Uh oh! Ricky’s been a baaaaad boy. This is what happens when you suggest a man surrounded by secret service protection and the best medical care in the world experience something everyone’s speculating he’s experienced already. The man responsible for hundreds, if not thousands of needless deaths and who knows how much misery. The man who vilifies those he represents and spews a constant stream of vile, hateful lies and deceptions. The person who violates Twitters rules on a daily basis and suffers nothing for his transgressions. And, of course, there’s precious little I can do about it. I will appeal and suggest context matters, but I can’t even be sure what I was responding to. I think I know what it was, though, so I’ll go that route.
Golly gee whiz! I sure hope I didn’t hurt his feefees or anything.
Category Archives: Writing/Editing
Looking through some of my old writings, many of which have never been published (some because they’ve never been finished,) I came across this limerick. It’s dated December 3, 2013.
Fox newscasts, so chock full of hate
Render truth an impervious gate
They so often dissemble
We can’t help but tremble
With hope they will soon meet their fate
This is another paper I found on my computer. Truth to tell, I have no idea who wrote it. It could have been me, but I don’t remember. I searched the phrase from the title in Google, but could not find anything. Inasmuch as I retired from Rocketdyne (and the pursuit of enterprise-wide KM) nearly 10 years ago, it could be from something I encountered more than a decade ago. Nevertheless, I’m sharing it with the caveat that I’m not claiming to have written it; I’m only asserting it’s an important document for anyone who’s struggling with getting their organization’s people to share their knowledge for the benefit of their company. My experience, as well as my discussion with those who are still involved in the corporate world, is that knowledge sharing is still nowhere near as widespread as I think it should be. So, without further ado, here’s that Baker’s dozen of reasons people aren’t sharing:
- They don’t know why they should do it. Leadership has not made a strong case for knowledge sharing. Solution: Have the leader of the organization communicate regularly on knowledge sharing expectations, goals, and rewards.
- They don’t know how to do it. They have not received training and communications on how to share knowledge. Solution: Regularly communicate and conduct training, webinars, and knowledge fairs. Web-based training and webinar recordings should be available for all tools.
- They don’t know what they are supposed to do. Leadership has not established and communicated clear goals for knowledge sharing. Solution: Establish and communicate clear knowledge-sharing goals.
- They think the recommended way will not work. They have received training and communications but don’t believe what they are being asked to do will work. Solution: The KM leaders, knowledge brokers, and other members of the KM team have to convince people in small groups or one-on-one by showing them that it does work.
- They think their way is better. They are used to working on their own or collaborating only with a small group of trusted comrades and believe this is the best way. Solution: Regularly share stories of how others are benefiting from sharing knowledge using the recommended ways. This should help sway those stuck in their current ways to consider using better ways.
- They think something else is more important. They believe that there are higher-priority tasks than knowledge sharing. Solution: Get all first-level managers to model knowledge-sharing behavior for their employees, and to inspect compliance to knowledge-sharing goals with the same fervor as they inspect other goals.
- There is no positive consequence to them for doing it. They receive no rewards, recognition, promotions, or other benefits for sharing knowledge. Solution: Implement rewards and recognition programs for those who share their knowledge. For example, award points to those who share knowledge, and then give desirable rewards to those with the top point totals.
- They think they are doing it. They are sharing knowledge differently than the recommended ways (e.g., sending email to trusted colleagues or distribution lists). Solution: Assign people to work with each community and organization to show them how to use the recommended ways and how they work better than other ways. Providing a new tool or process which is viewed as a “killer app” – it quickly and widely catches on – is the best way for the old ways to be replaced with new ways.
- They are rewarded for not doing it. They hoard their knowledge and thus get people to beg for their help, or they receive rewards, recognition, or promotions based on doing other tasks. Solution: Work with all managers in the organization to encourage them to reinforce the desired behaviors and stop rewarding the wrong behaviors.
- They are punished for doing it. As a result of spending time on knowledge sharing, they don’t achieve other goals which are more important to the organization. Solution: Align knowledge-sharing processes and goals with other critical processes and performance goals.
