CHIPS: Please describe your study. How did you begin exploring the Knowledge Management (KM) process? Since this is a work in progress what is the current focus of your study?
Dr. Neilson: The catalyst for the study was my own interest in KM. As KM emerged into a discipline in academia as well a strategic function in organizations and the role of the CKO emerged as an important role in the process, I recognized the significance of this area as a field of study. I got together and brainstormed to come up with several key concepts with Alex Bennet (Deputy DON CIO for Enterprise Integration) and Dr. Shereen Remez (CKO for U.S. General Services Administration) who each knew something about KM. We framed the following key questions to promote innovative thinking:
Why is KM important to your organization?
What is the role of a CKO in a public sector organization?
What competencies make a successful CKO?
What are the most important personal attributes that you as a CKO must bring to the job?
We then brainstormed these concepts with senior leaders in public and private industry to form a basis to develop competency models for CKOs in the federal sector.
These models provide a basis for potential KM curriculum development. Selected classes will be offered at DoD schools and colleges to meet continually emerging KM organization needs. Private industry and private colleges will also have an opportunity to develop KM curriculum. The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 and the Government Performance and Results Act requirements for federal agencies forced federal agencies to focus efforts on performance-based results and agency accountability. Congress demands it and so do the taxpayers. KM has a major role to play in helping agencies meet these requirements as well as in meeting mission objectives.
CHIPS: How can an organization make sense of the onslaught of information regarding knowledge management?
Dr. Neilson: Much of the discussion surrounding the field of Knowledge Management (KM) is like stirring a vat of "jello with a slinky"-little firms up. KM concepts seem to float in a jello-like environment without form, density, or direction making it difficult for practitioners to grasp key KM concepts. A common refrain in corporate boardrooms and executive offices in federal agencies is that "I'd be happy to embrace KM if I only knew what it is and how it will help us meet enterprise objectives." The refrain is understandable since the theoretical basis underlying KM is unclear and still emerging. There is also little consensus regarding the competencies needed by those individuals charged with leading KM initiatives. An alphabet soup of acronyms has sprung to life, giving organizational legitimacy to individuals who are charged with the task of valuing, leveraging or reusing tacit and explicit knowledge. CKO (chief knowledge officer), CTO (chief technology officer), CLO (chief learning officer), KA (knowledge architect), KM (knowledge manager) and KE (knowledge engineer) represent a sampling of the acronyms associated with the field of KM. Would you recognize a "third degree black belt" in KM if you saw one? I'd like to throw some "conceptual cement" into the "KM vat of jello" to firm up some KM concepts and contribute some thoughts and ideas regarding what competencies and skills CKOs need to survive and flourish.
CHIPS: What is the difference between a CKO and CIO?
Dr. Neilson: CIOs concentrate their efforts on managing physical versus intellectual assets. CIOs are rarely fired if they can keep the networks up and running, and deliver near state-of-the-art computer equipment and applications on a reasonable lifecycle. This is to ensure that the information technology provides a means to meet business objectives and provides a robust security to protect networks from physi