Knowledge management when muncipalities merge

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Jakob Bøjen
  • Morten Rüsz
4. term, Public Administration and Social Science (Master Programme)
Abstract Danish municipalities are intensely concerned with the upcoming structural reform. The planning is well under way and there has been appointed a vast number of steering committees, project groups, and work groups who all attempt to pilot the municipalities through one of the biggest structural reforms in Danish history. This thesis touches upon a central aspect concerning this reform, knowledge management. A comprehensive amount of literature has been produced about public organisations, knowledge management and mergers, but never concerning knowledge management during mergers of municipalities. To describe present thesis as ground breaking would probably be an exaggeration, but that being said, this thesis contains a lot of underlying aspects which have never been examined earlier. The thesis examine the problem by using a case as point of reference, an actual municipal administration, which at the moment is undergoing a merger and this municipal administrations merger organisation and management who shall facilitate knowledge management during the process of the merger. This specific case will be the foundation for later conclusions about how knowledge generally is managed during municipal mergers. As already mentioned, knowledge management is not a new phenomenon. During the last 20 to 25 years, knowledge management has gone from being an American and Japanese inspired niche area to being an establish field of research in Europe and, by now, there is books on books about knowledge management in praxis as well as in theory. When talking and writing about knowledge management as an instrument of management, focus is primarily on the sharing of information and how to make this information accessible to the largest possible number of employees. This is not a misinterpretation of the term knowledge management as such however, it is a quite simplified understanding of the concept, which does not include some essential aspects. To share knowledge is just one element of knowledge management. Another important element is how the managers secure that the knowledge a given organisation possess is used actively and how new knowledge is created. In other words, it is not sufficient just to share knowledge and make it accessible to others, it is also to a great degree about securing that the accessible knowledge is used actively, as it is only by doing so, that the knowledge managers justify their existence in a cost-benefit perspective. In addition to this, the structural reform is unique in itself. Redistribution and organisational changes often occur as part of the general modernisation of the public sector in Denmark, but the latest real significant reformation took place as long ago as 1970 where knowledge management where not studied as a separate field. Thus, the structural reform provides a great opportunity to research knowledge management in the process of municipal mergers. Furthermore, it is interesting to research municipal mergers, because in most of these cases several organisations shall unite. Thus, in the case of this thesis five municipalities, one county, and a parish is merging and though there, on one hand, are similarities between the merging organisations, there are also, on the other hand, great differences and none of the parties undertake their tasks in exactly the same manner, let alone keep the same level of service. This means that the municipal mergers in question can be assumed to be of multidimensional character, which in consequence must entail that task of knowledge management becomes highly complex. Finally, the Danish municipalities have during the last 35 years grown from being small organisations that took care of relatively simple tasks to being highly complex organisations, which take care of a large number of, and very varied tasks. With that, the way in which work concerning knowledge is conducted in each municipality is equally very varied, which complicates knowledge management even further. In this way, the structural reform provides a unique possibility to study knowledge management in a new perspective and present thesis thus raise the question: how do merging organisations create the right organisational conditions for managing the relevant knowledge that potentially is available in the processes of municipal mergers?
Publication date2006
Number of pages138
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 6147092