Background to the Study
Computer, robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, internet and other related technologies came into being in the last century. No doubt, these are some of the foremost products of cutting edge technology. Since their arrival in the 1940s, efficiency and effectiveness in almost all spheres of work were redefined. Surprisingly, till date, there still appears to be no end to the possibilities these products bring into the world of work. It is important to note that one crucial factor that brought the creation of all these is knowledge and how it is being put to use. Given the place of knowledge in proffering solutions to difficult humans problems, the cost of acquiring it and the volume of it resident in various deans, vice chancellors, registrars, directors of institutes, books, journal, databases, internet, intranet, and so on the need to investigate the present status of Knowledge Management (KM) in some universities arose.
Knowledge can be described as the awareness of information, idea, principles, or truths and facts which can be applied to create possibilities as well as solve real-life problems. Tiamiyu and Aina (2008) opined that knowledge is an organized accumulation of information at specific points. This means that knowledge can be found in various forms. These include human beings, documents, databases, internet, and so on.
Out of the forms of knowledge, human knowledge, which is knowledge possessed by humans is unique in its mode of acquisition and processes (Fadele & Madu, 2009; Tiamiyu & Aina, 2008). In agreement with this assertion, Ajenikoko and Adeyemo (2004) noted that despite the high level of computerization, automation, artificial intelligence and other attempts to simulate human knowledge, none of these–not even expert systems–has been able to demonstrate the uniqueness of human knowledge. Human knowledge which can also be referred to as human knowledge asset, intellectual asset and intellectual capital is critically important in all organizational operations as it is held by employees in such organisations (Bontis & Choo, 2002; Bresman, Birkinshaw & Nobel 2010). This is why Bontis and Choo (2002) and Booker, Bontis and Serenko (2008) noted that great expertise is lost when highly competent individuals leave organizations such as the university system.
While internet connectivity enhances global visibility which is a factor critical in the webometrics ranking of universities, it is important to note that there is attrition of very highly competent individuals away from Nigerian universities to other countries because of inadequate funding. These factors are partly implicated for poor quality of research and teaching in Nigerian universities (Ajayi & Ekundayo, 2011; Babalola, Jaiyeoba, &Okediran, 2007).As a result, Onwurah and Chiaha (2008) were alarmed that despite the volume of knowledge related activities in Nigerian universities none of these universities was among the 500 top-ranked universities in the international ranking of universities. According to Coomassie (2009), this trend is contrary to what obtained in the 1950s through to mid-1975 when funding was adequate to allow research go on without distractions. Better funding, Adebowale (2004) and Adesina (2006) concluded, was what made those years to be the most productive years in the history of Nigerian universities. They further concluded that it was during this time that Nigerian intellectual community recorded considerable international presence in terms of scholarship and publications
In addition to the foregoing, there is depleting capacity for profession advancement on the part of administrators as well as academics as costs of professional trainings are high in juxtaposition to their earnings. Concomitant to this is the falling job satisfaction causing many university administrators to eagerly desire and switch to pure academic employment in belief that the latter is more flexible and enjoys higher job status. When this trend is not checked,there will be underutilization and outright waste of well-motivated and highly competent academics and administrators in federal universities. Corroborating this, Haslinda and Sarinah (2010), concluded that valuable human and knowledge resources will be wasted unless management of such organizations accept and supports efforts to gather, transform, record and share knowledge that will bring optimal functioning of such organizations. These and a deliberate effort to create knowledge for a particular goal are the major thrusts of Knowledge Management (KM).
KM deals with all processes of on-the-job discussions, formal apprenticeship, discussion forum, professional training and mentoring (Bontis & Choo 2002; Sorenko, Bontis& Booker, 2010). Given the prevalence of modern means of communication, as observed by Scott (2006) and Spanbauer (2006), modern KM application involves but not limited to knowledge sharing and transfer as KM process sometimes requires requisite ICT skills, availability of basic ICT and e-learning infrastructure like Web 2.0, intranet and internet, teleconferencing for the purpose of assembling or reaching geographically distributed knowledge asset and expert locations. This is corroborated by Haslinda and Sarinah (2010) who noted that KM comprises efforts to gather, sort, transform, record and share knowledge using various channels. This variegated approach is important as KM focuses on codified and uncodified knowledge as well as human wisdom. In a university system, a situation whereby outgoing holders of prominent offices like the registrar and the vice chancellors are made to write memoirs shortly before or immediately they leave such offices will enrich the KM processes. In summary, for the purpose of this investigation, an operational definition of KM can be seen as a process involving setting knowledge goal, assembling relevant knowledge assets, creating the required knowledge and utilizing the resulting knowledge in such a manner that meets the knowledge goal or knowledge vision of organizations.
Universities are the highest educational organizations where knowledge related activities are carried out. Federal universities including those in South-East Nigeria, namely: Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (FUNAI) in Ebonyi State, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) in Enugu State, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) in Anambra State, Federal University of Technology Owerri in Imo State and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU) in Abia State are charged primarily with the responsibility of teaching, researching and community development. The functions of these federal universities also include adopting and adapting innovative ideas for managing the affairs of such universities and for use in industries.
