Today’s stunning NASA accomplishments have their origins in a less successful history that included significant failures culminating in three human spaceflight tragedies, the Apollo I, Challenger, and Columbia accidents. Technical marvels such as the James Webb Space Telescope, rovers and helicopters traversing the Martian landscape, the International Space Station and probes capable of traveling at nearly 200 kilometers per second visiting remote regions of our outer solar system only became possible once NASA learned a difficult lesson: success is rooted in a culture that understands failure can be an opportunity to learn.
NASA’s entire raison d’être is based on cutting edge science and engineering. Many of its complex projects are approved even before the critical technology needed for mission success has been invented – programs are expected to innovate and develop the technology while still meeting schedule and budget. Because space-related failures are often international news stories, NASA engineers, scientists and technicians are under enormous pressure to succeed. For mission success, they need a KM program that provides easy, quick access to relevant and critical knowledge, lessons learned, and case studies.
In my thirty-eight-year NASA career I learned what knowledge was critical for our workforce by having the unique experience of serving in almost every role on a project team: as a technician manufacturing and assembling space hardware, as a discipline engineer designing mechanical components, as a system engineer ensuring a quality integration, and as a deputy and project manager responsible for delivering hardware. Understanding the technical, programmatic, and personnel complexities involved within a NASA project team enabled me to develop a more practical and relevant, that is, Lean KM program, that has proven very successful at NASA.
As NASA’s Chief Knowledge Officer, my goal was to deliver a pragmatic way to engage our technical workforce in knowledge management. Understanding our engineers had little time or patience for a traditional esoteric, academic-based KM strategy, Lean Knowledge Management was developed to sift and filter through the mountains of information available to focus on the critical knowledge needed by the NASA workforce.
Throughout the book, I have included numerous NASA examples and answer most of the questions I have been asked over the years about our unique lean knowledge management program. I have also drawn a detailed blueprint how other organizations can develop a vibrant knowledge management program of their own. Knowledge management doesn’t need to be so difficult; it needs to be a functional, pragmatic program designed to provide an organization’s employees with the critical knowledge that can save them time while saving an organization money, resources, and its reputation for quality.
Lean Knowledge Management simplifies the process by:
- clearly defining your organization’s key employees
- filtering the enormous amount of internal “information” into “critical knowledge”
- utilizing a myriad of resources to get this critical knowledge to the people who need it most – the very people that can make your organization successful.
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines Lean “as a set of management practices to improve efficiency and effectiveness by eliminating waste. The core principle of lean is to reduce and eliminate non-value adding activities and waste.” These principles and subsequent rewards of Lean Knowledge Management aren’t just for engineering operations but can be applied to any organization. Redefining what knowledge management means for a specific organization and implementing a Lean Knowledge Management program can become a major tool to increase product and service reliability and organizational efficiency.
Repetitive mistakes and failures cost corporations millions of dollars in lost revenue, scrap, and even lawsuits. Lean Knowledge Management strips away the academic jargon and implements a practical, cost-effective, organic program emphasizing lessons of the past.
Remember, knowledge is free! Your hard-earned corporate knowledge is right in front of you, why risk losing it when an employee retires or leaves for a competitor forcing you to re-learn it and pay for it all over again? The book includes numerous strategic suggestions for convincing upper management about the benefits of building a competent, workable and productive KM program as well as ways to encourage and nurture a genuine culture change by engaging the workforce
Knowledge is power! Lean Knowledge Management is a structured plan to harness that power for your organization.