Knowledge Management and the Federal Government

02 September 2015

Despite widespread adoption across nearly every department and agency of the U.S. government, Knowledge Management has suffered its share of misconceptions -- one of the biggest of which is that Knowledge Management is only a tool for IT. And yet, as those that use it can attest Knowledge Management can have a major impact on the performance of the entire organization.

With a primary goal of measurably improving individual and organizational performance, Knowledge Management provides a practical, process-orientated approach to capturing institutional knowledge and learning from it. Knowledge Management allows organizations to remain agile, responding to new variables and continuously evolving. The same benefits hold true in government. The key to harnessing its power is the understanding of Knowledge Management, and setting expectations about its role within an organization.

The Federal Government, via the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), defines Knowledge Management as “a system that ensures continuity of leadership by identifying and addressing potential gaps in effective leadership and implements and maintains programs that capture organizational knowledge and promote learning.”

This definition is critical to understanding the role of Knowledge Management within the Federal Government.

To be truly successful in implementing effective Knowledge Management strategies, Federal departments and agencies need to be prepared to implement knowledge solutions that support change by storing knowledge in a central repository. Doing this ensures that support agents, contractors or citizens have secure, auditable, and easy access to necessary information.

As a part of this process, agencies and departments need to build strategies that include accessible training and communication to prepare their repartees for new models of working. Further, this should be tracked and measured across the organization.

Finally, as with all agencies, there will be legacy applications and programs to deal with as needs and applications evolve. Building a process whereby documents and applications follow a clear and concise lifecycle while meeting records compliance requirements is a tough but important component to effective Knowledge Management. 

In implementing these processes, the Federal Government enables itself to manage changes to its workforce, prepare for new technology, reduce costs, and remain flexible and nimble as missions change. This focus will help agencies keep pace with the technological and social changes happening around them, optimizing effectiveness to ultimately maintain relevance in citizens’ lives.