Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my discharge (honorable, in case you’re wondering) from active duty as a US Army officer. It was while serving in the Army, both on active duty and later in the Army Reserves, that I was first exposed to and practiced knowledge management so it seemed fitting that I mark the date with a reflection on Army Knowledge Management.
In the early days of Army Knowledge Management – or AKM – the focus was very technology focused, as evidenced in AKM Guidance Memoranda #1 (August 2001) and #2 (June 2002). Then, as now, AKM was primarily the responsibility of the Army’s CIO.
In some ways, this reflected the “state of the art” at the time, where KM was the pitch phrase of all sorts of software vendors hawking the latest and greatest KM tools. The main early focus was the capturing and conversion of “tacit” knowledge into “explicit” knowledge that could be stored in a vast “knowledge repository” that could be shared across the Army enterprise, and the consolidation of the technology infrastructure to support that repository. In many ways a necessary evil; the downside was that it reinforced the idea that KM was solely the domain of IT.
Over the years the broader scope of KM has come to be realized, as can be seen in the most recent Army Knowledge Management Principles, published in August 2008. The principles are broken down into three main categories: People/Culture; Process; and Technology. For all you visual thinkers out there, and for myself, I’ve taken the principles, and the supporting Rationale and Implications, and put them into a mind map using Mind Manager.
Back when the paper was published, Jack Vinson posted some thoughts about the principles. Having seen the early tech focus of AKM, I share Jack’s appreciation of the Army’s stated goal for AKM:
Implementing these principles will create a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing in the Army where key information and knowledge is “pushed and pulled” within the global enterprise to meet mission objectives — an Army where good ideas are valued regardless of the source, knowledge sharing is recognized and rewarded and the knowledge base is accessible without technological or structural barriers.
Though it is safe to say that AKM is still very heavily IT centric, KM has steadily infiltrated further and further into the Army culture. This can be seen in one of the latest offerings from the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, the soon to begin Knowledge Management Qualification Course for KM sections:
The KM section supports the commander and staff in achieving situational awareness and situational understanding to enhance and speed decision making. The section does this by developing a plan that includes the “how-to” in displaying the common operational picture. That plan details the process on how a unit accesses and filters new information internally and externally, and provides a working KM system that can route content while keeping commanders and staff from being overwhelmed.
A long way indeed from knowledge repositories.
UPDATE: For those of you who don’t have Mind Manager, here are two things to help you get the most out of the whole map:
If you update the Mind Meister map, I’d appreciate a quick note back so I can go back and check it out.