7.2 Role of Individuals in Organizations

7.2 Role of Individuals in Organizations

          It is extremely hard to discuss any aspect of knowledge management (KM) without discussing the role of individuals. In fact, an organization is defined as a systematic arrangement of individuals brought together to accomplish some specific purpose (Robbins & Decenzo, 2004). However, individuals can be viewed in two distinct perspectives: (i) knowledge workers who are having their own economic livelihood, social contact, self-actualization, etc. (ii) Management who is ideally focused on the achievement of organizational goals and objectives (Schein, 1994).  Even in management perspective, the role of individual is again very important. For example, Schein (1994: 4) points out that organization acts as an abstract entity; however, it acts through the individual behaviour of certain key members in crucial managerial or leadership roles. Similarly, Koontz & Weihrich (1990) argue that although management is responsible of defining & controlling functions like planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling etc., but these are individuals or groups who ensure that they contribute to given goals and objectives in an effective and efficient way.

          The importance of individuals’ role in organizational management has been well recognized organizational theory. Individuals bring with them their personalities as important drivers of their behavior which provide the necessary impetus to the organizations to develop cultures that reflect their histories and are manifested in the behaviours of their members (Brown 1998). It means that the relationship between organizations and their members is one of mutual dependency adjustment and dynamic in nature as  human needs usually develop over time, based on personal factors (e.g., age, experience) or situational factors. Schein (1994: 22) calls this relationship as voluntary, largely implicit, mutual agreement a "psychological contract" between an organization and its members.

          In literature, the importance of individuals has always been appreciated. For example, Stewart (1997) comments money talks, but it does not think; machines perform, often better than any human being cans, but they do not invent. Thinking and invention, however, are the assets upon which knowledge work and knowledge companies depend (Stewart, 1997). Individuals are no longer just physical employees, they are knowledge employees. Also the work is less mechanic and more thinking-oriented. Or as Quinn says: ‘Ideas and intellect, not physical assets, build great companies’ (Quinn, 1992). In today’s knowledge intensive world organizations are putting their efforts on hiring and retaining people with the best intellectual abilities to do the job, charismatic people that contribute with ideas to improve how business works.