“So, there we were….”
Most old soldiers knows that all tall tales must start out that way, so this one isn’t any different. So, there we were, another office call, another desk side briefing. One minute into the discussion the SME stops me and asks if I am there to push another computer system, software package or ‘tool’ on him to solve all “his problems?” I mean isn’t that what your KM stuff is all about?
Sigh. To quote President Reagan’s famous line, “There you go again.” I did that quote stuff pretty good, so from his successor, “Read My Lips!” Are you ready for it? KM is *actually* People, Process, and Technology. Folks have been managing knowledge way before the advent of computers, portals, the web, or any of the other information systems that dot our digital landscape, KM is not new. Confirm for me by nodding your head that there is nothing better than face-to-face to get things done, right? Move along, no IT to see here.
But sometimes in this geographically dispersed, busy, and the often times hostile terrain that America’s Army operates in, we cannot always work alongside our counterparts and contemporaries. So practicing KM via digits, that is collaboratively and through a global network makes sense in the 21st century. But that is not the be-all, end-all of a viable KM program.
KM starts with People, and there is a reason it comes first…it is because it is most important. The Office of the Army’s Chief Knowledge Officer labels it as People/Culture, and I suggest it is because even though the expertise resides in your soldier and civilian workforce, you must cultivate attitudes to support a strong knowledge-sharing environment. How come nobody ever said to me “I hope you are not here to empower my people and make them more efficient with all your KM mumbo jumbo?” Hmmmm.
I don’t want to forget the Process aspect of KM, that third pillar. How you generate, store, accumulate, distribute and apply knowledge, and then start again from the beginning, that is really where the management aspect of KM shines through. Again, I hardly hear someone mention that their systems are all in place and they are chugging along just fine. No, it’s mostly the last guy took his digital files, our SOPs are all under revision and where the heck is the final copy of the last training briefing?
It seems I get more KM lessons than I ever give, so to steal a wise comment, KM is a verb describing action, not a noun describing a thing. To my SME acquaintance I replied, no kind sir, seasoned KM practitioners seldom come with a tool in hand, but with a toolbox that allows you to pick and choose an application. From a jewelers screwdriver for intricate jobs to a BFH (that’s a hammer for you non-tankers) to persuade a stubborn bolt, it is the user who determines requirements and not me.
KM is not always the answer…but its principles just make downright good sense. So serve me up a helping of Dell, hold the Microsoft, please.