Assessment of Texas Public Utility Commission Knowledge Management System: An Organizational Perspective




Johnson, Nicholas

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The field of knowledge management is only about ten years, yet, it has come to be one of the fastest growing and most popular management disciplines in the modern era. Knowledge management has been given many definitions, but for this research, the following definition formulated by Thomas Beckman has been adopted. He defines knowledge management as "the formulation of and access to experience, knowledge, and expertise that create new capabilities, enable superior performance, encourage innovation, and enhance customer value" (p.51). Since many public sector philosophies start out as private sector, the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) was an attractive government state agency, for which to study in terms of development and adoption of knowledge management ideas, practices, attitudes, values and characteristics. The Texas Public Utility Commission is, and has been, a leader in Texas State government for adopting knowledge management concepts and perspectives their organization. The Texas Public Utility Commission has been cited by Jay Liebowitz, a leading researcher in the area of knowledge management. Liebowitz (1999) references the PUC in chapter 16.1, "Knowledge Management in Government: Workflow Applications." In this chapter, Brenda Jenkins, Executive Director, stated, "Deregulation and competition is going to cause utilities to rethink their efficiency. How to do business better and how to make government smaller are growing, unavoidable questions" (p16-2). This applied research project assesses the knowledge management system of the Texas Public Utility Commission in an organizational perspective based on the practical ideal type framework developed through a literature review. The model is used as an assessment tool to examine knowledge management at PUC. The ideal type model for knowledge organizations consisting of the following twelve categories: high performance, customer driven, improvement driven, excellence driven, high flexibility and adaptiveness, high level of expertise and knowledge, high rate of learning and innovation, innovative IT-enabled, self-directed and managed, proactive and futurist, values trustworthiness and relationships, and values expertise and sharing of knowledge. Within each characteristic dwell a multitude of elements that support the existence and adoption of the model ideal type. These characteristics are identified by knowledge management organizations in both business and government. The Texas Public Utility Knowledge Management Assessment was conducted from a case study research design using multiple sources of evidence. Document analysis, a survey instrument, and focused interviews were used to enhance the validity of the research through a triangulation of the data. The findings from the research were somewhat unexpected. As expected, the Texas Public Utility Commission clearly identified with the values and characteristics identified by the model and the literature. Unexpectedly, the Texas Public Utility commission showed evidence that there is a marginal disconnect between employee perception of organizational values and rewards. The study identified employee perceptions of Texas Public Utility Commission's rewards, compensation and motivational system. According to the survey results, on average there existed a fifteen to twenty (15% to 20%) percent decrease between employee perception of organization values and organizations rewards. Roughly, seventy to seventy-five (70% to 75%) percent of employees believed PUC valued each of the twelve (12) characteristics identified in the model, but only fifty to fifty-five (50% to 55%) percent of PUC employees believed PUC rewarded or compensated employee behavior and attitudes that promoted the characteristics identified by the knowledge management organization model. In all fairness, it must be mentioned that only (less than 7) days before the survey was administered PUC, following orders to cut expenditures by seven to ten (7 to 10) percent terminated 33 full and 4 part-time (37) employees from the agency. Such layoffs due to fiscal stress are commonly followed by low organizational morale. It was also unexpected with such events occurring so close to administering of the survey that fifty percent (50%) plus in most cases still believed that PUC rewarded employees for the behaviors and attitudes identified by the model. It was impressive that respondents still showed weak to medium agreement at fifty percent that PUC rewards individuals and collaborative groups for their accomplishments, behaviors and attitudes. Overall, evidence supported that PUC is definitely identifiable as a knowledge management organization and pioneer in public-sector knowledge organization development and practice.


An Applied Research Project Submitted to the Department of Political Science, Texas State University-San Marcos, in Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Public Administration, Spring 2003.


Texas Public Utilities Commission, knowledge management, government, Public Administration


Johnson, N. (2003). Assessment of Texas Public Utility Commission knowledge management system: An organizational perspective. Masters of Public Administration, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.


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