Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 18 Number 1 2001 pp. 23-55

Organization Knowledge Management: A Contingency Perspective

Becerra-Fernandez, Irma and Sabherwal, Rajiv

ABSTRACT: Prior research examines several knowledge management processes, considering each as universally appropriate. Instead, we propose that the context influences the suitability of a knowledge management process. We develop a contingency framework, including two attributes of the organizational subunit's tasks: process or content orientation, and focused or broad domain, and links knowledge management processes to them: internalization for focused, process-oriented tasks: externalization for focused, content-oriented tasks; combination for broad, content-oriented tasks; and socialization for broad, process-oriented tasks. The empirical research was done at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), based on several interviews and survey data from 159 individuals across 8 subunits. The results supported the contingency frame-work. All the knowledge management processes except externalization had a positive impact in the expected cell. At the overall level, combination and externalization, but not internalization and socialization, affect knowledge satisfaction. Some implications for practice and research are identified.

Key words and phrases: contingency theory, knowledge management, structural equation modeling, task characteristics