AT KEARNEY – STUDY CASE
Strategic Information System
MAY 29, 2015
GRENOBLE ECOLE DE MANAGEMENT
Table of Contents
AT Kearny KM Challenges........................................................................................2
AT Kearney & Managing Knowledge........................................................................6
We live the new digital economy world where the old fashioned way of conducting business is no
longer exist. Technological advancements and globalization have created new business models
which have replaced the old ones in order to secure survival in today’s digital economy market,
and its fierce competition. Succeeding is no longer an easy task to achieve, as it requires leading
through dynamically complex and volatile environment where individuals and organizations are
driven by operational excellence and collaboration across different functions and departments,
while developing and creating knowledge capital to unleash innovation, new potentials and
possibilities (Ermine 2000, Asoh et al 2002, Neilson 2001, King 2009 ). The one thing that
distinguish the new economy is the speed of data capture, processing and dissemination (Asoh et
al 2002, Birkinshaw 2001). It has become a knowledge economy based on knowledge created by
the individual employees within the structures and systems of an organization which is regarded
as the main key resource of production (Ermine 2000, Asoh et al 2002, Birkinshaw 2001, King
As firms have realized the importance of knowledge and human capital, they have undertaken
some formal and informal decisions to ameliorate their processes, modify their structures and
systems in order to create, share and use the collective knowledge of its products, services, and
people to increase efficiency, productivity and spur innovation and competitive advantage (Ermine
2000, Fontaine et al. 2002, Asoh et al. 2002, Smith et al. 2008, Nonaka 2007, Sigala 2014).
Many researchers agree that knowledge management promises much but often delivers much little
due to the challenges involved which reaches every single level within an organization, leading to
considerable changes and new visions of firms, as it is a long-term plan starting from strategic
commitment which involves correct analysis of knowledge, types, its flows, know-how within
each department and not to forget the integration of various well fit tools and processes
(Birkinshaw 2001, Ermine 2000, Fontaine et al. 2002, Smith et al. 2008, Sigala 2014).
This paper will shed the light on AT Kearney current challenges and initiatives when it comes to
managing individual knowledge within their organization. It will investigate to which extent AT
Kearney is managing knowledge, the effectiveness of its processes, and present at the end a more
developed management practices and framework for effective KM.
AT Kearny KM Challenges
AT Kearney is a global management consulting firm specialized in strategic and operational issues
facing businesses, governments and institutions around the globe. According to Helen Clegg, the
knowledge managing director, AT. Kearney like all big firms around the world, have realized the
importance of its human capital which is estimated by around 3200 persons, and knowledge
generated through their interactions. Her main mission is to set a knowledge sharing processes and
solutions, in addition to the use of her expertise in taxonomy development to add value to the data
science team. However the ride was not smooth as several issues and challenges have been
identified during the way. The followings are a debriefing of the main challenges AT Kearny is
facing when it comes to managing knowledge:
Knowledge practices and functions still to some extent back office without proper strategic
and commercial alignment.
AT Kearney’s knowledge management efforts is focused to a great extent within
organizational boundaries merged with formal learning and sharing processes.
There is a failure to understand and connect knowledge management into individuals’ daily
working activities. AT Kearney processes in collecting data especially with consulting
projects takes place at the end of each project where consultants share their knowledge,
challenges and experiences. This process should be part of each consultant’s daily activity
and takes place on daily basis to grasp the maximum amount of knowledge as the core
value of the experience will be missing.
Absence of systematic way in checking the relevance and the importance of what is being
shared, and what needs to be prioritized. This might be time, effort and money consuming
No real and efficient indicators of the relevance of knowledge management and sharing
over return on investment (ROI).
Poor search skills due to lack of training or seminar which introduces staff to the newly
adopted software and tools. In addition, they depend on Google to some extent in their
search which is from a realistic point of view is biased and it is a reflection of our daily to
daily basis interaction of all the information and data exchanged around the globe.
Figure 1. Search Engines Usage around the Globe.
Company’s culture needs to be more visible within AT Kearney as KM is heavily
dependent on it, in addition to recognizing contributors’ efforts in the process of sharing,
learning and innovating.
Knowledge sharing is not fully part of everyone’s job as it is not included it in the job
contract. HRM needs to be more involved more with KM.
No proper informal and formal means of communication internally within the same
department and externally with other departments, merged with some kind of resistance
within the organization.
Organization structure within AT Kearney is not optimum and suitable for fluidity of
knowledge. It needs more resilience, and flexibility by rendering it flat.
Knowledge is not totally viewed and managed internally as a corporate resource.
Lack of proper leadership style where senior management are openly and completely
supportive and provide resources for knowledge management.
No proper understanding of the important role of knowledge in supporting the
organization’s strategy and business processes at AT Kearney.