- They anticipate a negative consequence for doing it. They are afraid that if they share knowledge, they will lose their status as a guru (no one will have to come begging to them at the time of need), that people they don’t trust will misuse it or use it without attribution, or that they will not achieve other more important goals. They are afraid of asking a question in public because it may expose their ignorance or make them appear incompetent. Solution: Position knowledge sharing as being a critical success factor for the organization. Facilitate ways for people to establish trusting relationships through enterprise social networks and face-to-face meetings. Recognize those who ask in public, and provide ways to ask questions on behalf of others.
- There is no negative consequence to them for not doing it. Knowledge sharing is not one of their performance goals, or it is a goal which is not enforced. Solution: Work with all first-level managers to get them to implement, inspect, and enforce knowledge-sharing goals. This needs to come from the top – if the leader of the organization insists on it and checks up on compliance, it will happen.
- There are obstacles beyond their control. They are not allowed to spend time sharing knowledge, they don’t have access to systems for knowledge sharing, or they don’t have strong English language skills for sharing with those outside of their country. Solution: Embed knowledge sharing into normal business processes. Provide ways to collaborate when not connected (e.g., using email for discussion forums). Encourage those with weak English skills to share within their countries in their native languages.
Managing Culture Change
Corporate culture consists of three levels: Artifacts; espoused values; and shared tacit assumptions. Each of these levels is important in understanding not only what corporate culture is, but how it works, and how it can be both changed and used to the benefit of the organization as a whole.
Artifacts consist of real, tangible things which can be associated with the organization. For example, McDonald’s has its golden arches, KFC has its colonel, and Nike has its swoosh. These are the most obvious, though not necessarily the most powerful, artifacts which can be associated with a company or organization. The more important artifacts are, for our purpose, things like architecture, décor, and the way people act while at work.
Some of the deepest feelings attributable to an organization’s culture are engendered by artifacts. For example, outside the main entrance to Rocketdyne sits an F-1 Rocket Engine. The engine stands approximately 20 feet high and, at its base, is around 12 – 15 feet in diameter. In front of it is a simple, bronze plaque, which informs you that this is the engine, along with four others, which lifted the Apollo Lunar Modules off the earth on their trip to the moon.
For anyone who works there, and knows anything about the company where they work, this engine evokes powerful feelings of accomplishment and success. I know from firsthand experience and observation that this frequently translates into a willingness (at the very least, resignation) to work that extra hour, to take a little more time in assuring your work is the best it can be.
These may be characterized by, among other things, an organization’s beliefs, level of communication, and methods of accomplishing it mission. These values may be seen in such things as a company’s rules, policies, and procedures. It may be found on the walls as slogans and posters. In talking to members of the organization you may be told that the company believes in things like teamwork, “best practices”, continuous improvement, and lean manufacturing.
At Rocketdyne, the corporate mantra involves team-based component production, commitment to safety, scientific analysis at all levels of the corporate structure, and lessons learned, in addition to other policies and procedures too numerous to mention. It is the background against which our daily activities take place and translates into copious collections of data, numerous briefings to higher and higher levels of management, and close inspection and analysis of every piece of hardware which goes out the door.
However, while many of these concepts may be spoken of, and may even appear as items of value on the corporate web pages and on slogans and posters put up around the plant and offices, it does not necessarily follow that they are actually carried out in our day-to-day lives. Frequently, managers and others who will say they believe in stated policies, are nevertheless placed in positions where they are required by more specific policies to do exactly the opposite of what the company says it believes in.
At Rocketdyne, this can be seen in the use of individual awards and yearly performance reviews, in spite of the outer appearance given by a team-based organization. This is a case where the management, due to executive requirements, fails to “walk the talk”, and falls back on “the way we’ve always done it”.
This inconsistency leads to what is arguably the most important aspect of culture, the real, deep assumptions by an organization and its members of how to accomplish the daily tasks, the sum total of which are the company’s true vision and mission.
