Knowledge Management (“KM”) is, and has been for some time, a misunderstood practice - especially within the Federal Government. As technology continues to evolve at a break-neck pace, this trend has not abated. And yet, KM is a powerful tool with the potential to have a major impact on organizational performance.

Understanding what Knowledge Management is, and setting expectations about its role in the Federal Government are the first steps toward successfully utilizing it. Despite the fact that its practices cover nearly every branch of every department and agency of government, KM is often only associated with the IT field.

The Federal Government, via the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has its own definition of Knowledge Management, which is critical to understanding how the Federal Government views KM:

[Knowledge Management is] “A system that ensures continuity of leadership by identifying and addressing potential gaps in effective leadership and implements and maintains programs that capture organizational knowledge and promote learning.”

Knowledge Management should be of paramount importance to any organization. With a primary goal of measurably improving individual and organizational performance, KM provides a practical, process-orientated approach to capturing institutional knowledge and learning from it. An organization that successfully utilizes KM will continuously evolve. KM allows organizations to remain agile, responding to new variables as they become known.

To be truly successful in implementing effective Knowledge Management strategies, Federal departments and agencies need to be prepared to implement knowledge solutions that support change by storing knowledge in a central repository. Doing this ensures support agents, contractors or citizens have secure, auditable and easy access to necessary information.

As a part of this process, agencies and departments need to build strategies that include accessible training and communication to prepare their repartees for new models of working.  Further, this should all be trackable with measurable changes seen within the organization.

Finally, as with all agencies, there will be legacy applications and programs to deal with as needs and applications evolve. Building a process whereby documents and applications follow a clear and concise lifecycle while meeting records compliance requirements is a tough but important component to effective Knowledge Management.  

In implementing these processes, the Federal Government enables itself to manage changes to its workforce, prepare for new technology, reduce costs, remain flexible and nimble as missions change, and enable their workforce to grow in their careers. This focus will help agencies keep pace with the technological and social changes happening around them, optimizing effectiveness to ultimately maintain relevance in citizens’ lives.

Bryan Vanetten

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