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Challenges of managing knowledge at SUAN and CINI: Same or Different?*

CASE STUDY, STRATEGY
ET Cases - GSMC, 16 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Mr. Kushal Saha and Anjan Ghosh

Case Preview

Challenges of Managing Knowledge at SUAN and CINI: Same or Different?

 

As the acupuncturist in Kolkata’s China Town was carefully inserting the needles into his back, Mr. Subrata Roy (hereinafter Roy), male 60, breathed a sigh of relief as after many days he got some time to reflect upon the recent happenings in his company Suan Scientific Instruments and Equipments (commonly known as SUAN; URL: http://www.suanscientific.com/), a small but leading manufacturing firm specializing in laboratory instruments and food processing machines. One of the key issues  confronting SUAN was its inability in pursuing all the sales requests pouring in from potential clients. As per Roy’s own estimates, SUAN was being able to cater to only  one fourth of the market demands. Constrained by different organizational limitations, in terms of both capability and capacity, Roy was almost being forced to turn down sales orders from interested parties on a regular basis and it has been bothering him for quite some time now.

Although SUAN, the organization that he started back in 1987, had been cruising on a growth trajectory as of 2014, Roy was feeling annoyed. The reason behind such a feeling was that, for the first time in the last decade or so, he was facing some issues for which he could not find a ready solution. By nature Roy would try to find the  solution to a problem within hours of confronting it. But now his ways of getting things done were not helping him much. The work pressure was so high that he could not afford to go on a bedrest even for a few days, as was suggested by one of the top orthopaedic specialists in the city, to recuperate from a chronic back pain he was suffering from and instead had to rather rely on acupuncture in search for a quick fix. But just like his health he was getting convinced that SUAN would also need proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment than a quick fix......................

Roots of Roy and SUAN

Roy’s family moved into Kolkata from a nearby town in early 70’s. His father was working with the workshop division of Indian Association of the Cultivation of Sciences, a premier research institute of India. Scientific instruments were quite expensive as, in those days, these were to be imported. Sensing a business opportunity, Roy’s father decided to quit the job, team up with one of his colleagues and start a small fabrication factory for production of scientific equipments, apparatus and devices – first such initiative in eastern India. The factory started with only two employees in a small room situated in some nondescript bylane of central Kolkata...........

Initial Struggle

Despite all these adversities, Roy did not lose nerve as he knew in his mind that, with single minded determination, he would be able to turn the tides in his favour. He started supplying stationaries to the laboratories of academic institutions or research institutes only. His objective was to establish connections in these places. Departments of Dairy Development, Dairy Chemistry and Dairy Bacteriology of Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya (URL: http://www.bckv.edu.in/), Haringhata Dairy Firm, etc. were a few of his earlier clients. The network of connections he established and the relationships he cultivated with these entities during this period would help him tremendously in............

Entering Food Processing and Experiencing Growth

The year 1992 brought great change in SUAN’s fortunes. Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata, (URL: http://www.iicb.res.in/) had been using some of the instruments manufactured by SUAN. Moreover, by that time, Roy had developed cordial relationships with a few eminent professors working there. During one such interaction with one of the professors, Roy was introduced to Dr. A. K Basu, the Founder and then Head of Society for Rural Industrialization (SRI; URL: http://www.sriranchi.org/), Ranchi.........

Overview of Business Processes

Like many other small scale manufacturing units, fabrication using Lathe machines formed the core of the production process followed at SUAN. Apart from the list of standard products (http://www.suanscientific.com/products.html), SUAN also accepted orders for customized products. Roy led both the selling and design processes. Manufacturing team was led by Ramen – Roy’s right hand man, a senior mechanic with more than 30 years of experience. Steel sheets and other fixtures and fittings, for example, motors, electrical fittings, etc.........

Problems facing SUAN

“Mr Roy, how do you feel?” The doctor’s voice suddenly broke Roy’s chain of thoughts and brought him back into the present. He smiled at thought that the journey to the past worked like local anaesthesia as if his mind travelled to another space and he had no feeling of discomfort from the piercing needles, let alone pain. Now back to the reality, he could feel the pinches of the needles again. But slowly he let his mind get absorbed in thoughts about the problems SUAN was facing and how those could be remedied..........