Absence proper balance in KM approaches adopted by AT Kearney: IT Capital, Human
Capital through HRM, and Social Capital.
Most companies struggle with knowledge management to make it work as not all
knowledge is explicit and can be codified. Some of it is tacit, non-codified, and it is highly
valued by firms as the competitive advantage and the added values lie within, especially
when it comes to capitalization and learning (Birkinshaw 2001, Sayer 2009, Jorna 2001,
Sigala 2014). Even though managers and data science team at AT Kearney facilitated
processes and provided necessary tools, they couldn’t find a way to properly collect, and
share tacit knowledge which is heavily dependent on culture, habits, personal experiences,
intuitions, and guts. In addition, when it comes to explicit knowledge, the process of
codifying is time and effort consuming (eg. Entry and Regular Updates) and uncontrollable
especially when it comes to proper means of knowledge specifications, classifications, and
descriptions by employees. Auto-tagging and classification might save some time but it
doesn’t guarantee efficient sorting and tagging which render collected knowledge useless
as it would be frustrating to find and locate.
New tools are being used (eg. YouTube, On Air, Knowledge Café, Yammer, Auto-
Classification, PAS (RFS) Wall, PAS Tube, WikiPAS, PAS Global) but some of them are
In-house developed software and tools to capture, collect and classify knowledge, where
user friendly designs might be an issue which can demotivate AT Kearney’s staff and
discourage them from getting engaged. Some are bought from Microsoft without being
specifically designed for specific needs in a certain department within AT Kearney. This
affect to a great extent its efficiency of when it comes to knowledge collection, creation,
Taxonomies in classification of knowledge into data centers is one of the challenges AT
Kearney faces, which hinder efficiency in sharing knowledge.
Absence of efficient organizational tools for co-ordination activities among different data
centers that belong to different departments which ensure high level of fluidity across
centers and strong link among them with development groups.
AT Kearney is creating data without fully controllable means in addressing the need to
manage the content. The problem with the “Big Data” is that it needs constant updates,
clean up, and continuous human intervention and supervision (Fontaine et al. 2002). The
ultimate success of these systems is by through keeping the materials relevant and easily
accessible (Fontaine et al. 2002).
Search engines return too much information, reflecting lack of knowledge structure and
Limited financial budget and senior management/shareholders support, especially when it
comes to buying the technological tools needed and keeping it updated.
No standardized tools for knowledge management for each discipline or practice within AT
Absence of intelligent platforms which are developed by intelligent software engineers
specifically designed for each department within AT Kearney.
The most valuable part of the knowledge the consultant’s experience – the KNOW-HOW
is not being shared or collected as it should be. The context the consultant delivers to the
clients through their regular meetings is missing from what is being uploaded.
Time is not allocated for team learning and personal development as time is not available
in their fast dynamic pace of consultancy.
Absence of proper KPI tools which is used to measure the success of their KM processes,
tools and systems, level of participation, sharing, and personal contribution.
Several factors that influence knowledge management which govern knowledge activities
to create knowledge resources and achieve organization learning and development. These
factors range from managerial to resources and environmental (Holsapple et al. 2004).
Knowledge is heavily dependent on what the firm does, the type of the industry, and clients.
Since AT Kearney spans a wide range of industries and business functions, it makes it
impossible to take them into consideration, analyses them, sets and develops a proper
framework along with its cyclical approaches for knowledge management within the firm.
KM emerged in the early 90s and reached a high level of thoughts in our days especially
in the era of consultancy. All organizations and mostly consulting firms are operating in a
fast, dynamic, and complex pace, time and motivation. These are great challenges
especially in knowledge management (Ermine 2000, King 2009). AT Kearney is trying to
get its staff on board, get them engaged and contribute to KM through their processes,
systems and tools, however this task is not easy as there is a need for full embracement of
company culture, have internal low resistance to change and embrace the new strategies
and visons, internal and external motivating incentives, and most of all time which is not
flexible/available in the competing nature of consulting practices, internally and externally.
They have a demanding consulting environment that puts so much pressure on the
consultants, leading to high rate of turnovers due to the continuous internal and external
The nature of the job is project based which means different projects, people, skills and
experiences, limited time and budget. This play as a negative factor in KM to some extent.
Barriers to knowledge sharing especially within the consulting environment due to cultural
differences, personal motivations, egoism, and power status driven by thirst to competition.
