KM World 2012 Notes: Fostering Learning & Knowledge Sharing

I was pleased to be at the 2012 KM World. Here are my notes for 2011 and 2010. I attended the session, Fostering Learning & Knowledge Sharing provided by James E Bradley, Deputy Chief Knowledge Officer, HQ TRADOC, Leigh Marcus, Director, Knowledge Management, Stacey Young , Sr. Knowledge Management Advisor, USAID, and Jennifer Dahnke , Strategic Advisor, The QED Group. Here is the session description.

“This session illustrates the best practices that facilitated learning and working together in three different organizations, the lessons learned, and plans for the future that can help you imagine how your organization can apply similar principles to increase learning and engage stakeholders. The first talk highlights the U.S. Army’s efforts to incorporate lessons learned into soldier training, leader development, and education programs to build an agile and adaptive operating force to meet rapidly evolving adversaries. It discusses knowledge networks and professional forums as key enablers for capturing and sharing lessons learned, best practices (labeled tactics, techniques, procedure, or TTPs), and “knowledge nuggets.” Marcus discusses how regional communities of practice foster learning and improve knowledge flow throughout the entire organization. She illustrates how these processes are integrated into daily work to support and provide linkages to the firm’s goals and provides tips for engaging all the various levels of personnel in KM, from the office managing partners who run each office down to the newest hire. The USAID team talks about a new venture to encourage the agency to learn, to work together and with partners, and to build adaptive models that allow for responsiveness to changing circumstances.”

Jim began and said that TRADOC is about knowledge management. They also train soldiers on all topics that are needed and at all levels. They have established centers of excellence and under these are schools.  They did a study to find knowledge gaps and found that sharing was not being done well.  They wanted to correct this. The stakes are high as it is about saving soldiers lives.

The Army does a lot of lessons learned and applies them. They want “thinking soldiers – learning army.” After action reports are recorded and tagged so others can find them to improve future actions. The content is made available to troops in the field and to the learning institutions. It is important to get this information out quickly to keep up with what the enemy is doing to stay ahead. The have War Fighter Forums to share knowledge. These forums are organized around groups. Content has to be relevant, up-to-date, and accurate. The new information has to be vetted but also vetted in a timely manner.  Fresh knowledge is integrated into the system by giving a course instructor the ability to add new content as it comes along. Instructors are not bound by the existing manual and official procedures. I have always been impressed by what the Army does with knowledge management. It practices some of the most advanced methods.

Leigh went next. Grant Thornton is a professional accounting services firm. In May of 2009 it launched a KM platform for the first time. It is called KSource. Each group within the organization has its own community of practice. Seventy percent of the workforce is transient. There are five regional knowledge managers.  Much content is geographic specific but the knowledge types go across regions. They found that KM helps drive assimilation after mergers and acquisitions.

In the regions, there is a local office champion to foster learning. They advocate for the region and help others with the KM tools and gather new ideas on tool use.  Individuals with influence were selected for the task. It is about 25% of their time but overlaps with their regular work. This is very similar to approaches I was involved with in 90s except that we tried to have dedicated knowledge champions. This similarity with older practices is not a concern as it is nice to see the timelessness of some practices. It is also great to see new KM programs still emerging after 20 years.

New hire on-boarding is another use of KM. The people profiles are important for this and for staffing. This makes a lot of sense for a professional services firm. There are continuous learning programs with videos and other resources. They want to embed KM in every business process and this is a great goal. They also want it embedded into the culture.  They recently created an Office Administration Resource Center in 2012 and it gets many visits. This month they launched a discussion board so people in the field can share best practices.

Stacey and Jennifer next presented what USAID is doing with KM. USAID is 50 years old and started during the Kennedy administration. It works in many parts of the world in over 90 countries with 80 offices in the developing world. These countries have great diversity on many issues. So the work is highly customized to each context. It needs to be very adaptive to rapid change.

Stacey works for the Policy Bureau where they are doing some strategic reviews on how they work. They are building into plans things they do not know so they can do experimentation on these unknown issues. They are establishing research agendas and trying multiple ways to deliver services. They are asking their partners to better share knowledge as they are out in the field where the action is occurring.

They are also looking at being more adaptive to respond to the new learnings they uncover. They are building in moments to reflect and understand that things will change. They are including monitoring and changing incentives. They are working with partners as knowledge peers and shifting away from blame. They are shortening feedback loops to incorporate new learnings faster.

Jennifer continued the presentation. She works with KDMD – knowledge driven microenterprise development. They capture information, often through video, and put it on their Web site. It focuses on objectives rather than activities. There are fluid budgets. KDMD can get new clients and has agile systems, rather than static procedures. They have gone beyond microenterprise development. Lessons learned – trust is essential, fail fast, be collaborative, and monitor, monitor, monitor.

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