In past editions of CHIPS, I've written about information sharing. For this edition, I'd like to discuss knowledge management (KM) as it pertains to the concept of information management (IM). Closely related to sharing information and data strategies, KM is about providing the specific (actionable) information needed to make a decision or complete a task. KM is about not reinventing the wheel or, as the KM team at Tactical Training Group, Pacific puts it, finding what you need from the "sea of information."
Our vision for KM/IM is to, "create, capture, share and reuse knowledge to enable effective and agile decision-making, increase the efficiency of task accomplishment, and improve mission effectiveness." This is a broad task, but once we break it into components, we find that some central themes arise.
Not everyone thinks this vision is needed. In discussing KM with DON audiences, we sometimes hear, "We already do this!" and "We've always done this." Though the term may be only 10 to 15 years old, KM is not new. The term IM is not new either, but it is gaining a lot of traction with the operational community as a way to navigate the plethora of systems and databases to quickly discover information needed to support decision making.
Many of us have used and benefited from KM processes such as best practices, lessons learned and post-action reviews. However, for most commands, it is probably fair to say that we only take advantage of KM some of the time.
We have an opportunity to make large, positive impacts on the department through accelerating the tenets of KM/IM. Today's technology offers unprecedented information and knowledge flows, but our focus will be to navigate the most efficient route to the information we need.
We can take advantage of DON knowledge by applying the tenets of KM, often with little or no cost. KM can be implemented at a variety of levels; it doesn't require significant or disruptive changes to a command.
At the grass roots level, there is individual KM. This involves people, who have been educated about KM tools, techniques and processes, applying these tools, as appropriate, to different tasks and challenges. The next level up is command KM. Many DON commands now have KM officers. Their objectives and responsibilities vary, but there is a common denominator for successful KMOs. They did not implement KM for KM's sake; rather, they applied KM processes to command challenges.
One KMO, hired several years ago, looked around the command for a serious pain point and solved it. After a few more victories, his value and KM's worth were validated. Today, he doesn't have to look around; shipmates routinely seek his assistance.
There is real potential benefit to leveraging KM from an enterprise point of view. Across the DON there are similar commands, similar platforms, similar missions and similar processes. In sharing experience and knowledge, we will not only improve performance but also make our professional lives easier.
Neither information management nor knowledge management in the Department of the Navy is a program of record. In our KM strategy document we noted that KM is a centralized vision being executed in a decentralized manner. It is being implemented by commands across the department and around the globe that recognize its value.
We are working on a strategy for maximizing the investments we make in the information management domain so that we can make optimal use of our computing experience and discover, analyze, decide and act on information as we need to.
In the spirit of information sharing about KM, we began hosting DON IM/IT Conferences in 2005. As a part of those conferences, we have KM tracks that are half-day sessions with five to six speakers sharing their KM experiences. More than 20 DON commands as well NASA, the U.S. Army and the Virginia Department of Transportation have presented some of their KM stories.
It is encouraging that the focus of the tracks has shifted over the past few years from KM definitions and fundamentals to command experiences with KM. The next conferences will be held Feb. 1–4, 2010, in San Diego and May 10-13, 2010, in Virginia Beach. The KM track is typically held on the first day of the conference.