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Title: The relational tacit dimensions of knowledge used within the explicit standardised processes of professional practice in the Irish Forensic Science Laboratory
Author: Doak, Stephen W.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3426 4950
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2008
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The organisational literature explaining tacit knowledge as a whole has remained conceptual and there is now a need to know empirically about the nature of tacit knowledge at the process level where the knowledge worker carries out work. This doctoral research case study empirically examines the tacit dimensions of knowledge that occur between knowledge worker practitioners especially within an explicit environment of codified standardisedo, perating proceduresa nd intranet knowledge databases. In this case the evidence comes from a multi-method approach. The empirical findings are based on a case study of a forensic science community of practice, at the micro-level between knowledge workers, where quantitative social network analysis and qualitative interviewing, ethnographic studies, and document review were carried out. The quantitative picture, using social network analysis was used to give a fixed perspective on the actors sharing tacit knowledge during advice seeking transactions within the communities. An interpretive qualitative approach was used where the intent was to understand the relational dimensions of tacit knowledge being shared between the same actors. Social theories of learning perspectives are used, in particular with the emphasis on communities of practice as a framework, to study structured relational mechanisms that shape tacit knowledge flows. Organisational learning can be seen as a function of relationships between actors within a dynamic environment of social interaction, and matter most when collegiate interactions involve the exchange of tacit knowledge. Within a micro-level case study of a highly technical forensic science expert community, this research emphasizes the relational tacit dimensions of knowledge provided by human social capital surrounding and encircling the standardised organisational production process. Trust, respect, friendship, identity and ii social norms are the kinds of personal relationships people have developed through a history of interactions, which have been discussed in the literature. Answering the call of researchers, for the empirical analysis of knowledge sharing practices using the relational thinking concept, this doctoral case study has found more, including processual, experiential, capability, mentoring, informal, helping, openness/sharing, approachability, respect, proximal, cohort/clique, interpretative and bureaucratic structural relationships, and unique to forensic scientists, an adversarial relationship. Most of the literature within the community of practice teachings describes the performative advantages of such communities but there has been very little discussion on the rich tacitness embodied within the actual processes of how such communities work, especially those within a quality management structure. Eventhough processes are explicit by nature there is still a tacit element attached where a base line of minimum acceptable performance from protocols is supplemented by interactions with colleagues and one's own thought processes. Such concepts are only being discussed at a nascent level in the Quality Management System literature, where the tacit world has not yet diffused into the very explicit world found in qualitative management writings. In looking at the process level, findings are presented with respect to the interplay of the explicit knowledge within standard operating procedures and the practitioners' tacit knowledge requirements needed in actually completing the process. Ultimately these findings will help improve the way process is carried out in a knowledge intensive environment by having insights in how tacit knowledge works, and make conclusions on tacit knowledge within the world of process governed by standard operating procedures.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.B.A.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available