About CINI

Dr Samir N Chaudhuri, Sister Pauline Prince and Rev Fr. John Henrichs S. J. Co-founded Child in Need Institute (CINI) in 1974.16 CINI was established with an initial objective to treat malnourishment and other diseases widespread among children through organization of daily health clinics in areas where medical care was neither easily available nor affordable. CINI started its journey with just two such small clinics in the outskirts of Kolkata. But in the next forty odd years, through determined efforts and community-based projects, it has become one of the leading and most respected non-governmental organizations (NGO) in India. CINI set out on its journey to fight malnourishment and other health issues prevalent among the children from poorer backgrounds............

Problems faced by CINI

CINI has been facing myriad challenges due to its huge scale of operation, diverse work-force, dynamic operating environment and constant need to network with number of government agencies, partnering NGOs, institutional partners and donors.

Creation of Knowledge siloes: The majority of the 1300 people strong workforce of CINI is mostly directly involved in field work. However, a large part of the knowledge collected or generated in the field or within the organization remains mostly with the person involved in capturing or generating that knowledge item and does not get disseminated throughout the organization...........

Reach of Learning Services: Many divisions of CINI such as CCRC (CINI’s research and training unit), over the years, have developed and delivered training programs and materials - many of which have received cult status in the development marketplace.......

Knowledge Management initiatives @ CINI

A seasoned consultant from the knowledge solutions industry was hired by CINI management to look into the issues CINI was facing and suggest remedies for the same. After in-depth study of CINI’s organizational structure, service offerings, delivery mechanism and competitive landscape, the consultant opined that the issues, though diverse in forms and effects, were emanating from a single source - CINI’s inability to effectively manage organizational knowledge. The consultant advised CINI management to undertake a strategic Knowledge Management (KM) initiative..........

Training Activities: Identification of current needs

Since inception, CINI had considered training (for both organizational and field agent-level capacity development) to be a critical determinant of sustainability of different development programs. For decades it had been making significant contributions in development field through conducting training programs for ‘community members, frontline and program workers’...........

Interventions Suggested

To address the needs specified above, integration of two aspects of Knowledge Management was recommended by the consultant to best suit CINI’s requirements. On one side different approaches to learning (for example, classroom training, on-the-job training, mentoring, self-paced e-learning modules, etc.) were needed to be synthesized to produce enhanced results. On the other hand, a repository was needed where captured and synthesized knowledge would be stored for organization-wide dissemination..........

Intervention Model adopted by CINI

The consultant helped CINI to identify different partners for outsourcing the responsibilities of developing Knowledge Portal, LMS and content development as its internal IT department did not have the required manpower and capabilities............

Roy’s Dilemma

As Roy was scheduled to travel to Bangladesh in a week to discuss some large deals at least twice the volume of his annual turnover he needed to find some direction in addressing the problems so that he could meet the prospects with more confidence. Moreover............

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Few Instruments Manufactured by IMC

Exhibit II: A Few Products from SUAN’s Current Portfolio

Exhibit III: Overview of Fabrication Processes at SUAN

Exhibit IV: Roy (3rd from Right) Meeting CINI Executives, on The Day He Came to Know About CINI KM Initiative

Exhibit V: Profiles of CINI Executive Team Responsible for Rolling Out the KM Initiative

Exhibit VI: Services provided by CINI

Exhibit VII: Employee Learning Path and Progress

Exhibit VIII: Current vs. Desired States for CINI

Exhibit IX: Formation of Building Blocks during KM-based Intervention Design

Exhibit X: Learning Management System (LMS)

Exhibit XI: Schematic Diagram Representing of How an LMS would fit into CINI Environment

Teaching Note Preview

Challenges of Managing Knowledge at SUAN and CINI: Same or Different?