Shared Tacit Assumptions
This is perhaps the most pervasive and, with respect to efforts at change, the most insidious of the three aspects of corporate culture. They are the things which “go without saying”, which we accept as the ways of the world, or the ways in which things get done. People cannot readily tell you what their culture is, any more than fish, if they could talk, could tell you what water is.
In the same way, a company’s shared tacit assumptions are taken for granted. Many, if not most, people are incapable of seeing any other way to perform a task or get a particular result. It is all they know, and to think otherwise is, in a word, unthinkable.
At Rocketdyne there are numerous ways in which this happens. They are frequently discovered only when something goes wrong, or when a series of small things go wrong which, by themselves might go unnoticed, but which lead to a major problem. We have studied the Valuejet disaster in 1995 at some length, yet as soon as we return to our jobs we occasionally find it easy to forget that it can, and sometimes does, happen to us.
We have instituted numerous methods of improving quality and performance, such as quality circles, continuous process improvement, and total quality management. We are in the process of instituting “lean manufacturing” and some of the aspects of the theory of constraints. Nevertheless, we continue to assume individual action and heroics are the real way things get done. We look for the engineer or mechanic who will come up with the answer to difficult problems, and neglect to look to the whole company for answers.
Recently, some managers have been looking for people who can “think out of the box”, who are capable of changing their frame of reference and understanding our problems in unique ways, or approaching them from a different perspective. Still, the focus is more on the individual and not on the team.
If one sets about to change a company’s culture, its view of the world, it is of the utmost importance to understand not only these three aspects of culture, but also the depth with which they pervade the organization. Failing to do so will certainly result in a misapprehension of the difficulty involved in change.
The most important things to realize are: 1. Culture is deep – it is tacit and gives meaning and predictability to our daily lives; 2. Culture is broad – it involves every aspect of our work and sometimes even invades the way we conduct our personal lives, and; 3. Culture is stable – people are generally not fond of change, and are far happier when everything goes along smoothly, just like it did yesterday and the day before. Any attempt to enforce change is likely to produce resistance and anxiety.
As formidable as the technical and procedural issues of Knowledge Management are, the need to change an organization’s culture far exceeds them. Most all have heard the term “knowledge is power”. This is generally perceived to be so and frequently translates into a desire to hoard information. Many organizations have experienced the “building of empires” which stands in the way of its freely sharing collective knowledge. Without a major change in our attitude toward ownership of information, we will not be able to take advantage of the tools available to us.
Peter Senge, in his book “The Fifth Discipline”, writes of the steps and the “core disciplines” involved in creating a learning organization He points out that, among those disciplines, is that of having a shared vision, and why it is important. Here is what Senge has to say about shared vision.
“In a corporation, a shared vision changes people’s relationship with the company. It is no longer ‘their company;’ it becomes ‘our company.’ A shared vision is the first step in allowing people who mistrusted each other to begin to work together. It creates a common identity. In fact, an organization’s shared sense of purpose, vision, and operating values establish the most basic level of commonality. . . .
“Shared visions compel courage so naturally that people don’t even realize the extent of their courage. Courage is simply doing whatever is needed in pursuit of the vision.”
I can think of no better way to conclude my paper. Moving from our current relationship with collective knowledge, our intellectual capital, may well require a massive rethinking of our entire corporate culture. There are organizations, mostly younger and already possessed of a shared vision which includes becoming a learning organization, who are already pursuing this path.
However, there are numerous, often older organizations which will be hard-pressed to find the courage and character it will take to let go of the control they feel they now have and embrace a new kind of control; that which comes from an entire organization pursuing the same goals and vision. Until we experience the transformation from being data and information driven, to being truly knowledge driven, we will frequently be at war with ourselves.
Management provides some of the understanding of the problem, and the vision
and direction we must strive toward. However, without fundamental changes in
our attitudes the path will be long and fraught with difficulty. It is, however,
truly a worthy struggle and is almost certainly inevitable. Changes in
technology are coming at us with greater rapidity. We have no choice but to
develop new ways of thinking to better take advantage of the new tools placed
at our disposal. We owe it to ourselves.
