DOD finds knowledge management a tricky fit

The discipline runs into problems when operations are compartmentalized

As much as Defense Department officials like the idea of knowledge management, they are finding the discipline often does not fit easily into their daily operations.

The goal of knowledge management is to develop organizational strategies for culling and disseminating information, experience and insight and administration. The problem is that DOD has compartmentalized operations, security worries and other distinctive needs and finds itself having to deal with knowledge management.

“Commanders want to tackle [projects] that can be completed on their watch,which doesn’t work with knowledge management,” Ronald Simmons, director of knowledge management integration at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said Oct. 15 at the DOD Knowledge Management Conference in Washington.

Knowledge management also defies traditional measures of success. For example, agency officials can never step back at a point in time and say they've achieved knowledge management. It is an on-going discipline.

“If you think you’ve [succeeded in knowledge management], you aren’t doing knowledge management,” said Robert Neilson, knowledge management adviser at the office of the Army Chief Information Officer. “There is no timeline.”

Often the difficulties with knowledge management are less about governance and more about the work style of individual employees.

“People are not accustomed or trained for collaboration. It’s a cultural issue,” added Bobby Caudill, solution architect, Global Government Solutions at Adobe.

Business consultant Art Schlussel advises officials to develop a plan that integrates knowledge management into their organization at multiple levels, looking at strategic viewpoints, daily operations and tactical applications. “It’s a discipline, and it needs to be approached as such in order to be effective and sustained,” he said.

However, industry executives say the benefits of knowledgement management make it worth all the difficulties.

“This is an opportunity to tap into the next frontier. This is a game-changer,” said Kay Adams, vice president for talent and organization performance at Accenture National Security Services. “This is a new work environment, and in this world people can work whenever, from wherever,” she said.

If done well, knowledge management can lead to better productivity, because employees will spend less time searching for the information they need, said Adams. “On average, knowledge workers spend two hours a day looking for information to do their job,” she said.


About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.


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