 

Synopsis

The theme of the case is to sensitize the participants on the criticality of organizational knowledge as well as its management. The case, developed on primary  data, uses comparative accounts of two organizations with different characteristics - one a small manufacturing firm (SUAN) with less than fifty employees and the other a large non-profit organization (CINI) with thirteen hundred employees - to highlight the criticality of organizational knowledge management capabilities (or lack of it) in ensuring growth and continuing success. The case presents some of the pressing challenges faced by the aforementioned organizations to show how these challenges stem from organizational inabilities in harnessing the full potential of knowledge residing within the organizational boundaries. In other words, these challenges can be attributed to lack of organizational focus towards knowledge management (KM). Although embedded in different sectoral  contexts, both the organizations were faced with similar set of challenges – over-dependency on some individuals, confinement of tacit knowledge in  organizational siloes, stunted ability to respond to external changes, missing opportunities, etc. – which started exerting serious pressures on the growth and  sustainability of the organizations. The case then narrates how both the organizations were contemplating undertaking of systemic approaches towards KM to effectively counter the challenges............

Case Positioning and Setting

The case can be used to introduce the concept of KM in BBA, MBA and MDP programs. It presents KM as a strategic element of organizational management and addresses the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in KM adoption. The case can be used to teach the following courses:

  • • Management Information Systems (Introduction to Knowledge Management) – Strategic Management (Introduction to Knowledge Based View of firm under Resource and Capabilities) – Entrepreneurship (Importance of KM in managing growth)

 

Assignment Questions

  • I. What are the problems of CINI indicated in the case? Try to find out the source(s)/ reasons of the problems. For each problem comment on the possible  negative impacts if the problems are left unaddressed.
  • II. What are the actions CINI undertook to address the problems? What could be some of the immediate and long term benefits?
  • III. .......................

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Product code: STG-1-0016, STG-1-0016A

Abstract

The case, developed using primary data, provides comparative accounts of two organizations with different characteristics - one a small manufacturing unit (SUAN) with less than hundred employees and the other a large non-profit organization (CINI) with more than twelve hundred employees - to highlight the criticality of organizational knowledge in ensuring growth and continuing success. The case presents some of the pressing challenges faced by the aforementioned organizations to show how these challenges stem from organizational inabilities in harnessing the full potential of knowledge residing within the organizational boundaries. Put differently, these challenges can be attributed to lack of organizational focus towards knowledge management (KM). Although embedded in different business contexts, both the organizations were faced with similar challenges - over-dependency on some individuals, confinement of tacit knowledge in organizational siloes, stunted ability to respond to external changes, missing opportunities, etc., - which started exerting serious pressures on the growth and sustainability of the organizations. The case then narrates how both the organizations were contemplating undertaking of systemic KM approaches to effectively counter the challenges. Through this comparative case study, the audience/students recognize that a structured KM initiative can empower an organization (especially the ones from knowledge intensive industries) of any size to develop organizational knowledge as a strategic resource to reap sustainable competitive advantage. The case challenges some of the established notions that KM is only meant for large corporations and requires big-budget investments. The case also vouches for entrepreneurial attention towards KM from the early days of an enterprise in establishing organizational knowledge as an important strategic resource for organizational success.



Pedagogical Objectives

  • The Importance of managing knowledge efficiently within an organization
  • The concept of knowledge management (KM) and the core elements of it
  • The process of KM is expected to be different for different organizations – there can’t be one single way of managing organizational knowledge
  • Role of Information Technology in KM – Knowledge Management Systems (KMS)

Case Positioning and Setting

The case can be used to introduce the concept of KM in BBA, MBA and MDP programs. It presents KM as a strategic element of organizational management and addresses the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in KM adoption. The case can be used to teach the following courses:
Management Information Systems (Introduction to Knowledge Management) – Strategic Management (Introduction to Knowledge Based View of firm under Resource and Capabilities) – Entrepreneurship (Importance of KM in managing growth)

* GSMC 2014, IIM Raipur

This Case Pack Includes:
- Abstract
- Case Study
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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