 Edgar H. Schein, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, (San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1999), pp. 15-20
 Schein, Op. Cit., p. 21
 Schein, Op. Cit., pp. 25 – 26
 Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline, “The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1990; A Currency Paperback, 1994)
 Senge, Op, Cit,. p. 208
There is one further dimension of knowledge which needs to be discussed, and that is the concept of tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is knowledge which cannot be put into words. Despite the numerous definitions, and the apparent disagreement of what exactly Knowledge Management is, there appears to be a great deal of agreement on the type of knowledge which presents the greatest amount of potential benefit to a business.
IBM states the issue thus, “. . .lots of valuable knowledge ‘falls through the cracks’ within business organizations, never finding its way into databases, process diagrams, or corporate libraries. As a consequence, much of what the firm ‘knows’ remains unknown or inaccessible to those who need it. Such knowledge is present within the organization, but it remains hidden, unspoken, tacit. In business organizations, this hidden or tacit knowledge takes one of two forms: 1) knowledge embodied in people and social networks, 2) knowledge embedded in the processes and products that people create.”
Tacit knowledge, therefore, represents at once both the most important type of knowledge and the least accessible form of knowledge. It is invaluable in efficiently carrying on the activities of an organization, yet is exceedingly difficult to harness in any meaningful fashion. Even when an organization is able to somehow chronicle the experience of its employees, it does not follow that it will be capable of passing that knowledge on in a manner that is both easily accessible and effortlessly assimilable. Two examples which come to mind from the organization of which I am a part are welding and scheduling.
Welding of exotic metals, especially for components which will be used in manned space flight and are, therefore, subject to the most stringent specifications, is composed of both explicit elements and tacit elements. While the former (the explicit elements) may be capable of precise, scientific expression, the latter of these are similar to art. It is not uncommon to find that a welder has retired and, suddenly, the company is without a person who can reliably perform a critical weld. Immediately, the company finds itself in a position where it must either allot a far greater amount of time to accomplishing the weld, or attempt to lure the retired welder back to perform the weld or to teach a younger welder how to do so.
The second example involves the scheduling of complex, time-phased activities which include the procurement, manufacture, inspection, and testing of literally thousands of items used in the manufacture of rocket engines. This task was performed for years by groups of individuals using hand-drawn Gantt charts. It is now being performed by individuals using a combination of mainframe software (e.g. MRPII, OPT21) and PC-based, standalone software (e.g. Microsoft Project98, Advanced Management Solutions’ RealTime Projects). Experience is showing that the earlier, more labor-intensive methods were, against all logic, accomplished with greater accuracy and reliability.
These two problems point to the necessity of Rocketdyne’s utilizing one of the basic elements of Knowledge Management, that of acquiring, retaining, and disseminating the tacit knowledge, gained through years of experience, of its workforce. This is not the same as simply cataloguing items such as tools used, temperatures achieved, lead time per component, and supplier on-time reliability, nor even placing all this information within easy reach through the company intranet.
in the definition of tacit knowledge is its ephemeral nature, the difficulty of
conveying things which are understood, at times, only subconsciously or of
which people are only vaguely aware. This, then, is probably one of the most difficult
tasks faced by any organization, given our current state of development in the
field of Knowledge Management.
 Working With Tacit Knowledge. Horvath, Joseph A., Ph.D. IBM
<http://www-4.ibm.com/software/data/knowledge/reference.html> (undated; accessed October 28, 2000)
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge Management. What does it mean? Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (on-line edition) defines knowledge as “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association”, and management is defined as the “judicious use of means to accomplish an end”. A cursory search of the internet reveals over 120,000 pages which use the term and, of those who attempt to describe it, there are numerous differences.
Karl-Erik Sveiby defines it as “The art of creating value from an organization’s Intangible assets”. Knowledge Management News says that it is “. . . about connecting people to people and people to information to create competitive advantage”.
