Management Research Library
Knowledge Management - Case Study - U.S. Navy
Management: Unlocking the Potential
In June 1999 the Secretary of the Navy, the CNO and the CMC jointly released the Department of the Navy (DON) Information Management & Information Technology Strategic Plan for FY 2000-2001.
Goal 1 calls for an information technology infrastructure that will ensure information superiority and connectivity throughout the Department.
Goal 2 points to the need to reengineer warfighting and core business processes in parallel with technology infusion to maximize effectiveness and efficiency.
Goal 3 charges us to maximize the value and manage the risk associated with DON information technology investments.
And Goal 4 addresses how to use our investments, calling for the implementation of strategies that facilitate the creation and sharing of knowledge to enable effective and agile decision making.
Knowledge management facilitates the creation and sharing of knowledge.
What is Knowledge?
Before launching into the evolving concept of what knowledge management is to the Department of the Navy, it would be a good idea to develop a common understanding of what we mean by the word "knowledge."
Knowledge is part of a continuum moving from data, to information, to knowledge and on into wisdom.
If I walk up to you and say, "One four two," you will recognize those as numbers, but there is no meaning to the numbers. That is data.
On the other hand, if I say to you, "142 Anchor Road, Springfield, Virginia," you recognize this as an address. It now has context in your individual knowledge base. This is information.
Now, I add: "We have a beautiful piece of wooded land, with lots of trees and a stream running through. My husband and I try to walk through the woods every evening with our wonderful dog, a three-year-old Akita. She's great - jumping and sniffing, and barking after squirrels (which she never catches)."
The listener now has a much wider context that can be related to his or her own personal experiences. Perhaps you have had experience with a special animal at some point in your life. Perhaps you are a nature lover. Perhaps you are a romantic and enjoy the imagery for its own sake.
Whatever the case, the listener is identifying with the words built on his or her own experience, adding context to the information and building an understanding within the individual. This is the creation of knowledge.
The concept of wisdom is harder to grasp. The first and second listings in American Heritage dictionary define wisdom as (1) "Understanding of what is true, right, or lasting; insight" and (2) "Common sense; good judgment."
It also cites the following explications: "The sum of scholarly learning through the ages; knowledge; wise teachings of the ancient sages; and a wise outlook, plan or course of action."
We can be sure, then, that wisdom includes knowledge, but it appears to pull in a larger, collective knowledge concept as well. The tales told by Sufis, Moslem mystics, represent the eastern version of the biblical "Wisdom of Solomon."
One Sufi tale goes like this: A father and son stand together looking up at the night sky and the father says, "Son, I am concerned that you are seeing double." The son smiles up at his father and responds, "Father, how can that be? If I were seeing double there would be four moons instead of two." This story conveys wisdom.
In our Navy environment, knowledge is created within the individual and is considered actionable. All the IT and IM investments of the past and the breaking technological capabilities of the present - such as data mining, navigation and search, inference engines, synthesizing agents and intelligent applications - are not capable of supporting the decision maker (knowledge-maker), if the data and information resulting from these IM/IT investments cannot be understood.
What is Knowledge Management?
So what exactly is knowledge management? The American Productivity & Quality Center says, "knowledge management is a business strategy, best practice transfer, personal learning, customer intelligence, intellectual asset management and innovation."
Dow Chemical says it's "providing the right information to the right decision maker at the right time, thus creating the right conditions for new knowledge to be created."
Gartner Group states, "Knowledge management is a coordinated attempt to tap the unrealized potential for sharing and reuse that lies in an enterprise's collective consciousness."
The essence of knowledge management is built on intellectual capital, which includes Human Capital, Social Capital and Corporate Capital. All three are essential components of Enterprise Knowledge.
Human Capital is our greatest resource. It is made up of an individual's past, present and future. Each of us brings a unique set of characteristics and values from the past.
These include expertise, education and experience. Built on these characteristics and values from the past, are a set of capabilities and ways of seeing and living in the world (such as creativity and adaptability).
Just as important as things from the past and skills of the present, we each have a future capacity and a particular potential for learning.
Social Capital is the stuff of communications and more. It includes human and virtual networks, relationships and the interactions across these networks built on those relationships.
Social Capital also includes language - with "language" defined in the fullest sense of the word, ranging from context to tonality, including verbal and nonverbal exchange and inference.
Also added to this grouping is something called patterning, which deals with timing and sequencing.
Corporate Capital includes intellectual property, both formal and informal (e.g., patents, ideas, etc.), and corporate functional and organizational processes.
It also includes all the data and information captured in corporate databases, all that has been made explicit.
Knowledge management, then, can be viewed as a process for optimizing the effective application of intellectual capital to achieve organizational objectives. The knowledge management challenge in the DON is to discover and capture our tacit intellectual capital (that contained in our people), share this capital through Enterprise-wide connectivity, and leverage Corporate Capital (that which is visible or explicit).
Balanced Knowledge Management
Knowledge management involves balancing technology, information, processes and individual and organizational learning within a culture of shared values.
