Academic journal article The Public Manager

Enhancing the Knowledge Management Capabilities of Federal Agencies: Implementation of Effective Knowledge Management Can Improve Performance in Government Agencies

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Enhancing the Knowledge Management Capabilities of Federal Agencies: Implementation of Effective Knowledge Management Can Improve Performance in Government Agencies

Article excerpt

Institutional knowledge is the shared and applied knowledge of procedures, rules, traditions, values, history, and performances that exist among members of an organization. Knowledge management is broadly defined as any process (formal or informal) that facilitates the creation, retention, distribution, and application of knowledge for decision purposes, and involves helping individuals within an organization to share knowledge by creating ready access, context, and infrastructure. Knowledge management strategies and techniques can include succession planning, expert software systems, mentoring, organizational storytelling, e-learning, and intergovernmental agency sharing of best practices.

Using an effective knowledge strategy reduces costly learning cycles and facilitates and encourages the sharing and use of knowledge, including the exchange of tacit knowledge (internal to a person) through processes such as knowledge teams. An effective knowledge management strategy provides organizations with the resources to maintain contextual insights on future problems, avoid the repetition of past mistakes, and preserve essential core traditions and norms.

Federal Knowledge Management Working Group

The federal government continues to make steady progress in its systemic knowledge management capacity through the daily knowledge preservation and mentoring activities of veteran employees and the efforts of senior executives to employ and measure the effects of varied strategies including succession planning, organizational storytelling, and communities of practice. The efforts of other organizations such as the Federal Knowledge Management Working Group--an interagency body established by the Federal Chief Information Officers Council and comprised of knowledge management practitioners from the federal, private, and nonprofit sectors--provide critical information and support to federal agencies in the research, development, identification, and implementation of knowledge management activities, practices, and technologies.

Nonetheless, the federal government continues to demonstrate the need to improve its knowledge management capacity and strategies. In their recent study, Elsa Rhoads and Vincent Ribiere explored the extent of knowledge management practices in federal agencies based on a Working Group-sponsored survey of knowledge management practitioners in 16 cabinet-level departments and 10 independent agencies.

Practitioners evaluated the use of 27 knowledge management practices within their agencies. According to the survey results, federal agencies used--with greater perceived frequency--the funding support for employees' educational initiatives; partnerships or strategic alliances to acquire knowledge; and informal mentoring efforts.

Practices that ranked low among perceived usage in the agencies included the development of explicit criteria to assess knowledge sharing in employee performance evaluations; capture undocumented knowledge from employees before retirement; share knowledge and information through storytelling; and create monetary and non-monetary incentives for employees' knowledge management practices.

Survey participants indicated that the two highest benefits to their agencies as a result of the implementation of knowledge management practices included improved workforce skills and improved workforce efficiency and productivity.

Best Practices Dissemination

A well-conceived and implemented knowledge management strategy can enhance both employee engagement and a well-formed sense of professional identity, particularly among veteran employees who are keenly interested in the preservation and dissemination of significant institutional knowledge. Many older employees envision their roles within agencies as maintaining and conveying a refined sense-making capability within their agencies to their younger colleagues in solving problems and making sense of their external environment. …

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