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June 2002    Feature
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No. 62
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Poland's Decade of Knowledge Strategy:
Results of a Major 2002 KM Study

Debra M. Amidon

"Knowledge is practically nothing if it is not used to benefit the nation."
- Translated words of Staszic, early 1800ís

It was 1992 and the US State Department together with the authorities in Poland launched a major Study Commission on Technological Commercialization. The initiative was sponsored through the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) and IRIS the local research-funding agent in Warsaw. Two dozen experts from the United States were invited to visit several regions of the country and make recommendations for future policy decisions. It was the first time that the management systems research-architecture (i.e., performance, structure, people, process and technology) was introduced to Eastern Europe.

Only a year later, IRIS sponsored an analysis of NASK - the Information SuperHighway of Poland.

At this point, the evolution of the Internet was defined and prospects for Polandís leadership assessed. In 1994, the Prime Minister Pawlak together with his entire cabinet was hosted by Dr. Michael Crow, Vice Provost for Research at Columbia University in New York City. By now, the leadership of the nation together with the rapidly evolving computer/telecommunications industry were beginning to drive what might be necessary for the country to compete in the globalized Knowledge Economy. Last year in a seminar in Spain - http://www.entovation.com/whatsnew/conversation.htm, one of the European authorities recognized Poland as the European nation that may have made the most progress to-date.

Knowledge Strategy Conference, May 2002

On May 8th, 2002, a select group of companies under the auspices of the Polish Confederation of Private Employers explored 'Knowledge Strategy - Concept in Action' with an all-day workshop designed to involve senior executives in the role of practitioners in the Knowledge Society. Companies included: Optimus S.A., ComputerLand, Goodyear and Dunlop Tires, International Paper-Kwidzyn S.A., Spedpol, Oriflame, and TMI. As described by Leif Edvinsson, CEO of UNIC and author of the new book Corporate Longitude, "The power of innovation is one of the most fundamental resources for both organizations and societal wealth."

The next day was a major conference in the Palace of Staszic hosted by the Michal Kleiber, Minister of Science and Chairman of the State Committee for Scientific Research. Architects of the program were professor Piotr Ploszajski, Department Head of Management Theory at the Warsaw School of Economics, and Tomasz Rudolf trudol@sgh.waw.pl - associate of the professor and principal at Conquest Consulting - with his 6-person team, who may be contacted for the specific research results of his study conducted among managers of 64 of the largest Polish companies.

Survey Results

In the study 'Knowledge as a Source of Competitive Advantage', the methodology used included telephone verification, survey questionnaires in both Polish and English to company presidents and an on-line questionnaire (http://www.sgh.waw.pl/wiedza). 16% responded on-line and 84% by post. Participants in the study were so enthusiastic, they have formed a roundtable of Knowledge Champions - http://akson.sgh.waw.pl/ktz/roundtable.htm to further an understanding of the implications for modern Polish management. In the second phase of the project, over 30 in-depth interviews have been conducted, and now the plans are finalized for a case-study rich publication later this year. Roundtable of Knowledge Champions also continues, as a series of regular, monthly meetings is starting in July - with company visits and presentations from knowledge leaders...

Report highlights include:

  • Survey was completed primarily by CEOís or managing directors.
  • Respondents represented a cross-section of industries: Manufacturing, power engineering, transport, trade and financial services.
  • Knowledge-workers (as defined by white-collar) constituted the major part of the employed in the examined companies. 29% had 40% or greater number of employees having electronic mail addresses. 15% had 40% or greater with university-level degrees.
  • 55% or greater felt that the following economic processes have an impact on future business growing competition, growing role of intangible assets and intellectual capital, pressure to innovate, development of ICT, globalization and integration with the European Union.
  • The economic slowdown forces companies to cost-cutting and setting new market priorities.
  • Customer relationships and brand are considered the main sources of competitive advantage above innovation and internal, process excellence.
  • Marketing and sales functions are assessed negatively by managers with the ranking of importance of developing vision and strategy and producing and developing products and services (which, interestingly enough represents the innovation process).
  • The improvement of strategic management ranked a high priority with marketing and sales being ranked the highest priority for success.
  • Managers on the whole are aware of missed opportunities (46%), repeating the same mistakes (38%), neglecting improvement suggestions from clients and employees (38%), the knowledge gaps once an employee has left the company (37%) and 'reinventing the wheel' (35%).
  • Almost 20 per cent of the companies do not examine customer satisfaction.
  • Primary knowledge sources included professional press (100%), cooperation with customers (98%), external training (97%), consulting companies (92%) and conferences/congresses (92%).
  • Client knowledge is considered the most important knowledge source and most well assessed.
  • Cross-disciplinary project teams are the basic driver of internal corporate communication.
  • Mechanisms forcing employees to share knowledge are rarely instituted. For the most part, companies consider the employee initiatives and help realize them (81%) and employees are motivated to share knowledge and experience (80%). Only 17% felt that structures and procedures in the company weaken the employee entrepreneurship.
  • Corporate culture, not the lack of infrastructure, is the largest challenge for managing knowledge. 62% reported competition between employees and 55% reported competition between departments. Only 20% reported lack of infrastructure.
  • E-mail was mail was the dominant information tool; but the IT infrastructure is not well developed (e.g., teleconferencing, groupware, data warehousing, customer relationship management, video conferencing or extranets.
  • 95 per cent of the mangers interviewed see knowledge as the foundation for building competitive advantage. 81% felt it was something they had been doing all along, but under a different name. 24% felt it was a slogan made up by consulting companies and 7% thought it was just a buzzword.

Other Insights

The rest of the conference with over 100 in attendance and presentations from some of the major knowledge players in the country from companies like HP, Andersen, 3M, InfoVide and others including Witold Staniszkis, President of Rodan Systems, who had been present at the US/Poland Study mission ten years earlier! Mariusz Strojny, who through his leadership at KPMG and his

Institute for Knowledge Management is a beacon of understanding for the country, may have provided the most insightful remarks: "KM is simply a response to environmental changes. How we manage these new conditions and create value through knowledge is both a strategic and operational challenge. This is the difference between a 'fad' and a 'breakthrough philosophy'." One of his fine articles can be found - http://www.pckurier.pl/archiwum/art0.asp?ID=457.

And so, ten years later, there is an exceptional base for harnessing the intellectual wealth of the nation from the top-down policy initiatives and resources needed from the new administration to the bottom-up commitment of corporate management to take advantage of this 'new' resource. Already, there are major immediate plans with the World Bank analysis and OECD material that has been translated into Polish - ready for nation-wide diffusion. Stay tuned...

With acknowledgement to our ENTOVATION Colleague in Poland, Tomasz Rudolf

Email: Debra M. Amidon


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LINKS

 

Spain Seminar

The study 'Knowledge as a Source of Competitive Advantage'

Roundtable of Knowledge Champions

Mariusz Strojny article


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