Demystifying and Solving the Knowledge Sharing Problems in a Regional Operations Division of a Global Courier and Delivery Services Firm: An Action Research Approach


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date18 May 2018


Knowledge sharing is an important but challenging activity for firms in today’s hyper-competitive business environment. This is notably true in the global courier, express and parcel delivery (CEP) industry. This thesis is undertaken in collaboration with Velox, a global leader in the CEP industry. I investigate work-related problems associated with knowledge sharing practices in Velox’s regional operations division in Guangzhou, China. Velox’s regional operations division in China faces a challenging environment due to fluctuations in the legal environment,competition in the marketplace and complicated customs clearance processes and practices. Effective and efficient knowledge sharing among employees is vital to Velox’s services success, competitive position and customers’ satisfaction. Despite an abundance of information systems and technologies, Velox has received continuous complaints from internal stakeholders and external customers related to the inability of front-line employees who work in customs clearance and customer service to provide high quality and reliable services. The purpose of the research described in this thesis is to help Velox both investigate how an inadequate appreciation and application of knowledge sharing may contribute to this problem, and subsequently solve the same problem through an action research-based intervention.

In this thesis, I adopt an interpretivist perspective and employ Canonical Action Research as a method in order to target both the generation of academic knowledge and improvements to knowledge sharing practices in Velox. I collected data through interviews, meetings, conference calls, reviews of corporate documentation and websites, and on-site observations. In January 2015, a core project team was formed with members from Velox and the researcher. In line with the stipulation in Davison et al.’s (2004, 2012) principles for Canonical Action Research, I employed Alter’s (2013) Work Systems Theory as an instrumental theory in order to diagnose the research problems and delineate the way knowledge sharing practices were embedded in regular work at Velox. I also employed Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (Gersick, 1991) as the focal theory that would drive the change process necessary to solve Velox’s organizational problems. Over an 18-month period, I completed two action research cycles, after which the project objectives were completed and I exited the project. My research led to the revelation of a number of important factors essential to the improvement of knowledge sharing practices at Velox. These enhanced practices informed the design of IT-reliant work systems that would support sustainable knowledge sharing practices among employees into the foreseeable future. From a scholarly perspective, the research contributes to a better understanding of how work systems theory can be integrated with action research in investigations of organizational problems, as well as their solution. Equally, the application of Punctuated Equilibrium Theory demonstrated how revolutionary changes could be enacted in organizations in a sustainable fashion. Methodologically, I also make recommendations for improvements to the way Canonical Action Research is conducted. Finally, from a practical perspective, the research contributes to a better understanding of how actions that can improve knowledge sharing practices can be initiated in the organizational context.