The Fusion of Learning and Knowledge Management

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 12.03.07

Published June 2004

Learning solutions and knowledge management solutions are beginning to blur and meld, and that’s good news on both sides of the equation. One CLO who is setting the course for the future of learning and knowledge sharing is Frank J. Anderson Jr., president of Defense Acquisition University (DAU). He believes that, along with performance support, knowledge sharing has become a critical function within enterprise learning departments.

DAU provides training and services to enable the acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L) community for the Department of Defense. However, as DAU has evolved, it has come to incorporate knowledge sharing into its mission and charter. Anderson has been overseeing initiatives to provide easy-to-access information and performance support tools to the workforce. According to Anderson, “As DAU created its vision for 21st century learning and the workplace, we concluded that a central issue for enterprise learning organizations is how to capture and deliver relevant knowledge and experience to the workforce at the point of need. And you can’t do that with a classroom-type structure alone. It is crucial to build an environment that encourages and rewards knowledge sharing.”

Knowledge sharing figures prominently now in what DAU calls its technological “road map” for e-learning success. One priority is managing the information side of learning and the link to knowledge management systems. Significant DAU investments are being made to support two key technology enablers. The first, the AT&L Knowledge Sharing System (AKSS), provides a comprehensive reference library, connection to online knowledge communities and an “Ask the Professor” support function. The second major Web-based function is the Acquisition Community Connection (ACC), the AT&L community’s single gateway to knowledge-sharing communities. There are 17 major communities of practice, and another 17 areas are on the drawing board.

DAU has already gleaned important lessons from its initiatives to integrate knowledge sharing into the performance learning model:

  • Use metrics to encourage participation. Everyone knows that culture change is necessary to create effective knowledge sharing. For example, at DAU, participation in communities of practice is now one of the 17 metrics used to evaluate faculty.
  • Define clear roles. DAU faculty members are the engines of knowledge development as subject-matter experts for curriculum development and managers and editors of the communities of practice. A core team of knowledge managers and support personnel provides overall general management and helps the faculty sustain and develop knowledge communities. DAU top management provides the vision, funding, faculty time and transformation processes to enable the performance learning model and the knowledge-sharing systems.
  • Recognize a maturation process in learning and knowledge sharing. DAU sees learners as its principal customers, but also recognizes that they are the primary sources of knowledge. Mature learners become managers and editors in communities of practice. To aid this maturation process, DAU gives these learners training on how to participate
  • Develop a comprehensive outreach plan. Outreach builds awareness of the knowledge-sharing programs and supports the communities of practice. Anderson and his team created a comprehensive implementation and training guide that was used to launch the DAU communities of practice.
  • Measure the results of your investment. DAU has created a comprehensive scorecard that measures such things as the number of registered users on the DAU Continuous Learning Center, which has risen from 72 to 166,887 since June 2001.

These initiatives not only improve the performance of people and their organizations, but they also help cope with the loss of corporate knowledge through attrition and retirement. At DAU, for example, internal analysis has shown that by the year 2007, some 70 percent of its workforce will be eligible for retirement. Anderson said, “Thanks to the integration of learning and knowledge management at DAU, we now have the capability to capture the knowledge of workers approaching retirement so that this critical experience does not just leave the organization.”

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