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Recent programs for organizational improvement (reengineering, downsizing, and outsourcing) have apparently resolved the productivity paradox by making organizations leaner and more efficient. However, these same programs have drained knowledge from organizations, threatening the future performance of lean organizations. Knowledge management, which focuses on the acquisition, internalization, and maintenance of an organization's intellectual assets, is currently a popular approach used to plug the knowledge drain. Designed and managed properly, knowledge management programs can repair significant damage to organizations affected by work force reductions. In this paper, we analyze the process of organizational knowledge acquisition, which most directly addresses the problem of knowledge drain. We discuss strategies and technologies for acquiring knowledge by restocking from external sources and by regenerating from internal processes. We conclude that the technological infrastructure for knowledge acquisition must be complemented by an organizational culture that is committed to learning. A commitment to learning not only values the acquisition of new knowledge but also the preservation of old knowledge.


Originally published in:

Stewart, K.A., Storey, V.C., and Robey, D., “Plugging the Knowledge Drain: Strategies and Technologies for Acquiring Knowledge in Lean Organizations,” Journal of Information Technology Management, Vol.10, No.3-4, 1999, pp.59-68.

(c) Association of Management. Posted with permission.