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.