i387c managing information services and organizations






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Module 4. Unit 1: Organizations and Information

Believing with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning. (Geertz, 1973.)

The term "knowledge management" has entered the management literature fairly recently. Unfortunately, as with many new concepts, pinning down a concise, easily understood definition of knowledge management (KM) is a slippery task. CIO, a popular print and Internet-based magazine, advises the newcomer to KM to think of its definition in the broadest of terms.

Succinctly put, KM is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. Most often, generating value from such assets involves sharing them among employees, departments and even with other companies in an effort to devise best practices. It's important to note that the definition says nothing about technology; while KM is often facilitated by IT, technology by itself is not KM. (CIO, ABC's of Knowledge Management, 2001)

Information, intellectual, and knowledge capital are now acknowledged as critical resources that must be managed, preserved, and disseminated to support the growth and development of the organization.

This module includes three units: Unit 1: Organizations and Information; Unit 2: Leadership; Unit 3: Communicating your Vision.


Chun Wei Choo reminds us that organizations of all types survive only if they can "adapt swiftly to changing conditions in the environment, to innovate continuously, and to take decisive actions to move their organization toward its goals" (p. xi). Information communication and understanding is the only way accomplish these survival strategies. Because organizations are comprised of people, and people (individually or socially) must make sense of information to plan and implement goals and objectives, make decisions, perform tasks, and generally make sense of their organizations.

Choo builds on the work of Karl Weick (social sensemaking) and Brenda Dervin (individual sense-making.) Sensemaking is used as both a theory and a practice. Brenda Dervin, a communications scholar, and Karl Weick, an industrial psychologist, have been leaders in sensemaking research. Weick explains sensemaking as involving both individual and group sensemaking processes and behaviors. The concept is grounded in theories of communication, information, social cognition, and constructivism and can be evidenced in individual and group efforts to understand or grasp a situation or information.

During a “sensemaking episode” users try to construct meaning by bridging gaps of understanding between what they experience and their past “image” of a similar experience. Sensemaking begins when the situation is novel and there appears to be a discrepancy between what is expected and what is observed. To make sense, the sensemaker must take some deliberate initiative to understand. For example, networked information users often frequently experience “gaps” in their understanding; sometimes due to network downtime, to unclear interface design, or for other reasons. When users receive an unexpected response to a query, where do they turn? Online help manuals rarely are intuitive and as responsive as a librarian! (Rice-Lively, 2002)

Choo outlines the organizational sensemaking process below.

  1. Grounded in identity construction
  2. Retrospective
  3. Inactive of sensible environments
  4. Social
  5. Ongoing
  6. Focused on and by extracted cues
  7. Driven by plausibility rather than accuracy (Weick, 1995)

Burke and Tulett (1999) claimed that when the external environment of an organization is stable and the organizational task is routine there is little need for a sophisticated system for information distribution is not necessary. However, when the external environment is unstable and the task is non-routine the level of uncertainty for the organization increases the need for timely, accurate information.

==> Continue to Module 4 Unit 2



Read Review Quinn, p. 123, What Went Wrong and Why?
Assignment (Group)

In your virtual workgroup:

  1. Appoint one member of the group to be the group recorder and reporter.
  2. Discuss and answer the questions under Discussion Questions. NOTE: Consider an additional question in your discussion, "Were there gaps of understanding (meaning) in this case? If so, what were the gaps? How were the information gaps resolved?"
  3. Each group should post a summary of their discussion to the discussion forum entitled What Went Wrong?
Due June 25 11:30pm
Value Participation
thanks to patrick williams for template design
Last update 3 june 2006