Tuesday, 23 May 2017

What the NASA CKO said about KM policies

Knowledge Management policies are still rare, and opinion on them is divided. Here is what the CKO of NASA said about the topic.

Image from Wikimedia commons
Knowledge Management policies are coming.

When the ISO KM standard is in place, next year or the year after, a KM policy becomes a requirement under the standard. This requirement is not unique to KM - all the ISO Management System standards reauire a policy. After all - can an organisation be said to have adopted a management system if there is no policy?

However many people are resistant to KM policies. "Added beauracracy" they say. "We have a strategy - we don't need a policy" they say. "We are getting by OK without one" they say.

The NASA CKO, Ed Hoffman (now retired from NASA) used to be similarly sceptical, but is now a big convert. Here is what he says on the matter.

"A policy sends a number of messages.

First, it declares that we, as an organization, recognize what’s important.

Second, it identifies a community of people who are held accountable for taking action.

Third, a policy indicates that the organization and its leaders want to make sure things are done the right way. It sets a course without being overly prescriptive.

Fourth, excellent organizations make a practice of communicating what they really stand for".

This is hard to argue with really. The policy is "a statement of what we really stand for", and if you don't have a policy for KM, do you really stand behind the topic?

The NASA KM policy is not a top-down mandate but establishes a federated approach for governance of knowledge.  As the CKO says

"Each center and mission directorate will develop its own strategy, with the understanding that knowledge will be shared across the agency to the greatest extent possible. The policy unifies these efforts.

I am optimistic that the knowledge policy represents a significant step toward helping NASA achieve its potential as a learning organization. We have built a community that shares a commitment to sustaining NASA’s knowledge resources, and we have charted a course toward greater integration across the agency.  
If you have been doing Knowledge Management for a few years - if you feel that KM is becoming embedded in the organisation, but needs greater integration and greater commitment - then your next step is probably to craft a Knowledge Management Policy

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