Friday, March 11, 2016

KM and Engineers:

Here are my slides and my notes from a presentation I gave at Computers in Libraries this week in Washington, DC at the Washington, Hilton, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 10:00 AM.

Good morning.  My name is David McBee and I am the Command Librarian for the   First some background on my role with the USACE Library Program.  My program consists of 18 district libraries out of a total of 43 districts, the Alexandria, Virginia library that also supports HQ, 3 Engineering Research & Development Center libraries, and the Army Geospatial Center (AGC) library.

Our libraries support the Engineers and scientists who do the work of the Corps.  We build and maintain dams and levees that harness electricity and help make our waterways navigable.  We support our warfighter on military bases and in deployed areas.   We dredge our ports and rivers to support commerce.  We work to restore and protect our environment and work to reduce the risks from natural disasters and help to recover from floods, storms and hurricanes.

I work in Corporate Information and I report to our Chief Information Officer (CIO).  When I came to the Corps three years ago I began to promote our USACE Libraries and their role in knowledge management to support the work of our engineers and scientists.

Image of the Admont Library in Admont, Austria

Admittedly the way we support KM has changed - but only in the ways we communicate and the information products we deliver.

I'm going to start this by looking at the Army KM effort, then review what the Corps of Engineers is doing at Headquarters and pushing out to the field.  Then I will talk about what our engineers are already doing and how we need to support that effort.  Lastly, I'll talk about ways the Library Program supports KM.

The image is of the Admont Library, Admont, Austria, 18 Libraries Every Book Lover Should Visit in Their Liftetime, Asta Thrastardottir (Business Insider, January 1, 2015)

KM is important to the Army.  Because of the regular rotation of military it is important to be able to communicate and share knowledge so commanders have current information.  Over time this effort led to the creation of the Army KM Proponent, assigned to the US Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Their mission is to deliver KM capabilities and capacities to meet Army and Joint requirements for the successful planning, integration, and execution of knowledge management throughout the total force.

The Army KM Proponent offers a certification training for their soldiers as well as civilians.  I was able to take this training in September 2014.

I have written about the Army KM training in before - see If I had a Hammer.

From the Army KM Certification program - KM is the process of enabling knowledge flow to enhance shared understanding, learning, and decision making.

Army views KM as the bridge that aligns the people, processes and tools within an organization.  I like this image because it looks like a pair of glasses and I think of KM as allowing us to see our organization more clearly.

 The 53rd Chief of Engineers, LTG Thomas P. Bostick has set out some objectives for KM at our agency.

  1. KM Has to be part of our day-to-day business
  2. We need to assess the critical information/knowledge needs in each district?  What do we need right now?
  3. Our team needs to have a common view of KM.  We need to be on the same sheet of paper.  Enable us to share our knowledge and sharing a common view.
  4. Align our KM efforts with Mission Support Centers’ priorities and strategic objectives.
  5. KM enables our business functions.  An over-the-shoulder advisor/assistant.  You can reach to the KM in the organization in order to achieve our goals
  6. Align our people and processes in this common view within the organization – horizontally and vertically – within USACE and with partner organizations.
  7. Achieve level 3 by 2017 – establish common practices across the Corps.


  American Productivity & Quality Center

KM Strategic Plan, approved, will be updated to reflect progress

These are APQC Best Practices for KM – that serve as a model for developing a KM plan.

And KM is going like gangbusters at USACE!  The Strategic Plan is being updated to reflect the progress we are making.  We have partnered with Army and they regularly ask us for help.

The USACE Campaign Plan includes this Action 1) A culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing where knowledge and technology are accessible without barriers, and 2) Critical Enabling Technologies are accessible and ready to use.

We are on target to achieve that KM Level 3 Maturity thanks to the grassroots effort of our KMRs.

Part of the work at the higher level is to pull together the individual efforts in the districts and connect them.

There are multiple data repositories in each of our districts.  We are working to make them accessible across the agency.  We have some tools that are helping us to do that.

So far we are not adding any extra meta-data though Google is quick to point out that meta-data enhances their search capabilities.

MediaWiki is still developing and it is becoming a place to organize project-related resources.

We are working with the CKO on ways our librarians can be incorporated in the KM effort.

In developing the KM Program at the Corps of Engineers, our leadership has formed partnerships with other Army agencies including Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM), Army Medical Command (MedCom), Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as private sector KM practitioners – APQC, KM World, FLUOR and others.

  That’s what is happening at HQ.  But what have the engineers been doing all along>

As Dave Snowden said in his SLA Keynote talk on March 8, engineers talk to each other.  They have coffee and talk about the projects they are working on.

The Corps of Engineers is organized into 10 Divisions with a total of 44 Districts.  For the continental US – the boundaries are based on watersheds.

We have about 9000 Engineers throughout the agency are located in every office.  There are diverse disciplines within the field of engineering and there may be only one or two of some disciplines at a given location.  So how do you network with other engineers?

What tools are they using?  Because USACE Engineers are so scattered – they make good use of Communities of Practice (CoPs).

Sharepoint is the current in place for connecting people and sharing repositories.  The CoPs run on Sharepoint.

CoPs for the Engineers include Civil Works Planning & Policy, Dam and Levee Safety, Engineering & Construction, Environmental, Hydrology & Hydraulics, Hydropower, and they participate in several others as they work with support units in the agency.

Tools used by our Engineers – After Action Reviews –AARs, are usually discussions that capture lessons learned.  The discussions are collected in a report format.

One of the goals for KM at the Corps is to find ways to integrate these systems to make the knowledge flow between engineers working on projects, project managers, and review auditors.

Tools used by our Engineers – After Action Reviews –AARs, are usually discussions that capture lessons learned.  The discussions are collected in a report format.

One of the goals for KM at the Corps is to find ways to integrate these systems to make the knowledge flow between engineers working on projects, project managers, and review auditors.

The USACE Catalog provides access to our WorldCat holdings - find what titles our USACE Libraries have.

The USACE Digital Library is a growing repository of digital documents including the Chief of Engineers Reports dating back to around 1870.  (Not all years have been digitized yet.)

USACE Engineers are encouraged to achieve Professional Engineer certification from the American Society of Civil Engineers.  The Library program has supported USACE Engineers by providing access to Webinars to prepare them for the exam.  This program was started by one of our librarians and it really shows how the Library Program is supporting our staff.

As I said at the beginning, our librarians support KM at the Corps.  I have been promoting our skill set to commanders and other leaders anytime I can.  I have been working with our CKO and the KM team to promote our librarians as KM Reps and suggesting they hire Librarians to serve as their KM Officers.

There is a growing corpus of readings and resources for KM practitioners.  Here is a list of some titles to get you started and keep you going.  Also look for KM speakers at SLA, ALA, KMWorld and other conferences.

A couple years ago I attended a presentation given by Ulla de Stricker and others at SLA.  She made several good comments. My full notes from her talk is posted elsewhere - KM in the Trenches.

First of all, KM is happening at your organization whether there’s an plan or not.

Second, to be successful you need buy-in at the top level.  If the boss/director doesn’t like the phrase “Knowledge Management”, don’t call it that.

Third, to help convince the boss, find out what keeps the boss awake at night and find a way to respond to the concern.

Fourth, find the knowledge gaps and see how you (and your library) can fill those gaps.

Finally, once leaders understand what KM is – the recognize the importance of it.  Many bosses just assume that KM is happening.  It often is – in pockets.  But you need to be part of a comprehensive plan.

We are told that it takes a village to raise a child – it certainly takes  a community of librarians to support an agency as diverse and widespread as the Corps of Engineers.

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