posted 20 Nov 2001 in Volume 5 Issue 4
Country focus: Lithuania
This month Simon Lelic talks to Robertas Jucevicius and discusses the impact of KM in Lithuania
The history of knowledge management in Lithuania is, as in so many other countries, relatively short. There remains a prevailing confusion as to what KM actually means, and the term ‘knowledge management’ has in fact only been used in the country for three or four years. Nevertheless, there is a sizeable academic community actively involved in research and consulting on business and management strategies, and a large proportion of this work already focuses on KM.
Robertas Jucevicius is director of the Business Strategy Institute, part of Kaunas University of Technology (KUT). The institute is a major intellectual centre for the development of managerial ideas in Lithuania, and it is within the institute’s Department of Strategic Management (of which Jucevicius is also head) that much of the current research into knowledge management is being conducted.
“Between 1996 and 1998, I spent ten months at Lund University, Sweden, where MBA students had for several years been able to take a course in business intelligence,” says Jucevicius. “It was through discussions with Stevan Dedijer, a godfather of social intelligence, that I came to understand the huge potential of knowledge management. After coming back to Lithuania, I started actively propagating these ideas in the academic and business community.” In 1998, a business and management intelligence course was introduced as part of the MBA programme at KUT, and knowledge management has since figured prominently in the work of a number of doctoral students.
According to Jucevicius, the department collaborates closely with the Institute of Educational Studies (IES), where knowledge management has also received a great deal of attention of late. Primarily, says Jucevicius, this is a result of the IES’s focus on organisational behaviour, specifically on theories relating to the learning organisation, a concept introduced to the IES by Professor Poul Mandrup Larsen and built upon more recently by Professor Palmira Juceviciene.
From an academic perspective, therefore, the KM community is well established and has already generated some practical results. A white paper on Lithuanian research and technology, published earlier this year, pays great attention to the knowledge economy, as Jucevicius says, while another paper examining Lithuanian industrial policy also emphasises the importance of KM. Both were researched and written by a team of KUT scholars that included Jucevicius himself. On a more practical level, the Lithuanian government has developed and implemented VADIS, an information system that integrates the disparate repositories of separate ministries and the Lithuanian parliament.
On a broader scale, however, it is perhaps unsurprising that knowledge management has not yet had the same impact. Jucevicius believes the difficult economic situation in the country is at least partially to blame for this fact, as is what he describes as insufficient understanding as to the importance of KM, not only for individual companies, but also for Lithuania as a whole. In addition, Jucevicius maintains that while research has ostensibly been given top priority by the Lithuanian government, in reality grants are decreasing and funding for research programmes is becoming harder to find.
Market conditions also seem to be restricting the uptake of knowledge management. While KM products remain relatively expensive and require a certain standard of IT ability from their users, Lithuania is dominated by small, newly-established firms, many of which were created after the privatisation of larger state-owned businesses and are staffed by workers who have already been forced to ‘re-skill’. “As a result,” says Jucevicius, “the demand for ‘intellectual’ products, including KM, is not big.”
Nevertheless, Jucevicius believes the cultural environment in Lithuania remains favourable for the further adoption of knowledge management. The demand for higher education is increasing, as is the number of IT graduates, while research in management and educational studies continues to go from strength to strength. “In the near future, KUT intends to develop a programme of integrated studies aimed at educating qualified developers and users of KM products,” says Jucevicius. The number of conferences and forums discussing KM is growing, as is media attention towards the subject. As Jucevicius says, the national daily, Republika, carries a special supplement that focuses on the problems associated with a knowledge society.
The outlook for knowledge management therefore seems fair. The discipline already has a strong academic base, and further research is continuing apace. Practical organisational applications remain sporadic, however, and it is clear that the academic institutions of the country will need to continue their proselytizing if knowledge management is to make any real impact in the Lithuanian economy.
Robertas Jucevicius is director of the Business Strategy Institute and head of the Department of Strategic Management at Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org