A dynamic organisation is a collection of people, infrastructure, resources and processes which is characterised by constant change, activity, or progress. A dynamic organisation must be able to focus on creation of new resources i.e. knowledge to strive for service excellence.
The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), which is the naval arm of the Malaysian Armed Forces, has a role to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, which includes Malaysia’s maritime strategic interests, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and territorial waters and to defend Malaysia against all seaborne threats.
The RMN is considered one of the most sophisticated organisations with technologically advanced and state-of-the-art armaments, sensors and equipment fitted on most of its warships. It is expected that as part of its transformation plan the RMN is going to receive more advanced warships in the future.
This process of modernisation requires personnel who excel in the latest, rapidly changing technology, and this can be achieved only with a well-planned training programme with the right personnel selected to acquire the right kind of knowledge.
With a strength of approximately 17,000 personnel, training for knowledge is one of the important factors that makes the RMN a credible and dynamic military organisation. The ultimate aim of the training and acquiring knowledge is to prepare the RMN personnel to perform their tasks efficiently and to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty.
Knowledge creation is an enabler of organisational learning in RMN as it facilitates the continuous sharing and exchange of knowledge that perpetuates the learning process within the organisation.
Knowledge is considered to be a high-value form of information because of its added experience, context, interpretation and reflection. The common types of knowledge are tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that people have in their minds, whereas explicit knowledge is the kind of knowledge that is captured or written down in the form of records or files. The main difference between the two is that tacit knowledge cannot be accessed as easily as explicit knowledge.
Managing knowledge in a dynamic military organisation such as the RMN involves planning, organising, motivating and controlling of people, processes and systems to ensure that its knowledge-related assets are improved and effectively used. It consists of a collection of methods, techniques and tools that facilitates four activities, namely (i) capturing, (ii) storing, (iii) sharing and (iv) using knowledge.
In other words, it is all about crafting, providing, stimulating and supporting suitable knowledge atmospheres in an organisation, to motivate and enable personnel with knowledge to use and share their knowledge and ultimately create new knowledge. Identifying appropriate tools that are required to extract knowledge is crucial in order to retain all the knowledge within the organisation before the human capital leave the RMN. When an organisation is capable of managing its knowledge effectively, it facilitates not only improved organisational performance, but improved decision making and creation of core competencies.
The RMN practices all these four processes of knowledge creation i.e. socialisation, externalisation, combination and internalisation. However, the extent of knowledge creation processes varies.
The limitation in informal networks in socialisation mode activity is mainly because of the lack of trust. This is representative of high-power distance within the RMN. Hence, RMN needs to strongly support both formal and informal discussions between its personnel. Formal discussions are mainly for related tasks or work. However, trust and loyalty among the personnel are built up in informal discussions. This phenomenon needs to be scrutinised further to uplift personnel’s knowledge, which is important in generating new valuable knowledge.
In RMN, discussions among personnel, discussions between personnel and higher-level managers, and discussions with internal or external subject matter experts give the personnel a platform to share their knowledge and experiences. They also help in improving personnel’s work processes, help them in solving problems and help personnel to come up with new ideas related to their working environment.
Socialisation processes can be said to support the personnel’s knowledge and experience. This enables the personnel to deal with different scenarios and to present constructive and creative ideas in enhancing fleet performance. Hence, the RMN fleet needs to pay attention to supporting both formal and informal discussions to maximise the benefits of these processes within the fleet in socialisation mode.
The externalisation process is observed as influencing personnel’s new knowledge. The basis of generating ideas is documentation of the findings from discussions regardless of whether these are with external or internal agencies. This will be the platform for creating new ideas because necessary data and information were provided.
Personnel’s knowledge and experiences are always associated with documentation. These valuable experiences and knowledge, once documented, can be the means and ways for personnel to recall previous information or memories. The available knowledge in the organisation will improve by articulating tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. The improvisation is with regard to the existing procedures and process and in generating new ideas.
The RMN requires an integration of both internal knowledge and external knowledge to furnish them with sustainable competitive advantage. What the organisation needs to do to maximise the benefits in this process is to give more attention and priority to supporting the documentation of both internal and external knowledge. On the other hand, systematic ways of documenting with the utilisation of proper mechanisms need to be immediately identified. This is to eliminate the knowledge dissipation problem or to avoid valuable tacit knowledge remaining tacit.
For combination process, personnel’s knowledge is influenced by the process of existing explicit knowledge conversion into more systematic sets of knowledge. The basis or prerequisite to develop existing RMN procedures and processes is updating and testing the knowledge. The promulgation of new procedures, processes or ideas needs effective organisation of existing knowledge, effective connection of existing knowledge and the reconfiguration or reformulation of existing knowledge into more structured forms of new explicit knowledge.
In the RMN, the combination process is important to reformulating, improvising and generating new knowledge or development of its existing explicit documentation. Revising and updating personnel knowledge with relevant documentation is also necessary in order for them to fulfil their daily work requirements for the benefit of RMN. Thus, management support is crucial to facilitate ‘testing’ of the existing documentation and create more new knowledge.
The internalisation process influences personnel’s knowledge. For example, experiencing by reading is likely to improve the RMN fleet personnel’s absorption of existing knowledge, which in turn would enable the personnel to come up with new ideas and knowledge. Therefore, the RMN needs to have more systematic and proper mechanisms, for instance, databases, to improve knowledge accessibility that is friendly to all the personnel in enhancing knowledge creation.
Easy and friendly access to the procedures, processes, training or seminar outcomes or any other relevant materials will provide personnel with knowledge that will improve their knowledge base and provide a platform for them to further develop their existing skills. This access to the RMN’s databases would also enable personnel to create their awareness on any related or relevant issues and help in generating valuable ideas for the betterment of the RMN.
Prof. Dr. Noor Ismawati Jaafar is a Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics, Universiti Malaya (UM).
Captain Dr. Shaftdean Lufty Rusland is a Director of Human Resources Strategy at the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN).