Knowledge Management and Leadership in Walmart Stores

Subject: Management
Pages: 8
Words: 2266
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: PhD


Nearly every organization today is faced with the challenge of coping with constantly changing information systems and needs. Businesses that have been around for a long time have had to adjust from ledger cards to keep up with big volumes of information generated in the digital era. The speed at which information flows today is making it hard for organizations to keep up. “As we move rapidly into the future, leaders face the challenge of being effective in a global knowledge environment” (Politis, 2006). “Today, leaders have to undertake the responsibility of helping their organizations cope with the challenges they face from expanding knowledge and knowledge systems” (Lakshman, 2008).

Knowledge management is of paramount importance in businesses today. It comprises many tasks and initiatives to enable an organization to create, represent, distribute and adopt data and information. As a part of their business strategy, many businesses today have a department and resources strictly dedicated to knowledge management. There are also many consulting companies coming up to help businesses understand the role of this significant aspect of the business. Knowledge management is concerned with creating competitive advantages and innovations to improve performance. It also plays a major role in ensuring continuous improvement and accurate interpretation of data.

Knowledge management seems to be attracting a lot of attention in both small and big organizations today. This comes from the realization that a business can’t succeed in today’s constantly changing markets without proper investments in knowledge and information. For organizations to become and stay truly globally competitive, they need to recognize that information is required to support decisions at various levels of business. “In a world overloaded with information, there is need for emphasis on not just more information but actionable intelligence that is capable of guiding decisions in a business” (Awad & Hassan, 2007). Therefore, knowledge management, which creates competitive intelligence in a business, must be positioned in a way that it can easily identify threats capable of negatively impacting the business in its external environments. The other function of knowledge management processes is to identify new opportunities for the organization and hopefully lead to innovations, which will create more benefits and productivity for the organization.

Designing and implementing knowledge management

Implementing knowledge management may take place in different models which will not be discussed in this paper. However, regardless of the model used, the entire process must be guided by the company’s strategy. Constant guides for the process must take into consideration the mission, vision, and strategic objectives of the company. Several areas must be considered fundamental for the success of knowledge management. They include top management support, unfiltered access to information, knowledge management teams and resources, and professional knowledge on how to implement the process.

Cultural support in the organization is important as the whole team must be willing to adjust and adapt to changes that may be brought about by the implementation of the process. Clear priorities and key intelligence needs must be well identified and specific enough. Finally, the process must have set objectives, products, or outputs. This will enable the team to develop a clear route of development and be able to easily monitor progress. Each model is based on simultaneous development of both capacity and infrastructure development and value addition. “Each process theoretically starts with the development of capacity and infrastructure but the process of adding operational value is initiated soon after management has brought in the concept of knowledge management (Cooper, 1999).

For the process to be successful and effective, the management needs to support the information management tools and have a clear and shared vision for the function. When this support is not available, the function seizes to be viewed as important and priority is no longer placed on it. The management needs to be open and appreciate new tools for decision-making. They should also appreciate that the function of knowledge management is an important support for the business’ landscape. Every organization should always maintain a healthy level of pressure for change to allow the implementation of new business tools such as knowledge management.

Good leadership is important for the successful implementation of knowledge management systems in a business. The management should find or appoint the most suitable person to oversee and drive the process. Apart from having extensive and professional knowledge on the concept of knowledge management, the leader must be well conversant with the business and have healthy relations with the rest of the employees. “The person’s access and relationship with the senior management and especially the chief executive is equally important as his skills and character” (Nonaka & Nishiguchi, 2001). The issue of choosing a driver for the process is as important as the amount of support the top management is ready to accord to them.

Timing and readiness are important elements when implementing information management in any company. Since most organizations are normally overloaded with other core operations, timing is an important consideration in adding another operation to the already existing load. The plan and timing must make it easy to integrate knowledge management with other initiatives in the company. It should also be easy to integrate it into the organization’s culture and decision-making.

“The requirement to be able to fulfill the entire scope of functions is more important than where the function is positioned” (Tsoukas, 2005). Knowledge management should be positioned in a place where it can look out for significant changes that may impact the competitive future of the business (Moser & Vander-Nat, 2003). The author continues to point out that the function is more effective when positioned as high up in the organization as possible where it will have unfiltered access to the major decision-makers in the organization.

Benefits of information management

The most important thing that leadership can do is understand the importance of knowledge management in their organization and work towards implementing its success. For big organizations, selecting a chief knowledge officer will enhance the business’ capacity to integrate and benefit from such a business tool. Knowledge management has many benefits in modern organizations, especially those operating in more than one market. Among the most important benefits is its ability to promote stability in today’s ever-changing environments. In an era where information streams every second, a business needs to be able to convert it to information and knowledge.

Knowledge management provides businesses with a capability for timely delivery of goods. Multinational organizations such as Wal-Mart today need effective and modern strategies in their supply chain systems to ensure reliability and customer satisfaction. In this case, knowledge management is important in ensuring proper communication between manufacturers, transporters, warehouses, and chain managers. “Knowledge management is important in fostering organizational synergy by sharing resources and knowledge in a timely manner” (Feldman, 2003). It is through a well-established knowledge management infrastructure that all the concerned parties in the supply chain can have access to information as soon it is available and as soon as it is needed.

