a richer set of data whilst promoting the generalisation of the study‟s findings. Figure 3.1 is a pictorial representation of how Chapter Three is presented. The research design and methodology of this study are informed by the research paradigms, namely positivist, pragmatic and interpretivist. A research paradigm informs the type of methodology a researcher decides upon. In this case, the researcher chose the multi-methods as the research strategy. The use of multi-methods is motivated by the type of questions and the nature of the data desired for this study. Triangulation of methods is achieved in data collection where questionnaires and interviews were used as the main data collection instruments. The last element of the research design and methodology road map relates to ethical considerations. When carrying out research, the UNISA (2007) policy on research recommends that a researcher should get permission from the university and from the phenomena to carry-out the study. More details about Figure 3.1 are discussed in the next section.

 The research paradigm

Creswell (1994) opines that the design of a study begins with the selection of a topic and a paradigm. Paradigms in the human and social sciences help us understand phenomena; they advance assumptions about the social world, how science should be conducted and what constitutes legitimate problems, solutions and criteria of proof (Kuhn, 1970). The two widely discussed paradigms are quantitative and qualitative (Kuhn, 1970). The quantitative paradigm is termed the traditional, positivist, experimental or the empiricist paradigm. The quantitative thinking comes from an empiricist tradition established by such authors as Comte, Mill, Durkheim, Newton and Locke (Creswell, 1994:4). On the other hand, the qualitative is termed the constructivist or naturalistic approach (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). These two paradigms are discussed in sections 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 respectively.
To understand the assumptions of each paradigm, writers such as Guba and Lincoln (1988) and McCracken (1988) have contrasted quantitative and qualitative paradigms on several dimensions. Table 3.1 presents the five (ontological, epistemological, axiological, rhetorical and methodological) assumptions. The left hand column denotes the assumption, followed by the questions, quantitative and qualitative paradigms in the last columns respectively In pursuit of the roadmap that was adopted in the study, the next section presents a discussion on the positivist paradigm.

 Positivist (quantitative) paradigm

Creswell (2007) states that a positivist/functionalist/hypothetico-deductive approach is the traditional quantitative approach to social and educational research, whilst Pellissier (2008:15) posits that the research strategies generally fall within a continuum of possibilities between positivist, which is quantitative, scientific experiment, and a traditional approach, which views reality as a concrete structure. From an ontological perspective, the positivist approach views that reality is an objective, singular and it does not depend on the perception of any one individual. Thus, knowledge is located outside any single individual and is something apart from them (Creswell, 2007). During data collection, individual participants voluntarily and freely provide their opinions and perceptions about the KM and the researcher is invisible during the survey. This is in line with the epistemological perspective, which states that the researcher is independent from that being researched (Guba and Lincoln, 1988 and McCracken, 1988). Creswell and Miller (1997) state that:
Because knowledge is objective and external to individuals, researchers want to make sure that their individual biases do not unduly influence a test. They therefore use standard terms to describe knowledge and remove themselves from the study. Researchers are invisible, in the background, out of sight. Their written study uses an impersonal tone. They define terms precisely in the literature and do not mention themselves.
To study something using the positivist methodology, researchers may experiment with careful controls for bias, use a prior theoretical framework, and carefully delineate specific variables that can be operationally defined according to standards in the scholarly literature. In this case, it was indicated that this study applied a theoretical framework to substantiate the research. The researcher believes that information from a sample can be „generalised‟ to the population of respondents in a survey (Creswell and Miller, 1997). In this study, a structured survey instrument was developed to measure variables to make inferences from a sample of middle level managers in selected banks. Deductive processes, generalisations leading to predictions, explanations and understandings of the role of KM in enhancing organisational performance were carried out in this study with respect to the methodological assumption (Guba and Lincoln, 1988 and McCracken, 1988).In view of the above discussion; the positivist paradigm was recommended and applied in this study.

