The Leader’s Role in the Tacit Knowledge Transfer

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The Resource Based View

Resources are according to Wernerfelt (1984) the strengths and weaknesses of a firm; these can be for example brand names, capital and specific knowledge. RBV states that an organization has sustained competitive advantage if the resources and capabilities that the organization possesses are valuable, rare, impossible to imitate and if there are no substitutes (Barney, Wright & Ketchen, 2001). The organization has to build their strategy on these specific resources and the company has to understand what their spe-cific value adding resources are.
Moreover, the resources held by the head office have to be highly transferable to other units in order for the organization to be able to gain sustained competitive advantage (Grant, 1996). If they cannot be transferred, then only parts of the organization benefit from them and this will not foster long-term sustainability. As previously stated, knowledge is today one of the most critical resources for a firm to gain sustained com-petitive advantage and Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) argue that knowledge is no longer a resource; it is the resource. This fact gives rise to the knowledge based view.

The Knowledge Based View

According to Nikolai (2005) the tacit knowledge is one of the main resources for a firm to gain competitive advantage and this is what KBV stands for. KBV comes from RBV, but instead focuses only on the organization’s knowledge as the valuable resource it possesses, or rather more specifically, how the specific knowledge held by the individu-als within the organization is integrated and distributed (Grant, 1996).
According to Kodama (2006), KBV forms dynamic corporate strategies from a knowledge aspect. This means that organizations can take advantage from their knowledge, not solely from the content of the knowledge, but also to use this specific knowledge in different strategical contexts. Returning to what Barney et.al (2001) stated about organizations obtaining sustained competitive advantage through their resources being rare, impossible to imitate and without substitutes; if a resource has no substitutes it means that the organization or other organizations cannot exchange that specific re-source with another, since it would not add the same value to the organization. Tacit knowledge, which is very difficult for organizations to transfer and integrate into new facilities, can be seen as an organization’s specific resource being rare, valuable, impos-sible to imitate and without substitutes. KBV covers both explicit and tacit knowledge; however the main focus is on tacit knowledge because of the difficulty in transferring it (Grant, 1996). Since explicit knowledge can more easily be transferred through written or oral communication it is not seen as valuable as the tacit knowledge, from a KBV perspective.
Tacit knowledge is often illustrated as the part of the ice berg that is hidden under water and as Polanyi puts it: “We can know more than we can tell.” (1966, p. 4). This explains the basic idea of the complexity of tacit knowledge. Lubit (2001) further defines tacit knowledge as something that is hard to formulate, express and describe to other people. Tacit knowledge is said to be distributed only through learning by doing and it is the “knowing-how” knowledge (Nonaka, 1994). An example could be a person learning how to ride a bike and the person learnt how to do it by practicing many times. On the other hand, it might be hard for the person to explain to someone else how to ride the bike and the person might not even be aware of what kind of knowledge he or she pos-sesses to be able to do it. This means that people within the organization might not even be aware of what their organization’s tacit knowledge really is and this makes tacit knowledge hard for others to see and hard for competitors to copy or imitate.
Furthermore, it is hard to substitute something that you cannot describe and if this knowledge would not be rare, people would in general be aware of it and clearly, it would no longer be tacit knowledge. All these facts make this knowledge very valuable to a firm, but it is not until it is properly integrated and distributed throughout the organ-ization that it actually adds value. In order to transfer the knowledge to the whole organ-ization, the leader will have to be a big part of the transfer process, and thus transfer the knowledge to his or her employees. Therefore, not only awareness of the organization’s most critical knowledge is vital; the leadership style and characteristics of the leader are also crucial.

1 Introduction 
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem
1.3 Purpose
1.4 Contribution
2 Theoretical Framewor
2.1 The Resource Based View
2.2 The Knowledge Based View
2.3 Leadership
2.4 Knowledge Conversion
2.5 Knowledge Transfe
3 Method
3.1 Qualitative Research
3.2 Data Analysis
4 Empirical Findings
4.1 Observations
4.2 The Case Study and Interviewees
4.3 The View of the Toyota Way/Tacit Knowledge – Training
4.4 The Leader’s Role in the Tacit Knowledge Transfer
4.5 The Knowledge Transfer Process
5 Analysis
5.1 Communication of Values
5.2 Foster Commitmen
5.3 Learning Takes Time
6 Discussion
6.1 Clarifying the Model
6.2 Repeat the Process and Value
6.3 Limitations
7 Conclusion
References

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Effective Tacit Knowledge Transfer: A Leadership Perspective – The Case of the “Toyota Way”

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