The DON has developed a model to serve as the framework for knowledge management projects underway, providing attributes that accrue to successful projects. Components of this model are:
Technology - Enabling, facilitating, promoting innovations
Content - Value, relevancy, currency
Process - Making explicit, capturing, categorizing, clumping, synchronizing, analyzing, disseminating
Culture - Commitment, sharing, ex- changing, building relationships
Learning - Building context, creating, growing, thinking strategically
As Knowledge Management initiatives are generated across the Department, this model serves as a template to assure we build into our information management systems the elements that facilitate the creation of knowledge.
Early knowledge management leaders are beginning to appear across the DON Enterprise. N6 led two Knowledge Management Senior Leaders' Forums in late 1998 and early 1999, followed by a DON CIO-sponsored Community of Practice meeting this past October.
The Community of Practice facilitates the exchange of successes and lessons learned, and offers the opportunity to benchmark against best practices.
Members also participate in developing and deploying Enterprise-wide tools and championing and testing pilot projects. Between formal meetings, the community will be virtually connected via the Internet.
ADM Archie Clemens, who retired in October, championed development of the CINCPACFLT Knowledge Home Port. This knowledge portal links over 250 databases which cross organizational and functional boundaries.
The Home Port is improving productivity through eliminating non-value activities and promoting access to and reuse of knowledge, while supporting collaborative decision-making. Initial savings of 18,000 staff hours per month have been identified.
The LIFELines program is being jointly sponsored by the Chief of Naval Personnel, Chief of Chaplains, Chief of Information, the Surgeon General, Judge Advocate General, Naval Safety Center, Chief of Naval Operations (Logistics), SMARTBase and the Navy Recruiting Command.
Important Quality of Life functions from across these operations will be available to our sailors and their families through this virtual knowledge portal. In a similar effort, Marine OnLine is providing one-stop administrative support connectivity for our Marines.
The Navy Knowledge Superiority Project, cosponsored by N3/5 and N6, was held at the Naval Academy for six days in October.
Senior leaders - with wide participation - sought to understand the concept of knowledge superiority in the ideal world, and developed draft vision, strategy, policy and organizational strategies for achieving knowledge superiority.
Changing Our World
The continued surge of information technology investments over the past few years has significantly increased the amount of data and information (and we hope knowledge) the DON decision maker has available, thereby increasing the complexity of decision-making.
As this complexity increases, we invest in more information technology to help solve the problem, thereby further increasing the amount of data and information, and further increasing, in turn, decision making complexity. This reinforcing cycle continues.
Applying the Systems Thinking approach coming out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's work on learning organizations, the Department is working to create balancing loops that will break this cycle.
These balancing loops address the systemic issue at the individual, organizational and Enterprise levels.
At the individual level, as decision-making complexity increases, there is a need for increased cognitive skills that will allow each of us to do more with our innate capabilities.
Systems Thinking skills are one way to achieve that. Systems Thinking is a diagnostic methodology for assessing cause and effect relationships and identifying leverage points.
It enables a clearer understanding of the full patterns of change and the structure of systems in order to better comprehend their behavior and change them effectively.
As the individual learns and applies Systems Thinking, individual decision making capability increases, thereby reducing decision making complexity and helping to break the cycle defined above.
DON CIO is working with Arthur D. Little to provide Enterprise-wide training for Systems Thinking. An Internet and CD-based tool for the Department of the Navy will be available in late Spring 2000.
At the organizational level, increased decision making complexity drives the need for organization knowledge management systems.
As new and improved processes are put into place, bringing tacit knowledge into the explicit realm and connecting critical data for decision makers, decision making capability improves, thereby reducing decision making complexity and helping to break the cycle defined above.
Working with Arthur Andersen, the DON CIO is creating an Enterprise-wide model for facilitating implementation of knowledge-centric organizations.
This knowledge-centric organization tool will be an Internet-based model for guiding the development of knowledge-centric organizations within the Department.
This product will provide information on what a knowledge-centric organization is, why it is important and the key steps needed to design, build, deploy and sustain it.
The end result will be organizations that organize virtually around knowledge needs to improve decision making and mission performance. The model and its accompanying tool set will be available in early 2000.
At the Enterprise level, the availability of Enterprise-wide knowledge is being facilitated through creation of knowledge portals such as the CINCPACFLT Knowledge Home Port, LIFELines and Marine OnLine, discussed above.
A new Enterprise knowledge portal is under development that will bring together all the DON Library virtual resources across the Enterprise. Partnering with the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA, the Librarian of the Navy, supported by DON CIO, is working to build the "next generation" library, providing all the services and support you've received from the best librarian you've ever known.
This challenging project will link with other internal and external related data and information to provide the best possible librarian knowledge-sharing and decision-support system.
Achieving the High Performance Enterprise
As we have focused on networks over the past years, and more recently in developing the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet, we have been able to predict efficiencies in costs and security.
Knowledge management, on the other hand, deals with process change and leveraging our IT/IM investments. These are effectiveness issues, which are much less predictable, but with the potential for much greater savings.
Knowledge management drives process improvement, enables information sharing, improves decision making, encourages innovation, engenders learning, facilitates collaboration and promotes systems thinking.
The return on investment from knowledge management will produce a high-performance Enterprise.
The bottom line is that knowledge management offers us the opportunity to leverage our IT investment to fully utilize the Intellectual Capital of the Department of the Navy.