FAA finds benefits in sharing

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Knowledge hoarding

The Federal Aviation Administration has gotten its employees thinking about knowledge management, and more are jumping on the collaboration bandwagon.

The FAA's Knowledge Services Network — an Internet-based system that enables information and document sharing and virtual meetings — has evolved during the past year from two business units and 50 users to 30 business units and 4,200 users.

Agency officials attribute the growth to the following mantra: Champion from the top, build from the bottom, support engagement from the middle.

"We're changing where we do work," said Ronald Simmons, a network administrator at the FAA, speaking April 15 at the E-Gov Knowledge Management conference.

To bring business units on board, the agency trains "facilitators" who learn the ropes and report back to their colleagues. Each unit joins as a node, adapting to suit its style and needs.

"We have embedded learning and training, but kept it relevant to the business unit they're in," Simmons said.

With other units' help, newcomers need about three months to get into the swing of things.

For others, FAA officials highlight the network's benefits, including improved business processes, preservation of institutional knowledge and enhanced organizational learning.

An area of particular interest in this era of shrinking resources and continuing resolutions is cost savings.

Take 350 employees in the FAA's regulation and certification group who used to gather four times a year, traveling from different parts of the country. With the network, they now get together every month in cyberspace and have to make the trek to meet in person only twice a year.

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