Letter to the editor

In response to "Cultural change trumps technology" [Federal Computer Week, Jan. 7], I would like to offer the following comments:

1. John Cabral and Bao Nguyen have it right that knowledge management, by whatever term is used, is a business process in itself. When a federal executive really wants to implement some form of knowledge management in his or her organization, he or she had better understand that fact — and forget about most of the rest of the article.

2. For those of us out there actually working with organizations desiring cultural change through process change, the idea that it is important to have some of the things mentioned in this article is simply ludicrous. For example, a chief knowledge officer will be so far removed from the actual performance of important work that having a CKO will do nothing more than create a bureaucracy. Rather, organizations would do well to emulate the U.S. Geological Survey, which created a chief geographic officer position that relates to the actual work being performed.

Second, communities of practice are generally so ill-defined and ill-placed that they are not much better than a CKO. Too many of the communities that I have seen are composed of managers who want a reason to meet and discuss things even though they are not involved in daily work. Interest is great, but the time could be better spent in process review teams composed of employees with critical skills who want to document and extend their work for the future.

3. Bao Nguyen hits the nail on the head when he speaks of a champion for knowledge management. That champion has to balance a lot of individual agency and vendor interests in favor of the "learning organization" but also has to get people to understand why that learning organization is important. Bao makes the right point that process, people and contents are all a part of a knowledge-based program.

What I would tell agencies is to look inward and determine what activities are so critical to present and future operations that the understanding of these operations must be preserved for the future.

Knowledge management must be an integrated approach that looks at people, resources and strategic plans to decide what is important now and what might be important in the future. Planning can then put in place a road map to be where future requirements are likely to develop. Unfortunately, that will not happen by getting generals, admirals and political appointees involved, unless they are talking to those who actively do the work for customers.

John Tieso
Tieso & Associates Inc.

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