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Title: Knowledge management solution for railway construction
Other Titles: Ying yong yu tie lu jian zao de zhi shi guan li fang an
Authors: Tang, Wah Hau (鄧華厚)
Department: Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Management
Degree: Engineering Doctorate
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Knowledge management.
Construction projects -- Management.
Notes: CityU Call Number: HD30.2 .T36 2009
xvii, 224, 17, [26] leaves : ill. 30 cm.
Thesis (Eng.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Type: Thesis
Abstract: A large-scale railway construction project involves significant cost and typically requires several years to plan, design and implement. A high proportion of the construction cost of a new railway line is attributable to knowledge-based elements, such as civil infrastructure and railway system designs, assessment of cost alternatives, risks and safety issues of the project, and environmental concerns of the public. In recent years, the construction industry has come to recognize the importance of capturing critical project knowledge for reuse in the same project or in subsequent projects, in order to prevent re-inventing the wheel or to avoid repeating previous mistakes (Carrillo et al., 2006). In the last decade, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) in Hong Kong has constructed a number of new railway lines. The lack of a systematic approach to knowledge management (KM) in railway construction projects in the Corporation has resulted in loss of valuable project knowledge, which may in turn lead to higher project risks and hidden project costs from repeated errors in railway design and project management; poor judgement and untimely decisions; failure to recognize project issues as and when they occur; and inability to draw on previous experience in resolution of issues, to name but a few. Acknowledging the importance of knowledge management in railway construction, the aim of this Engineering Doctorate (EngD) project is to come up with a solution blueprint for the effective creation, gathering, organizing, diffusing and using of explicit and tacit knowledge in railway construction projects of the KCRC. The action research methodology has been adopted for the project. Eighteen (or 70%) line managers of the Corporation‟s Capital Project Division, which is responsible for railway construction projects, were purposely selected to participate in the action research to provide an adequate diversity of views and opinions from across the Division. The number of expert participants and the critiera upon which they were selected are consistent with the requirements for “expertise” of the Delphi method. The participating stakeholders assessed the state of affairs of knowledge management in the Division; set improvement target; evaluated a proposed solution blueprint for achieving the target; and finally committed themselves to driving the knowledge management initiative forward. Adopting the concept of Delphi in the action research also allowed the domain stakeholders to freely express their opinions without undue social pressure to conform from others in the group, thus ensuring the solution blueprint would be endorsed or otherwise due to its own merit rather than the result of group dynamics. A new KM system framework is proposed in the EngD project. The framework specifies the building blocks of a KM solution blueprint for railway construction projects of the Corporation. The notions that project knowledge must be captured “live” in the course of a project; and KM activities must be amalgamated with project management activities to be effective are important conceptual foundations of the new framework. The framework links up KM strategy with implementation of an integrated approach whereby project knowledge can be codified and captured naturally in the normal course of project management into an “Unstructured Knowledgebase”, and then be migrated into a “Structured Knowledgebase” for maximum sharing after a knowledge refinement process. A KM system prototype has also been developed as a proof-of-concept of the framework and to serve as a springboard for implementation and deployment of new KM practices. The participating stakeholders independently assessed and concurred that successful implementation of the proposed KM solution blueprint would raise the maturity of knowledge management in railway construction projects of the Corporation from Level 2 to Level 3 on the 5-level scale of the Kochikar model (Kochikar, 2000), and they expressed unanimously their strong support for taking the KM initiative forward. The Corporation will have to be firmly anchored at Level 3 before it can move further to yet another level of KM maturity. The completion of the EngD project also marks the completion of one and the first KM improvement cycle of the Capital Project Division of the Corporation, the Division is now set to move onto the next cycle in its KM journey. The EngD project has successfully delivered a solution blueprint for enhancing the KM capability in railway construction projects of the KCRC; and, leveraging on the process of action research, has led the key stakeholders of the Capital Project Division to gradually taking ownership in driving the KM journey forward. The proposal and innovative use of a KM system framework to serve as a means for (a) guiding the participating stakeholders to discuss and achieve a common understanding of knowledge management with respect to their particular organizational and business contexts; and (b) specifying the core building blocks of a KM solution blueprint with sufficient implementation details to enable the stakeholders to comprehend what is being proposed and to make business decision on the next step, has turned out to be extremely successful. The development of a framework for achieving the above dual purposes is an attempt to fill a perceived gap in KM frameworks in the literature. The other innovations of the project are the extension of weblog (a popular Internet conversational tool) to give a Project diary tool for regular reporting of project progress and issues by project personnel at different levels; and the introduction of an issue-centric Project issue tracker tool (a metaphor for Meeting notes), which provides a convenient way for recording and tracking issues deliberated across multiple project meetings, to supersede the traditional, meeting-centric way of writing separate meeting minutes for individual meetings. The Project diary and Project issue tracker, which are both components of the new KM system framework, are arguably effective tools for identification of learning events in the course or project issue resolution. They supplement the apparent limitation of the CAPRICON methodology for capturing construction project knowledge (Tan et al., 2006). While the EngD project reported in this thesis is an industry-focused research, the research approach adopted for the project and the new project KM system framework delivered are applicable to many construction projects of similar scale. The EngD project had been carried out under the backdrop of a possible rail merger between the KCRC and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation Limited (MTRCL), which materialized on 2 December 2007. The fact that MTRCL has taken over the railway construction projects from the KCRC means that the subject matter is now no longer relevant to the latter one. It is, however, argued that there is an even better prospect for knowledge management in general and the proposed KM solution blueprint in particular to flourish in the MTRCL context.
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