6.5 Hedlund's KM Model

6.5 Hedlund’s KM Model

          Gunnar Hedlund (1994) introduced a KM model which recognizes four different levels of association between articulated and tacit knowledge - the individual, the small group, the organization, and the inter-organizational domain. The model depicts the differences between Western and Japanese patterns of knowledge management considering organizational characteristics, such as employment systems, career patterns, and organization structure. Hedland (1994) argues that effective knowledge management demands for departure from conventional hierarchical organization and the M-form structure . He presents an alternative N-Form Organizations which necessitate valuing knowledge rather than its hierarchical structure. He proposed that the N-Form organizations better accommodate the emerging imperatives of knowledge-based organizational design, drawing its synthetic wisdom from the, "…gray zone between economics, organization theory and strategic management" (Hedland, 1994: 74).

          In Hedland’s model, the acquisition of tacit or articulated knowledge by lower agency levels, termed ‘appropriation’, and the dissemination of tacit or articulated knowledge to higher agency levels, termed ‘extension’, signal the movement of knowledge through different levels of ‘carrier. Their interaction is termed ‘dialogue’ whose, "…quantity and quality are hypothesized to be important determinants of the type and effectiveness of knowledge management in an organization" (Hedland, 1994: 77).

          Hedland’s model tries to establish association between two sets of concepts: tacit/explicit knowledge, and four levels of social aggregation. The model further proposed a set of dynamics related to knowledge creation, development, transfer and use and develop a structure that is built around 3 basic dimensions:

  • Two types of knowledge (tacit and articulated), and within each type three forms of knowledge - cognitive, skill, embodied.
  • Four levels of carrier - individuals, small groups, organizations, the inter-organizational domain
  • The process of knowledge transfer and transformation:
    • Articulation and internalization - the interaction of which is reflection
    • Extension and appropriation - the interaction of which is dialogue
    • Assimilation and dissemination - which refer to “… knowledge imports from and exports to the environment" (Hedland, 1994: 76).

          Giving the rational of his model Hedland argues that most existing works speak “…primarily in terms of storage of information, and only secondarily about its transfer, whereas its transformation is left outside most analyses" (Hedland, 1994: 76).

          In his    N-form organizations  Knowledge processes involve the knowledge creation by network actors ( Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995) or knowledge assets (Boisot, 1998) and the sharing of that and other knowledge, previously acquired, among network actors by means of asset flows (Hedlund, 1994). Therefore, the key advantage of the N-form organization arises from “its ability to create value through the accumulation, transfer, and integration of different kinds of knowledge, resources, and capabilities across its dispersed organizational units” (Nohria and Ghoshal, 1997: 208). This knowledge sharing capability allows for the integration of knowledge which is differentiated (Baker, 1992), and therefore provides the basis to both building and leveraging competence.


N-Form corporation are different from multidivisional or M-form corporation the cybernetic (“self-steering”) or C-form corporation or “unified” or U-form corporation. In N-Form corporations knowledge flows are primarily horizontal between organizational subunits rather than vertical from headquarters to subunits, as is the case in more traditional organizational forms.