Lexis-Nexis, at its InfoPartner website, , points to the Virtual Library on Knowledge Management at @Brint.com, where KM is described as “. . . cater[ing] to the critical issues of organizational adaption (sic), survival and competence in [the] face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change. . . . Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings”.
By using this definition of knowledge, it becomes apparent that it is not merely a collection of data or information. The gathering and organization of data, while useful, is not knowledge. Knowledge requires some intimacy, familiarity, or awareness. It is a compilation of experience and discovery, and not a compendium of dry facts.
It is useful to make a distinction between four elements of human understanding, which may be described as data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. Data may be described as “1 : factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation; 2 : information output by a sensing device or organ that includes both useful and irrelevant or redundant information and must be processed to be meaningful.”
Using this definition, it is clear that data, by itself, is of little use to an organization seeking to find meaning in its activities. Data can be likened to bricks, which serve no useful purpose when merely stacked in the corner of the yard, yet provide shelter from the elements when constructed into a dwelling. It is the construction of the dwelling which can be likened to the definition of information, which is, inter alia, “. . . the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects c (1) : a signal or character (as in a communication system or computer) representing data . . . .”
Knowledge however, as we’ve seen, requires some familiarity or intimacy gained through experience or association. Using the dwelling example, we might think of knowledge of our brick house as consisting of knowing how to heat it properly, or recognizing which windows to open to adequately ventilate it. Knowledge is not merely the fact (data) that there are windows or heating elements available, nor even the recognition that opening the windows or turning on the heat will have an effect (information), but the familiarity with (knowledge of) their proper use through either trail and error, or from reading a manual or being taught by a friend or family member.
In an organizational setting, knowledge consists of the proper use of information (composed of numerous data points) for such things as manufacturing operations, sales forecasting, income reporting and analysis, human resource management, and all other activities associated with the successful operation of a business or organization.
As to wisdom, it is not my intention to discuss it, other than to say that without the wise application of the tools and strategies we are developing, all our work will be for naught. We can gather all the data available, organize it until we’re exhausted, yet until we have the wisdom to know what to do with our findings, we will merely be organizing things in different containers, oblivious to their true worth, and incapable of take advantage of what they offer us.
Knowledge management then, can be seen as the judicious use of all information and data gathered by a company as it pursues its vision and seeks to perform its mission. The success of an organization turns on its ability to properly gather data and information, organize it in a coherent fashion, and make it both available and useful to its members (employees).
difficulty, which Knowledge Management attempts to address, is in the process
of organizing and making available all the collective knowledge which will
optimize the capabilities of its resources, whether human or capital.
 Merriam Webster, Op. Cit
 Merriam Webster, Op. Cit
The Impetus Toward Knowledge Management
Whether it is called Knowledge Management, knowledge sharing, intellectual capital management, best practice management, the learning organization, or innovation management, there are powerful reasons to learn about knowledge and the process of communicating complex change and ideas in order to achieve rapid action in their integration into the organization.
There are also many reasons proposed for adopting a method of managing the growing volume of information gathered and accessed by various organizations. While these reasons are numerous and varied, they generally share some of the same characteristics. This is true with respect to both governmental and commercial organizations. Two disparate examples are the Directors of Information Management of the United States Army on whose website appears a lengthy presentation regarding Knowledge Management, and the Rochester, New York SGML/XML (Structured General Markup Language/Extendable Markup Language) User’s Group.
The Army’s presentation speaks to two of the basic issues addressed by KM, viz. how an organization can remain effective in the face of a diminished workforce, and how that organization can provide some form of logical continuity to its operations despite the possibility of frequent retirement and turnover.
The SGML/XML User’s Group addresses the same general problem the Army faces, speaking in terms of “Leverag[ing] Work Already Done” and “Stop[ping] Knowledge ‘Walking out of the door’ “. These are two of the most critical issues faced by all organizations today, and have been a continuing problem, the solution of which may now be possible through the use of new technology and new thinking. Much of the new technology has become available recently due to the continuing growth and development of the Worldwide Web and other forms of rapid communication and widespread dissemination of information.