Interpretive (qualitative) paradigm

The interpretive approach views reality as a projection of human imagination (ontological assumption). Creswell and Miller (1997) state that an interpretivist places substantial emphasis on how participants in a study make sense or meaning of a situation. The qualitative researcher visits the „field‟, gathering information from interviews with individuals who can tell their stories (epistemological assumption). According to Creswell and Miller (1997), the researcher studies these individuals in their natural setting for prolonged periods in order to gain a sense of the context or setting for participants‟ remarks. The investigator does not gain knowledge by espousing a rigid theory but forms it inductively from views and experiences of participants in the research. Hence, qualitative research is called „interpretive‟ research that reports participants‟ views (Creswell and Miller, 1997). Inductive processes, emerging design categories and themes were applied during data collection to verify issues that were not addressed by the survey.

 Pragmatic approaches

Increasingly, researchers are combining interpretive or qualitative research approaches with positivist or quantitative approaches. These studies are called mixed-method research (MMR), multi-method, or integrated approaches to research (Creswell, 1997a). Creswell, Fetters and Ivankova (2004:7) offer a definition of MMR as being applicable to „a study that involves the collection or analysis of both quantitative and/or qualitative data in a single study in which the data are collected concurrently or sequentially, [both kinds of data] are given a priority, and [interpretations] involve the integration of the data at one or more stages in the process of research‟. The researcher starts with a problem that needs to be solved and uses the tools available to understand it. In other words, the researcher views knowledge pragmatically as based on studying „problems‟ or „issues‟ by using a variety of research methodologies (Creswell, Goodchild, and Turner, 1996). Pragmatism is a position that argues that the most important determinant of the adopted research philosophy is the research question, arguing that it is possible to work within both positivist and interpretivist positions (Creswell, 2009).This means that a philosophical stance such as the location of knowledge is secondary to the larger question of the problem that needs to be solved. In the next section, a discussion on the research strategy is presented.

 Research methodology

The previous section elucidated the three broad paradigms that are used in research. This section discusses the various methodologies that informed this study.

1.0 Introduction
1.1 Definition of terms
1.2 Theoretical framework
1.3 Contextual setting
1.4 Research problem
1.5 Purpose of the study
1.6 Research objectives
1.7 Research questions
1.8 Justification for the study
1.9 Originality of study
1.10 Research design and methodology
1.11 Scope and limitations of study
1.12 Organisation of the thesis
1.13 Referencing style used in the thesis
1.14 Chapter summary
2.0 Introduction
2.1 The role of the literature review
2.2 Sources of information
2.3 Map of research literature
2.4 Foundations of knowledge management
2.5 Use of theory in knowledge management
2.6 Knowledge management schools of thought
2.7 Knowledge management benefits, policies and practices
2.8 The role of KM enablers in the implementation of KM strategies
2.9 Risks of losing knowledge
2.10 Strategies for safeguarding knowledge
2.11 Knowledge management systems
2.12 Knowledge management in selected banks
2.13 Knowledge management in financial institutions
2.14 Synthesis and evaluation of theory
2.15 Studies related to KM practices in other organisations
2.16 Chapter summary
3.0 Introduction
3.1 The research paradigm
3.2 Research methodology
3.3 Research design/strategy
3.4 Data collection
3.5 Data quality
3.6 Sources of evidence
3.7 Data analysis and presentation
3.8 Evaluation of the research methodology
3.9 Chapter summary
4.0 Introduction
4.1 Quantitative findings
4.2 Qualitative findings
4.3 Chapter Summary
5.0 Introduction
5.1 Data analysis
5.2 Interpretation of findings
5.3 Theories of knowledge management
5.4 Patterns of data for each research objective
5.5 Knowledge management enablers at the selected banks
5.6 Knowledge management and organisational performance at selected banks
5.7 Risks of losing knowledge at selected banks
5.8 Plans for capturing the knowledge of experts leaving the selected banks
5.9 Strategies for safeguarding knowledge in selected banks
5.10 Knowledge management solutions at the selected banks
5.11 Synthesis
5.12 Chapter summary
6.0 Introduction
6.1 Research purpose and research questions
6.2 Summary of chapters
6.3 Summary of Findings
6.4 Conclusions
6.5 Overall conclusions on the research problem
6.6 Recommendations
6.7 Implications of the research for theory and practice
6.8 Suggestions for further research
6.9 Final conclusion

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