FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. - To mitigate potential knowledge loss among its experienced workforce, the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center has launched a program to harvest and store knowledge in a single, searchable location.

Our long-term goal is to build the wisdom infrastructure of our organization through a knowledge-based culture," said Gary Blohm, CERDEC director, whose strategic objectives for 2010 include the capture and management of the organization's knowledge.

Currently, 45 percent of CERDEC's workforce is eligible for retirement, but attrition can also come in the form of long term sick leave, promotion or lateral assignment.

The CERDEC program is expected to offset knowledge loss due to attrition by transferring the knowledge from individual employees and making it available to those who need it.

With the help of an outside contractor, the program kicked off on Jan. 19 with a six-week knowledge capture training session. Through the session, CERDEC representatives from each directorate were trained in the systematic approach to knowledge harvesting.

"This is an extremely important initiative within CERDEC," said Theresa Bickler, CERDEC chief information officer (CIO).

"All of the directors have expressed their interest and support," said Bickler. "They think it is important that we capture knowledge, that we capture it in the right way and that we put in the right amount of effort to get the best product out of it."

In the past, as one form of knowledge capture, military commanders used a continuity book to pass down critical knowledge about the command position.

In a similar way, CERDEC will compile the results of each knowledge capture into its own knowledge continuity book, which will be available on a searchable and discoverable SharePoint site. In order to easily pinpoint desired information, the site will be indexed by topic and individual, with 20 to 25 sub areas falling beneath each.

The short term goal of CERDEC's knowledge capture program is to capture the critical knowledge of at least 75 of its subject matter experts (SME) by Nov. 15. The full-time knowledge capture specialists will work in five teams of two with each team completing one SME knowledge capture per week.

However, since knowledge transfer is critical at any juncture, the long term goal is for the program to become an ongoing effort. Such knowledge can be captured as it develops instead of being lost as people and situations change.

"We need to capture knowledge as it happens by routinely conducting peer assists prior to new projects; performing after action reviews after project completion; and capturing lessons learned at key stages of a project," Blohm said. "KM practices like these are a smarter way of doing business."

The focus of the CERDEC knowledge capture initiative is the handoff from the predecessor to the successor to stimulate learning and efficiency.

With the information pulled from these knowledge captures, managers can understand exactly what the predecessor's job entailed, and as needed, can reshape the job to meet future needs and missions. Successors and supervisors can continue to build on a pre-existing knowledge base.

Transferring captured knowledge to the CERDEC staff is expected to result in more efficient job training, quicker learning, faster job orientation, reduced mistakes and reduced management hand-holding.

Despite being the deputy CIO, Bickler said she could have had a smoother transition from deputy to CIO in September 2007 if she had her predecessor's contact lists, since they work on a variety of projects.

Having a searchable SharePoint site indexed by topic would have proven invaluable, she said. Additionally, she would have benefitted from knowing which conferences to attend as well as having pre-existing spreadsheets, instead of creating new efforts from scratch. These are all examples of the varying types of knowledge to be included in CERDEC's continuity book.

By initiating this effort, CERDEC has transferred the responsibility of identifying, creating and storing a useable knowledge source from the SME to the knowledge capture specialists who better understand the knowledge capture process.

The specialist training will follow a well-defined process to ensure the most efficient, thorough knowledge captures possible. The effort will capture both explicit and tacit knowledge.

Explicit knowledge consists of written or otherwise documented knowledge in media that can be organized or stored, and it is definite, openly stated and often objective.

Tacit knowledge is the comprehension gained through study, experience, practice or human interaction and stored in an individual's mind. It is difficult to extract without proper instruction in knowledge elicitation methods.

CERDEC is working hard to reduce the impact of losing critical pockets of knowledge throughout the organization, and hope that this effort will prove to be a successful benchmark for other organizations to follow.

Page last updated Mon April 26th, 2010 at 15:52