Examples of tools which are commonly in use today, and which did not exist 5 – 10 years ago, are search engines, data mining software, the development of portable data format (pdf) and distillers, Internet and intranet portal sites, desktop dashboards, and knowledge organizing agents.
There are also two basic tracks, or methodologies, with which to approach the concept of Knowledge Management. The first treats knowledge as an object which can be identified and handled using information systems. These systems include artificial intelligence, reengineering, and groupware, among others. The second track looks at people and their management. To the people involved in this track, knowledge is seen as processes to be changed and improved 
The former is developing rapidly, as new technology comes on line, whether it be faster processors, wireless communications, new forms of data storage and retrieval, or new software for organizing and comprehending information and data. The latter, however, is where the real developmental difficulty lies. There are several problems inherent in teaching people new methods for acquiring and, especially, for sharing knowledge.
Nevertheless, companies like IBM and Lotus are investing a great deal of time and money in supporting the move toward Knowledge Management. In a recently published paper, these two organizations assert that “Knowledge Management will soon pervade business practices in the same way that eBusiness pervades commerce. Similar to eBusiness, this trend started out on the fringe of computing and gained incremental credibility from the successes of early adopters.
“Similar to eBusiness, Knowledge Management will play a critical role in corporate longevity and ultimately distinguish the winners from those companies that merely survive. It will enable companies to apply their intangible assets, and in the spirit of eBusiness, revolutionize the way they do business. In fact, elements of Knowledge Management are already manifest in many successful eBusiness practices such as electronic procurement where knowledge accelerates and bolsters the entire procurement process.”
The number of organizations, including Universities around the world, which are discussing, teaching, or extolling the virtues of Knowledge Management are too numerous to chronicle in so short a paper. To emphasize the point, as of this writing a search at http://www.altavista.com, typed in as “why do we need knowledge management” (without the quote marks surrounding the phrase) produces 1,274,124 pages or “hits”.
Of those, only the first 200 are available, and my experience is that the last of the pages will generally not be on point, that is their relationship to the original search phrase will only be ancillary. In this case, the 198th page is, although not responsive to the question “why do we need” it, nevertheless directly on point regarding Knowledge Management. Furthermore, it isn’t the website of some college kid who has a passing interest in the subject, it is a page from the Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation.
organizations whose sites appear in the first six pages of hits are Rutgers
University, Oklahoma State University, the Xerox Corporation, Compaq, and the
Anderson School of Business at UCLA. I believe it can be safely said that
Knowledge Management has come in from the fringe of computing, and is gaining
steam with every day.
 “Using Knowledge Management for Mission Success“, [on-line presentation] 1999 U. S. Army DOIM (Directors of Information Management) Conference; available at http://doim.army.mil/dc99/presentations.htm; accessed 30 October 2000
 “Lotus and IBM Knowledge Management Strategy“, [on-line white paper], (Lotus Development Corporation, 2000); available as “Knowledge Management Strategy” at http://www-4.ibm.com/software/data/knowledge/reference.html
A (very) Brief History of Knowledge Management
Although the current move toward gathering, cataloguing, storing, and disseminating information and data for widespread organizational use is a fairly recent development, the basic concepts of Knowledge Management have been with us for as long as humans have gathered in communities. Humans have always struggled with the need to pass on information gathered through hard experience and disastrous failure.
In his new book, to be published this fall, Steven Denning sets forth a brief synopsis of the human activities which have preceded our current drive toward Knowledge Management. In it he states, “The pursuit of any significant human activity typically leads to the acquisition by those involved of know-how and expertise as to how the activity may be successfully conducted. Insofar as what is learned in the process can be captured, and communicated and shared with others, it can enable subsequent practitioners – or even generations – to build on earlier experience and obviate the need of costly rework or of learning by making the same repetitive mistakes.
