Knowledge - Unwritten Rules by JaimeAntonioSotelo


                                      Managing Knowledge

U N I V E R S I T Y   O F   T E C H N O L O G Y ,   S Y D N E Y

                  ASSIGNMENT 4:

           Individual on-line Notes

                 Unwritten Rules –
A Real-life Example in which Unwritten Rules are contradictory
                 to developing New Knowledge


        Jaime Sotelo                   Student No. 02120513
        Date submitted:                   25 September 2005

          Lecturer:                      Mr. Mark Andrews

These notes describe “Unwritten Rules” as a key feature of Knowledge Management, and
how they eventually contributed to bad morale among many of a Company’s employees,
ultimately resulting in their resignations. Were it not for this tragedy, the Company would
have been an excellent place to work, and one in which careers could develop, grow, and
broaden, as a result of:

        The highly stimulating and challenging nature of the work the Company offers,

        The opportunities of travel offered to employees resulting from the nature of the work,

        The high profile and oligopolistic nature of the industry that the Company is in,

        The high profits the Company enjoys, and

        The position of market leader in the industry the Company is in.

Thales Training & Simulation (Thales), Garden Island, is the Company concerned. Thales
develops designs, constructs, inspects, tests, and commissions Aircraft Simulators, and then
bids for “follow-on” Contracts to operate and maintain them at customers’ premises. Its
customers in Australia comprise the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Qantas.
Currently, Thales operates and maintains two AP-3C “Orion” Advanced Flight Simulators
(AFSs) at the RAAF Base Edinburgh, SA, and one F-111C Mission Simulator (MS) at the
RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.


The Thales group of Companies (with Head Office in Paris, France), claims to provide
services offering a strong technology component and high added value. Its expertise and
services comprise precisely-defined, high-technology processes, making them reproducible
and readily implementable in industrial environments anywhere that they are required.
Moreover, this industrial approach allows Thales to commit to Quality and Service Level
Agreements to its customers, to a level that truly differentiates them from their competitors.

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The world-wide demand for high-technology Flight Simulators has experienced an upsurge
among airlines around the world, mainly as a result of world-wide increases in fuel prices.
This demand has fueled the rapid growth of Thales, as a major provider of highly-advanced,
Flight Simulators. But the growth of Thales and its “Knowledge-related” attributes have also
been made possible by many hundreds of its employees world-wide. They are conscientious,
hard-working, and dedicated, possessing knowledge and expertise that have helped this
global Company become the world’s number one simulation Company.

Where there is growing awareness to a “dark side” of Thales is in behavioral and ethical
issues towards its employees, and it is in these issues that “Unwritten Rules” prevail. There
is nothing in Thales documentation, whether of Australian or French origin, that obliges the
Company to have an archaic attitude towards its staff. These issues are “unofficial”; but they
do occur, and they cause much suffering and frustration. Unlike the technological side of the
Company, whose superlatives have already been alluded to, there are no similar traits that
can be said about its industrial and employment practices. Examples that demonstrate the
prevailing situation include:

      Its general working environment, consisting of very cramped work stations for non-
       managerial staff, which when investigated against Occupational Health & Safety
       (OH&S) requirements, were found to be non-compliant;

      Its supply of unreliable hardware equipment and software to staff, preventing them
       from performing their work without interruptions (e.g., on an almost daily basis, they
       would experience network “freezes” or crashes with no prior warning, resulting in
       loss of files and important data, and which could only be resolved by services from
       the local IT Help Desk, which itself comprised three overworked, underpaid System
       Administrators, serving 150 employees);

      The lack of an internal Thales computer network that provides accessibility to all staff
       regardless of their remote location from Head Office, i.e., internal documentation sent
       out to remote sites by “Controlled” CD would immediately be superseded each time
       any single document in the CD is raised to a new Revision No., rendering the one in
       the CD to be immediately obsolete; and

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      Favored treatment given to a certain small number of employees, and decided directly
       by senior management without consultation with those concerned or with their peers.

