Poland’s Decade of Knowledge Strategy:
Results of a Major 2002 KM Study
By Debra M. Amidon
is practically nothing
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
Poland’s 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.
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 & Dunlop Tires,
International Paper-Kwidzyn S.A., Spedpol, Oriflame, and TMI. As
described by Leif Edvinsson, CEO if 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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
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 – 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
CEO’s 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
~ 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% 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
~ 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% 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.
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
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
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