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Army Shares Knowledge-Management Tips With Private Sector

At its knowledge symposium, the Army hopes to learn about best practices and technological tools that can help it take knowledge management to the next level.

The U.S. Army wants to turn its knowledge-management capabilities into a more-strategic component of its operations, and it's looking to private industry to help make that transformation. At its knowledge symposium in Kansas City, hosted by the Center for Army Lessons Learned and scheduled for April 1 to April 4, the Army will share knowledge-management experiences with companies deemed to be the leading private-sector users of knowledge management. Knowledge management has become an increasing area of focus in both the public and private sectors since Sept. 11.

Col. Robin Tefft, who spearheads knowledge-management efforts for the Army Medical Department, or AMEDD, says she'd like to learn more about integrating new technologies and best practices, to improve the Army's already venerable knowledge-sharing environment. Among the knowledge-sharing tools powered by AMEDD's Knowledge Exchange portal are threaded discussions, document sharing, library database access, and processes organized by template that let individual community administrators post information without relying on a Webmaster. Tefft says its a priority to ensure that AMEDD's knowledge-management pursuits reflect the Army's overarching knowledge-management strategy. "I'm trying to find our niche within the big picture."

Meanwhile, the private-sector execs who will appear at the symposium are interested in learning more about how the Army captures tacit knowledge, or information that hasn't yet been captured and logged. Chris Newell, chief knowledge officer for Viant Corp., says the Army does a much better job than its private-sector counterparts in conducting post-mortems to capture knowledge attained during a particular operation. John Voeller, chief knowledge officer at engineering firm Black & Veach Corp., says that's due, in large part, to the differences between the military's knowledge-sharing bent and corporate culture's tendencies toward knowledge hoarding.

That cultural contrast gives the military a decided advantage in developing effective knowledge management, says Peter Engstrom, VP of corporate knowledge development at IT services firm Science Applications International Corp. "In an entrepreneurial environment, knowledge sharing doesn't happen, because it's a competitive advantage not to [share]." Engstrom says knowledge sharing should be supported by technology, not dependent upon it. Says Engstrom, "Technology enablers are extremely critical, but imagine what you've got when you combine that with the tacit knowledge inside people's heads."

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