Another important benefit of knowledge management is the fact that it makes it more feasible for businesses to specialize. When businesses can sort out information and knowledge, it is easier for leaders in different departments to only focus on what they require and save time that would otherwise have been used to sort out all the information available. Knowledge management has made leadership easier by allowing people to focus on specific needs of the business at any particular time.

Knowledge management strategies

Leaders in a business can access knowledge in three different stages. They can access it before, during, or after knowledge management activities. As different organizations try various incentives to capture knowledge, it is clear that leadership plays a critical role in implementing knowledge management strategies. “Leaders have the responsibility of making content subscription mandatory and incorporating rewards into performance measurement plans” (Crawford, 2005). Active management of knowledge is a commonly used strategy by leaders today. In this strategy, every department in the organization has the responsibility of encoding their knowledge into databases and being able to retrieve it whenever it is needed.

Another commonly used strategy is managing information at a central location and having to make available to leaders when they need it. The leaders then have the responsibility of converting the available information to helpful knowledge, on their own or with the help of experts. As knowledge management becomes more and more important, more consultancy businesses are coming up to help businesses understand the millions of gigabytes of information coming in every day. Many multinational businesses such as Wal-Mart may need expatriate services since the business deals with many business environments at the same time.

Case study: Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Inc. has 8,500 stores in 25 different countries. The business has a presence in all the 50 states of the USA. Even though it operates under different names in different country’s, its operations in one region may affect the whole chain’s profitability and strategies. For such a big organization, information management requires professionalism and accuracy. Converting information to management is key in ensuring that the business is well updated on the state of affair in different global markets.

As a store manager, it is my responsibility to understand deliveries, dispatch and information about all the products trading in our stores. Warehousing and storage require a clear understanding of storage specifications for different products, expiry terms for different products, storage conditions for all the products and any other information required to ensure that the quality of products is retained. As a leader therefore, it is my responsibility to have correspondence with the company’s purchase, sales, information, transport manager, and any other department related with the handling of the products. It is also my responsibility to be able to convert all the information gathered to useful knowledge for the business. Retaining the intellectual value of information is key for a leader in a position such as mine.


Whether an organization is well mature or new in its knowledge management strategies, there are going to be challenges. This is from the fact that knowledge management is a new concept in the market and experts are still trying to perfect the art. One of the the biggest challenges facing organizations today is handling information overload. “As computing and connectivity capabilities become increasingly faster and more robust, people find themselves overloaded with information” (Schein, 2010). Small organizations easily reach the exhaustive point where the organization has no ability to take in more. Converting all the information into useful knowledge may then pose as a challenge.

Another major challenge is mastering information. When the process of capturing and transferring information is not done right, it may lose its intellectual value. To avoid this, every leader must have a broad management commitment to all the important processes of knowledge management. There should also be tools that allow accountability to ensure credibility of information.

Addressing people issues is a significant challenge in knowledge management. According to Lakshman (2008), “employee assimilation, development and retention are processes that, taken together, may contribute to the success of knowledge-based organization more than anything else”. Most organizations are still faced with the challenge of assimilating their employees and teams into the process to fully benefit from it. When this does not happen, the process becomes more complicated since its the same people who develop knowledge needed for the success of the organization.

Fostering collaboration is also a major challenge in knowledge management. Organizations are faced with the challenge of finding ways to create and maintain a culture where collaboration among its teams is key. Since its the interaction of people that creates information and allows other to benefit from it, barriers in communication may make knowledge management impossible. Most organizations today try to ensure motivation among teams to work together and avoid unnecessary redundancy.


The speeds at which information flows in today makes it hard for organizations to keep up. Knowledge management is of paramount importance in businesses today. It comprises of many tasks and initiatives to enable an organization create, represent, distribute and adopt data and information. Implementing knowledge management may take place in different models and regardless of the model used, the entire process must be guided by the company’s mission, vision and strategy.

The benefits of knowledge management include its ability to promote stability in today’s ever changing environment businesses, creating capability for timely delivery of goods and the fact that it makes it more feasible for businesses to specialize. Challenges include information overload, mastering information, addressing people issues and fostering collaboration. As more and more organizations realize its importance, they are investing more in research to ensure these challenges are eliminated and the art of knowledge management is perfected.

Reference list

Awad, E.M., & Hassan, M.G. (2007). Knowledge management. Delhi: Pearson Education.

Cooper, D.E. (Ed). (1999). Epistemology: The classic readings. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Crawford, C.B. (2005). Transformational leadership, innovation and knowledge management: Empirical findings and emergent conclusions. Web.

Feldman, R. (2003). Epistemology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lakshman, C. (2008). Knowledge leadership: Tools for executive leaders. Thousand Oaks: Responsible Books.

Moser, P.K., & Vander-Nat, A. (Eds.). (2003). Human knowledge: Classical and contemporary approaches ,(3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Nonaka, I., & Nishiguchi, T. (Eds.). (2001). Knowledge emergence : Social, technical, and evolutionary dimensions of knowledge creation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Politis, J.D. (2006). The relationship of various leadership styles to knowledge management. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 22(8), 354- 364.

Schein, E.H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Tsoukas, H. (2005). Complex knowledge: Studies in organizational epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press.