“In the village, from time immemorial, the elder, the traditional healer and the midwife have been the living repositories of distilled experience in the life of the community.
” Interactive knowledge-sharing mechanisms have always been used – from palavers under the baobab, village square debates, and town meetings, to conclaves, professional consultations, meetings, workshops, and conferences – all functioning to enable individuals to share what they know with others in the relevant area of knowledge. “ (emphasis the author’s)
In 1988, as the pace of change was accelerating with the rapid development and deployment of large-scale information systems, Peter F. Drucker observed, “Information responsibility to others is increasingly understood, especially in middle-sized companies. But information responsibility to oneself is still largely neglected. That is, everyone in an organization should constantly be thinking through what information he or she needs to do the job and to make a contribution”.
Drucker understood then the pivotal dilemma with respect to data and information now being faced by many organizations, that of understanding its power and devising the methodologies whereby it can be harnessed and used to the benefit of the people who need it to perform their jobs properly.
In referring to information specialists as toolmakers, Drucker said, “They can tell us what tool to use to hammer upholstery nails into a chair. We need to decide whether we should be upholstering a chair at all.
“Executives and professional specialists need to think through what information is for them, what data they need: first, to know what they are doing; then, to be able to decide what they should be doing; and finally, to appraise how well they are doing. Until this happens MIS departments are likely to remain cost centers rather than become the result center they could be.”
Today, MIS departments are still struggling with the notion of becoming “result centers”. Too frequently, they concern themselves with the infrastructure of the organization’s data processing capabilities, and completely ignore the role Knowledge Management (in its broadest sense) can play. Instead of leading the way through the morass of competing needs, whether perceived or real, they find themselves being led around by various departments seeking to have their agenda legitimized, often to the detriment of the MIS department’s ability to serve the company as a whole.
At Rocketdyne, which employs a large percentage of well-educated, highly computer literate individuals, there exists a great deal of enmity between the users and the Information Systems (IS) department. There are many who feel the department should fulfill the role only of providing the infrastructure, i.e. the telecommunications backbone and the hardware, and maintaining its reliability. These people believe IS has abdicated its responsibility of providing guidance for software development and acquisition, through an historic ineptness in performing this function.
Whether this view is accurate or not, it demonstrates a division which has long been developing and will not soon go away, especially without visionary leadership schooled in the concept of Knowledge Management. Many knowledgeable workers at Rocketdyne believe they must have the freedom to purchase software which will support their needs, or to develop that software without interference and second-guessing by the IS department.
The question which looms now for most organizations, and certainly for Rocketdyne, is how can the data which is both created and collected be harnessed for the purpose of continuing a company’s pursuit of its goals.
What we are experiencing, I believe, is a time of challenge and opportunity. Historically, humans have always valued the hard-earned wisdom of our forebears. We rightly believe in the inappropriateness of “reinventing the wheel”, and we have continuously improved on our methodologies for categorizing and memorializing the lessons we have been taught or have learned through experience.
Knowledge Management is merely the application of this historical pursuit of know-how and expertise to the comparatively new tools we have developed. The concept itself is nothing new, The question then becomes one of how do we go about harnessing these tools to our advantage; how do we make that quantum leap into an entirely new way of viewing an old problem.
the next section we will look at a little bit of the background of the present
day approaches to Knowledge Management, and see how companies are beginning to
recognize the necessity of understanding and utilizing this approach to
conducting business and running an organization successfully.
 Stephen Denning, “The history of knowledge management-The idea of sharing knowledge is not new“, in “The Springboard“; available at http://www.stevedenning.com/history_knowledge_management.html (accessed October 27, 2000)
 Peter F. Drucker, “The Coming of the New Organization”, Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management (Boston: Harvard Business School, 1998) p. 11
 Drucker, Op, Cit, . pp. 11 – 12
I’ve begun work on something I have wanted to do for a long time but, for numerous reasons (some of which actually make sense in retrospect) have not been able to accomplish. I’m speaking of writing a book. Actually, I’ve had three books in mind for a few years: One sharing my blog posts; one about the years I spent in the Peace & Justice movement, with special emphasis on the movement against the war in Vietnam; and, my memoirs. I can say with reasonable objectivity, I have had a rather unconventional and interesting life.
