Standardized Knowledge Transfer : A study of Project-Based Organizations in the Construction and IT Sectors

Abstract: Standardized knowledge transfer in project-based organizations is analyzed. The empirical material considered comes from 11 recurring projects from two sectors: the construction sector and the IT sector. Existing research is extended by developing a conceptual framework that expresses how standardized knowledge transfer and where difficulties arise. Results show that knowledge is difficult to capture and control. Standardization is viewed as the core over which the team member, the recurring project, the permanent organization and the product claim joint ownership. My framework describes how standardization tasks are fulfilled as knowledge proceeds through the transfer process. I show that standardized knowledge tends to take the shortest path in a transfer, i.e., to move the individual who has acquired the knowledge. However, choosing the quickest transfer path de-standardizes the knowledge. Engaging the permanent organization offers opportunities to standardize but requires a longer transfer process. This process is often too lengthy to achieve. It is difficult for the permanent organizations to transfer even existing routines. Project members often fail to use standardized knowledge. My framework is also designed to take into account the new knowledge that develops in projects. I show that knowledge from projects fails to complete the lengthy transfer journey and remains personalized. The studied corporations resisted transfer. To explain why, I highlight roles in the transfer. The individuals provide the content to be transferred. The permanent organization gathers and standardizes knowledge. Finally, the temporary organization opposes standardization when an arena is offered to adapt the standardized concept to local conditions. When the three roles are coordinated, power becomes important as projects ignore knowledge made available by the permanent organization, and the permanent organization shows little interest in knowledge formed in the projects.