Although internal policy documents and procedures exist, they tend to be vague and even
abstain from addressing areas where exploitation occurs, resulting in benefits passed on to
senior management (i.e., the “privileged group”) only. Hence, if benefits are gained by this
“group” at the expense of another group or level of employees, a deliberate effort to
minimize documenting the situation, exists. The resulting “inappropriate” situation then
continues unchecked, with no records produced, culminating in a form of “nose dive” for the
already–disadvantaged “party”. Should an investigation then be initiated in the future, no
recorded evidence or even written policies on issues raised may be invoked. As a result, it
would be very difficult to establish “who’s wrong” and “who’s right”, what evidence exists
to assist at this investigation, agreed corrective actions, and prevention of their recurrence.

The typical attitude and behavior of upper Management at Thales as directly affecting many
of its employees is generally attributed to the culture that has developed within the Company,
and which no staff (manager or otherwise) may have bothered to address. Unless anyone
would have taken a critical look at Thales, it may not have been perceived that something
was not right. Yet, when anyone does eventually recognize this, a sense of panic occurs
among its Senior Management – “Someone has upset the apple cart!” And if any process of
investigation may be initiated, by what benchmark could judgments be made? There are no
“Written Rules” to be consulted with! Does it mean that whatever is occurring is “kosher”,
and if anyone raises his/her hand and states, “Excuse me, but something is not right here”,
he/she would be branded a “misfit” or a “troublemaker”?

Along with the “culture” of an organization, comes a repeated set of activities that “fuel” the
situations described above. This “naturally-occurring tendency” is a characteristic “Tacit
Knowledge”, a type of “Knowledge” that develops without formal prior learning or training.
This situation can be rectified through the process of “Externalization”, or transformation to
“Explicit Knowledge” – knowledge that requires formal, externally-supplied training, that
would assist in ridding Thales of its pre-existing culture.

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The prevailing “Unwritten Rules” at Thales may also be categorized initially, as “Current
State” – the “unfavorable” situation characterizing Thales. Persons intending to rectify this
envisage an ideal state denoted as the “Desired State”. Typically, it envisages a resolution to
all the items listed earlier in point form, and others not yet revealed; resulting in much
improved morale among the employees. The interaction between the two States produces a
“State Gap” – an impetus for Action, based on “Written (or understood) Rules” of operation.
The “Actions” to be performed are expected to move the “Current State” towards the
“Desired State” (of Thales), thus reducing the “State Gap” in the process. [This method is
described further in “The Unwritten Rules of the Game”, by Peter Scott-Morgan, published
by McGraw-Hill (1994)].


For a Company that achieved number one status in the technology behind Aircraft Simulators,
through “New Knowledge” gained, it seems a contradiction in terms that in its treatment and
provision of a favorable work environment to its staff, it has been so mediocre. But it has
been able to “achieve” this notoriety or “dark side”, through “Unwritten Rules” never
questioned or evaluated further. This aspect of the Company has largely gone unchecked.
After all, why would seemingly unethical practices (deemed here as “Tacit Knowledge”) be
dutifully documented?

From the Thales website, there is much to indicate that it has achieved great progress in
Flight Simulator technology; but it needs to recognize that this was made possible largely by
its employees! On this very favorable aspect of Thales, there is much documented internally
in its procedures and specifications, as well as externally in brochures to customers and
potential customers, as well as in its website.

Finally, Thales management need trust and need to develop the trust of its people. When
they achieve this and put it in practice, rather than rely on “Unwritten Rules” that only
distance otherwise loyal employees from themselves, those employees will develop a trust
for them. To bridge the gap from the Current to the Desired State, management should also
be ready to “look for what is missing” and appropriately fill it. Success at this effort will
arise from consistent, fair, and ethical behavior on their part.

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4.       REFERENCE

        “The Unwritten Rules of the Game”, by Peter Scott-Morgan, published by McGraw-
         Hill (1994)

        Thales Training & Simulation (Head Office, France) SA, website

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