Since the beginning of March of 2018, I have been working part-time as the business manager for a small AI software development firm. In doing so, I transitioned from my Mac to a PC laptop in order to comply with the company standards. Today I moved my Mac out into a place in our living room where I can sit quietly and write. Since this is the first time I’ve actually spent a while at the Mac, I have been going through my files and am somewhat pleased to discover there are a lot things I’ve written over the years that should prove helpful in writing (at least) my memoirs. Some of the things I’ve written are only a couple of sentences or a paragraph or two, but they convey the essence of a thought I can expand upon. On the other hand, some of them are completely unintelligible.
What I’m going to do here, however, is use this blog to publish a term paper I submitted 19 years ago, when I was attending classes at California Lutheran University, in their Center for Lifelong Learning offering, ADEP (Adult Degree Evening Program.) It’s 22 pages long, so I’m going to post it in sections, as I wrote it. Today I’m sharing the intro. As I’ve re-read parts of it, I’m reasonably certain some will end up in at least my memoirs, as they are part of my unusual education.
Although this paper is being written as part of the requirements for a grade in Organizational Management, its impetus and content are driven by a real life situation at the company I work for, Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, a business unit of the Space and Communications Division of the Boeing Company. As suggested in the course syllabus, I selected a subject which I felt had some relevance to my company’s activities and my position within it.
As with many organizations throughout the world, mine is struggling with understanding and implementing the concepts of Knowledge Management. These concepts, and the issues surrounding them, are numerous and complex. As an example, one question which must be asked is how does an organization determine the importance of the information it uses and how does it weight that importance? How does it determine who needs it, who wants it, who might benefit from knowing of its existence, or whether or not it should be available to everyone who might wish to make those determinations for themselves?
Furthermore, there are numerous software developers who are touting their particular method of capturing data and making it available to a company’s workforce. Each of these developers will attempt to convince you their method is best for your application. Of course, this situation is hardly different from that faced by anyone who has to determine what method they will use, or what software they will purchase, for any task. Nevertheless, at this early stage of the game it doesn’t make the task any easier.
I propose, in the following pages, to set forth some of the history of Knowledge Management, from tribal times to today, and the perceived need for Knowledge Management, both in general, and with particular emphasis for my company, Rocketdyne. I will look at what knowledge management means, and briefly mention some of the tools which are being used to develop its use. The definition of tacit knowledge, and the importance of understanding it when implementing Knowledge Management will be discussed, along with a brief look at how we acquire and share knowledge. I will close with a glance at what is probably the most daunting task facing a company which desires to utilize Knowledge Management to its advantage, the need for dramatic cultural change.
Before beginning, however, I would like to quickly explain the nature of this paper’s subtitle, “Breaking the Information Bottleneck”. Here, the word bottleneck has the same meaning we use when speaking of a traffic jam. Most of us have experienced being caught on the freeway when suddenly we come to a crawl or dead stop. Usually there is an explanation for the delay. Sometimes, however, there is no apparent reason.
In the same way that freeways experience bottlenecks, so too does any system which requires the smooth flow of some activity or commodity. On the shop floor, it is generally components, though it can also be tooling, raw material, or usage hardware. In the office it is generally data or information, and when its flow is restricted the organization suffers.
I believe, with the advent of computers, and their widespread use through Local Area Networks and intranets, and with our increasing dependence on technology to solve our problems, we have forgotten how sharing knowledge actually works and, in the process, created huge information bottlenecks which will not go away until we learn once again how to manage knowledge.
the scope of this paper is woefully inadequate to fully treat all the issues
involved in this major change now occurring. It is my hope that I will be able
to expand upon and use it to help melt the glacier of resistance which
surrounds my organization at present and makes change painful and tedious.