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
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.
Tieso & Associates Inc.