What the Air Force is doing in KM

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
Notes from National KM Conference.

What the Air Force is doing in KM
Presenter: Doug Brook – Senior Partner, Triune Group

“Technology is not the answer…. It is the easy thing to set up…and the easy thing to talk about. It’s also were many of the failures have been.”

New Imperatives for the Air Force where KM plays a major role

  • Need to capture aging expertise, amidst expandin sue of web 2.0 tech
  • Need to connect for knowledge sharing with minimal investment
  • Gov 2.0=transparency, accessibility, accountability
  • Need to work within secure confines for privacy and OPSEC
Air Force Knowledge Now – this is the AF’s management center of excellence. Started as a lessons learned system, has morphed to more of a Community of Practice center. Have 16,000 virtual communities,12 million page hits per month.


  • Doc management
  • Discussion forums
  • Community calendar
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • Alerts
  • Learning management system (can populate with training material)
Gathering success stories

In order to demonstrate the value of Knowledge Now the group collects success stories. These stories are displayed on the front page of the Knowledge Now portal. Quarterly and yearly “best of” stories are picked for a Knowledge Now award, which are highly valued by the organization. Get 20 to 50 submittal per quarter for this award.

Setting up communities

Online wizard to set up community. The “application to set up the community” is lightly vetted by the central group to check (1) is this mission related and (2) that something similar doesn’t already exist. As a result it is very easy to set up communities and they have spread quickly through the organization.

Have 4 support people for the system. They set up the communities, manage CoP’s and man the help desk.

Use of Web 2.0 technologies

Because of security concerns publically available web 2.0 tools are not widely used. However, some of the Web 2.0 technologies are being moved inside the firewall and incorporated into AF systems – for example adding Facebook type feature to portal.

What does it take to make KM successful in the AF

  • Leadership (focus, resources, commitment)
  • Process (what, when how)
  • Community (culture of sharing)
Of the 16,000 about 10% of these have had training in how to develop and implement successful communities. These tend to be the more successful communities.

Knowledge Retention and transfer challenge

A big challenge for the Air Force is the capture and transfer of knowledge – in particular from people about to retire. They have instituted a video capture process for capturing knowledge from a critical few people. To date they have done this for about 15 people.

The reason for using video is that people tend to remember things if they have seen it…vs just read it.

how people absorb knowledge

  • what is said – 7%
  • how it is said – 38%
  • body language – 55%
Video process for knowledge capture and transfer

Key steps

1) identify the opportunity – topic, business case, SME
2) prepare – establish harvest team and develop high-level questions
3) Interview / capture – interview SME’s & submit video / audio for transcription. Use appreciative inquiry techniques
4) Distill – coordinate schedules, review and distill videos into succinct key learnings. These are typically 1-2 minute videos – may be up to 2.5 min
5) Publish – make distilled knowledge objects (video, audio, text) available for reuse (wiki, CoP….). Most useful is in the wiki.
6) Validate – collect feedback (survey, face-to-face)

Typically do about 2 hours of video

This is a high cost process – so you only do it for high value projects.

Try to start 6 months before the person is scheduled to leave.

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