AT Kearney & Managing Knowledge
Successful companies whose main activities is continuous innovation based on creating, acquiring
and transferring knowledge are knowledge-creating and learning companies (Nonaka 2007,
Garvin 2008, Sigala 2014). The main secret lies within its ability to adapt new and unique approach
which is based on three main building blocks: supportive environment, concreate learning
processes, and leadership that reinforce learning (Garvin 2008, Sigala 2014). Managing and
creating knowledge is mainly based on tapping tacit knowledge like subjective insights, hunches,
intuitions, and making them available for testing, and implementation within the whole
organizational body (Nonaka 2007, Sigala 2014, King 2009).
AT Kearney is a knowledge-creating and learning organization at the same time due to the
Employees have a great sense of identity with the firm’s mission and vision.
It re-creates itself along with the employees in continuous process of personal and
organizational self-renewal through its KM program which involves: knowledge
facilitation, capture, distillation, syndication of contents and results through WikiPAS, and
Podcast, and Center of Excellence (COE).
Personal knowledge is its central activity and it is available to others though its intelligent
platforms: WikiPAS, Program Management Office (PMO), and Center of Excellence
(COE), PAStube, PAS (RFS) Wall.
Tacit knowledge is being transformed to some extent (depending on the efficiency of its
processes and tools) to explicit through the company’s structure, practices and processes:
Strategic Rotational Programs, Mentoring, and free access to the company information
through: WikiPAS, Podcast, Knowledge Café, Yammer, and Social Networks (outside the
organization boundaries) through: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter…etc.
Knowledge management sources diversification: no one group is responsible for creating
new knowledge within the company. It is a team effort where everyone is involved from
top management to the chaos market.
Consultant don’t just passively receive knowledge but they also actively share it internally
Employees feel safe challenging each others by asking questions, taking risk and expanding
their thinking by looking into the unknown.
AT Kearney has formal processes for collecting, disseminating and sharing information,
gathering intelligence on competitors and vital players in the market within the industry,
identifying and solving business problems while developing its employees’ skills and
pushing them to reach their potentials.
AT Kearney’s management is fully aware of the importance of spending time on problem
identification, looking for wining alternatives, knowledge transfer, self-reflection
especially when it comes to knowledge.
AT Kearney have realized the importance of knowledge creation, learning and sharing as they are
a global consulting firm and knowledge is what they produce (Evans 2011). They have been aware
of the fact that KM is not only about technology, it is about proper understanding of what
knowledge management is and what really drives and incentive people to share, and how they do
it. Having aware of all these issues, they managed few years back to create a KM program which
is based on eight essential pillars (Evans 2011). These pillars are based on a balanced approach
that relies on equilibrium among IT, human and social capitals. However, even though the KM
program adopted may sound balanced and ideal for KM at AT Kearney, the huge amount of factors
involved along with the nature of knowledge especially the tacit type, make it a dynamic
uncontrollable environment due to human interaction, and involvement which render it vulnerable
to flaws, thus reducing its effectiveness along with the processes involved, and inability to map
out the values out of it. Some of these flaws were witnessed in the challenges they face.
AT Kearney is a firm that provides a knowledge environment necessary for the creation of a
learning organization. According to Helen Glegg, AT Kearney has adopted an approach which
allowed consultants to share knowledge and key insights through different tools and operational
processes within the organizational structure, however these transformation processes are not
completely efficient and successful. There are several management issues need to be addressed on
the strategic, tacit and operational level, in order to develop a more effective KM approach:
More alignment between knowledge management efforts and AT Kearney’s strategic
objective need to take place.
There is a need to tightly manage the content of data centers or repositories within the firm.
The fact that data input comes from different sources or channels makes it more dynamic
Management needs to properly understand what really motivate consultants to connect, and
share knowledge and how they do it especially through the informal channels where tacit
knowledge flows more frequently.
Improving the informal flow of knowledge between individuals by understanding the real
value of informal channels when it comes to knowledge sharing, and heavily reply on it,
without focusing only on KM within the organizational boundaries, as according to IBM,
70% of the actual learning is accomplished through the informal channels, in addition
Social media which can empower people to get more engaged in collaborative KM (Sigala
Management should not focus much on recycling the existing knowledge but rather on
how to generate new ones.
AT Kearney’s currently mapping the stock of knowledge through their KPIs, however they
need to map the flow of knowledge within the organization and use it to encourage
knowledge sharing behaviors, while increasing the visibility of knowledge management
activities by shifting in the behavior of their employees.
Shift in the leadership style to a delegating style wherein employees are given adequate
authority and freedom to experiment and innovate. According to Singh (2008),
organizations need to start practicing adequate leadership style while preaching in order to
fully achieve creation, storing and sharing of knowledge. This style at AT Kearney, should
be merged with proper means of support especially financially in order to keep technology
tools upgraded and customized according to each departments’ needs when it comes to
Make KM part of everyone’s working daily activities in order to unconsciously embrace
it, its culture and manifest it through a personal behavioral transformation.
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