However, these universities face a lot of challenges. Administrative staffs often pursue higher academic qualification not primarily as a result of interest but because they want to move into mainstream academic functions. They are not satisfied with their job (Ajayi & Ekundayo 2006; Ajayi & Ekundayo 2011). For instance, this researcher during his practicum in Academic Planning Unit in one of the above universities met three out of six administrative staffs who have andwere pursuing their higher degrees with the aim of switching their service to pure academic. This low level of job satisfaction leads to attrition of highly competent staffs away from the universities.
Poor quality of teaching makes it difficult for universities to turnout competent manpower for the economy. Similarly, poor research output leads to slow professional advancement research works are subject to reviews by other experts from universities or similar institutions. So it is not uncommon to see situations where lecturers with entry certificate of Ph.D. or Lecturer I could be in service for over twenty years without rising to the rank of a Professor owning to poor research work. This is a classic example of slows down in advancement along the professional ladder.
Furthermore, the knowledge economy is fundamentally driven by knowledge as well as the use of ICT skills and tools. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) emphasized that this is of great importance as large organizations in modern societies are evolving into knowledge-driven organizations. Yet, many academics and administrators are often caught in the web of traditional knowledge acquisition and transfer practices because they lack requisite skills in ICT. They therefore can’t function optimally in applying KM in geographically distributed expert locations or in assembling the community of practice for knowledge sharing or knowledge creating purposes. This makes them near ineffective in this era of globalization where there appears to be no geographical barriers to knowledge inflow and outflow–a possibility presented internet. Koenig (2012) corroborated this by saying that one of most obvious duties of managers is making the organization’s knowledge asset available to the members of the organization. This could be done through portals and with the use of content management systems to enable member have a thorough grasp of expert locations, assemble community of practice made of professional who have been in related positions within the university system in order to reflect on the lessons learned. Viewing KM in this way puts organizations in position to enjoy benefits from applying KM.
The benefits that come with applying KM are many. For instance, it helps in creating a repository of knowledge and in managing intellectual assets of organizations’ work force. It helps retain expertise which could be lost when individual leaves the university (Onwurah & Chiaha, 2008). It has benefits for both the mentor and the mentee because KM deals with on-the-job discussions, formal apprenticeship, discussion forum, professional training and mentoring (Sorenko, Bontis& Booker, 2010). Other benefits according to Okurame (2011) and Ofovwe and Agbontaen-Eghafona (2011) include increased professional opportunities for the mentee and collegial networks, growth of professional knowledge and development, career advancement and more effective performance, personal and professional satisfaction, enhancement of professional reputation, extension of collegial networks and influence, rejuvenated career. Other advantages of KM include: shared benefits of increased productivity, development of organizational culture and commitment, enhanced communication and relationship across different levels of the organization. It is important to indicate that the aforementioned benefits might not be maximized when the effort to implement KM is not well thought-out before implementation (Alavi & Leidner, 1999). Studies on innovative approaches for organizational development show that for an organization to get maximum benefits of using innovative ideas, it requires that planning and implementing of such are strategically done (Omotade, 2005; Otiende, 2006). To this end, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) emphasized that this is of great importance as large organizations in modern societies are evolving into knowledge-driven organizations. This is thereby changing old assumptions on how organizations in modern times can survive both in their primary and emergent responsibilities.
Strategic and successful application of KM, however, can only be realised within the context of administration since administration is involved in coordination of all the resources in an organization, including man, money, machines and materials towards achieving management or organizational goals. It involves planning, organizing, staffing, directing, controlling, coordinating, communicating and budgeting in other to achieve collective goals (Mgbodile, 2004; Otiende, 2006). While these are the general functions of administrations, the tasks for core administrators in universities include but not limited to admission of students, preparing staff payroll, ensuring welfare services and so on. In other words, administrative staffs such as those trained as administrators are engaged in core administrative functions. Academic staff comprises those with pure academic functions. These daily activities will include among others: teaching, learning, research and community development services. Applying KM in form of best practice or lessons learned can help to minimise challenges that do arise from performing these functions. Their functions complement that of the Management. To this end, Ogbonnaya (2009) concluded that administration is to assist in achieving goals set by management of an organisation.
In most successful knowledge goal setting and implementation of lessons learned require vetting and approval mechanism before such items are mounted as priority. This lies within the responsibilities of management because Management is also conceived as the group of persons in an organization who makes the decision and set the goals. Many of the questions surrounding knowledge goal in a university system may include but not limited to the following difficult questions which the management must provide satisfactory answers to: Who is to decide what constitutes a worthwhile knowledge goals? Which of the competing knowledge goals should take precedence? Are all administrators and academic free to sometimes make input to the system anonymously? Who decides when an item is no longer salient and timely (Koenig, 2012)? The university governing council and the senate which are composed of academics and administrators of both genders fall into the category of the group that can take such high-level decisions in federal universities.
Male and female administrators are often charged with same administrative functions and responsibilities of implementing management policies. However, Hoff and Michell (2011) noted there is underrepresentation of the female gender in top administrative positions in some organizations. It is further observed that this underrepresentation is not as result of incompetence on the part of the female administrators. This observation is also expected to be true in the South-East Nigeria where this investigation is being carried out.