Cultural Issues in Knowledge Management – a Case Study of Unilever Global

Topics: Knowledge management, Management, Cultural studies Pages: 6 (1836 words) Published: March 6, 2012
Cultural Issues in Knowledge Management – a case study – Unilever Global


I. Abstract
II. Keywords
III. Introduction
IV. Literature Review
V. Aim of Research and Research Questions
VI. Methodology and Research Sample
VII. Practical Applications
VIII. References

This proposal is presented to examine the cultural factors that influence knowledge management in Unilever global. The intended outcome of the study is a list of factors that Unilever management can use to evaluate their organizational culture, and its ability to help develop and sustain a knowledge management initiative. Keywords

Knowledge management, cross-cultural management, cultural identity, cultural differences, knowledge worker, multicultural team, organizational culture Introduction
The notions of globalization, cultural differences and multiculturalism at the workplace have corroborated their significance for the theory of management (Adekola & Sergi, 2007, p.1). Based on the decades-long study of scholars who work in the field of management and the experience of practitioners holding managerial positions in multicultural teams, cultural issues have been recognized as a factor that have appreciable influences on such aspects as a company’s goals and mission (Adekola & Sergi, 2007), organizational culture (Retna & Bryson, 2007; DeLong & Fahey, 2000), leadership (Halverson & Tirmizi, 2008), decision-making and problem-solving (Roembke, 2000). Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that theory and practice of knowledge management also require discussion in the cross-cultural dimension. The topicality of the abovementioned issue is explained by two powerful processes that take place in the world economy. On the one hand, globalisation is expanding: international cooperation is becoming more and more intensive; a number of international and global projects are growing rapidly. On the other hand, the processes of knowledge generation, distribution and exchange also become of huge significance. Study of cultural issues in knowledge management contributes to the ability of international teams to effectively work with knowledge, understand each other and cooperate (Holden, 2002, pp. xiii-xv). For instance, Unilever is a global company which is increasingly considering knowledge management a critical issue within the organization. The company has a separate Knowledge Management Group and the purpose of the group is to develop Unilever and to promote it as a learning organization in which the activities are integrated. The company focuses mainly on contribution toward its strategic goals and objectives through a framework of activities such as creation, sharing, acquisition, capturing, and transfer of knowledge. Cathy Bautista, Head of Unilever's Knowledge Management Group, has identified two reasons for exploring the issue of importance of knowledge management. “Firstly, as a group it is helpful to have a structured way of organising the what and the how of knowledge acquisition. Secondly, the team knows that to be able to give a better advice and support to their customers, they must excel at what they do” (Unilever, 2011). Literature Review

The impact of culture on knowledge management is under study from the perspective of organizational culture. Containing such elements as values, norms, beliefs, organizational culture is inevitably influenced by cultural identities represented within a managerial teem (Retna & Bryson, 2007, pp. 176-178). Almeida, Grant and Phene (2002, p.74) describe the difficulties that General Motors and Toyota faced when being in alliance and sharing knowledge and argue that they were connected with incompatibility of corporate cultures belonging to different cultural backgrounds. The role of national culture in formation of organizational culture is also studied in (DeLong & Fahey, 2000) and (Jarvenpaa & Staples, 2001). A deep insight into the...

References: 1. Adekola, A. & Sergi, B. (2007). Global Business Management: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
4. DeLong, D. W., & Beers, M. C. (1998). Successful Knowledge Management. Sloan Management Review, 39(2), 43-57.
6. Halverson, C. B., & Tirmizi, S. A. (2009). Effective Multicultural Teams: Theory and Practice. New York: Springer, 2008.
8. Holden, N. (2002). Cross-Cultural Management: A Knowledge Management Perspective. Harlow: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.
9. Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Staples, S. D. (2001). Exploring Perceptions of Organizational Ownership of Information and Expertise. Journal of Management Information Systems, 18(1), 151-183.
11. Leidner, D., Alavi, M., & Kayworth, T. (2006). The Role of Culture in Knowledge Management: A Case Study of Two Global Firms. International Journal of E-Collaboration, 2(1), 17-40.
14. Roembke, L. (2000). Building Credible Multicultural Teams. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.
15. Unilever, (2011). Managing risk, Det Norske Veritas. (online). Cited 25 January 2012. From:
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