If you are reading this right now you must have some curiosity about Enterprise 2.0 and some reason to spend your time reading what I have to say about it. Thank you. Hopefully you will find my posts interesting, thought provoking, and to some degree humorous (well, I think I’m funny). Why did AIIM ask me to blog for them? I asked myself that same question. Perhaps it is because I have been associated with the organization for many years and spent time on the board. Perhaps it is because I have been commenting on things ECM and KM for years on forums and blogs. Or maybe they just needed one more person to bloviate on the subject. Whatever the reason, I am happy they did and I am happy to oblige.
Everybody has their focus area. Mine is all about adoption and use. As a knowledge management professional I know it isn’t enough to simply provide the tools to allow for collaboration and sharing. You have to change behaviors, show the relevant value, see the ROI, get to the WIIFM, and drive adoption and use though proper governance, controls, and incentives. So my posts will tend to stimulate thought on how to drive adoption and use, the pros and cons of Enterprise 2.0 style collaboration, and the positive impacts and unintended consequences of working in a 2.0 environment. If this interests you then I invite you to read, analyze, comment, and challenge. Sometimes I may hit a nerve, but isn’t that the point? Hit me back with some emotional and professional feedback and we will all have a great time.
Since this is “get to know you” post here is some information on my background that helps expose why I am so interested in this Enterprise 2.0 and KM stuff. I find I am always looking for examples of knowledge management usage by those who don’t know they are doing KM. KM professionals come from all walks of life, and from divergent backgrounds. In my own life I am reminded on how we developed training and evaluation programs for knowledge transfer between the Air Force Airborne Communications Systems Operators who flew on the Special Air Mission (SAM) VIP aircraft out of Andrews AFB back when I was in the Air Force in the 1986 – 1995 timeframe. These communications specialists maintained communications on Air Force One, Air Force Two, with members of the President’s Cabinet, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other dignitaries. These highly skilled enlisted personnel were hand-picked for this special duty and came from other airborne communications duties flying on aircraft such as AWACS, the Looking Glass Airborne Command Post, and the NEACP flying White House. Duty on these SAM missions was very different than duty on previous assignments. There are a number of reasons for that, but the one that stands out in my mind is the nature of the mission and the training that needed to take place. I’ll use my situation as an example.
Prior to duty at Andrews AFB I was stationed at Offutt AFB in Omaha NE. I was the NCO in charge of the Communications Standardization/Evaluation branch at the 2ACCS flying on the Looking Glass Airborne Command Post better known as the “Doomsday Airplane.” That was back in the day of the Cold War and the Strategic Air Command. I had overall responsibility for the evaluation and training of all Airborne Communication Systems Operators assigned to the unit. Our primary job was to launch nuclear weapons and send launch codes to submarines and ground units from the aircraft in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. The aircraft flew 24/7 365 days a year waiting for the inevitable to happen, which, thank heavens, never did. As you can imagine, training and preparation were of the highest order. We trained constantly and thoroughly. We trained so hard for every contingency that we memorized the training manuals, technical orders, checklists procedures, and every manner of explicit knowledge available. Tacit and explicit knowledge became one and the same. Think about it; our job was to release nuclear Armageddon if necessary. The last thing we wanted to do was to think about it. We needed to perform immediately, flawlessly, and mechanically. There was no room for error, there was no time to for decision-making, there was no time to realize there was a knowledge gap, and there was no deviating from written doctrine, procedures, and manuals. When the order came from the leadership to act, we had to be ready to act immediately and decisively. That was my world in Omaha. Now fast forward to Andrews AFB and flying with the leadership of the free world.
Flying on a SAM aircraft is pretty cool. Back in my day we were flying on Boeing 707s and Gulfstream IIIs. In my early days at Andrews the President was still flying on a 707. Yes, I am getting old. These planes were done up right. Not opulent, but very nicely outfitted and comfortable. Gone were my days of flight suits, helmets, and parachutes. Now I was mostly wearing civilian suits when I flew. Training was also different than my Doomsday experience. I was issued technical manuals on the aircraft avionics, navigation, and communications systems (back in those days the communications operators also were responsible for preflighting the cockpit prior to the pilot’s arrival, and for fixing problems in flight and on the road). There were also preflight checklists and some mission reference material, but nothing like the stuff I had in Omaha. Training was mostly self-study (I actually made copies of pictures of the cockpit, taped them together, and practiced preflighting by touching the pictures and saying what comes next; that was flight simulation to me), and on-the-job-training during missions. We had some time to practice on the aircraft when there was down-time between missions, but mostly training was done during real-life missions. I learned quickly, and over the next few years I became an instructor and then evaluator, and ultimately became the Chief, Communications Systems Operator for the 89th Air Wing.
The experience was interesting and intense. Besides the technical manuals, not much was written down. Almost all knowledge transfer was tacit. Some people had problems with this. I remember new staff that came from the AWACS community having particular problems with things not being written down. They were used to all procedures being written, and all contingencies being codified. It was challenging for them. In particular I remember one mission where I was being challenged because the individual wanted to know where all this “knowledge” was being kept. He knew for sure that we must have it written down somewhere and we were just holding it to keep control and make life harder. That’s when I realized that we were not just teaching what to do; we were teaching them how to think about what to do. It was beyond explicit and tacit knowledge transfer. Every mission was different. Every aircraft was slightly different and had its peculiarities. Every country you flew into had its own set of rules, each airport was different, and every leg of the mission had a new set of challenges. Writing it all down wasn’t practical or really possible, and there was no way to get every bit of tacit knowledge out of an experienced persons head into a novice’s head. Besides, even if you could do that, something new would inevitably come up to change what you thought you knew or experienced before. No, what we did was to provide explicit knowledge when possible, provide tacit knowledge transfer as much as possible, and trained the operators to use innovation and analysis techniques and common sense to help them think through the issues, challenges, and problems. Why, well when you are flying with the Secretary of State in some 3rd world country and an equipment malfunction prevents you from taking off, you need to find a work around quickly. Safety always came first, but ingenuity always came in a close second. We practiced and taught KM and didn’t even know it.
KM isn’t new, but you knew that already. Man has been employing KM techniques since, well, the dawn of man. KM doesn’t have to be called KM to be effective. The results are what are important. That said I believe it is helpful for organizations and the people who work in them to know what KM looks like. By labeling certain activities, methods, practices, and techniques “KM” we can be more disciplined in our approaches to be more effective, efficient, and innovative. We can better define when it is important to use explicit or tacit techniques, or when that third option of learning how to think (innovation creation) is the most appropriate option.
AIIM defines Enterprise 2.0 as “A system of Web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise.” To that I say great, as long as these technologies are adopted and then used in the appropriate manner to achieve the intended results. Welcome to my posts!
#Career #tacitknowledge #ECM #knowledgemanagement #Collaboration