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How the Sharing of “Knowledge Power” Will Tackle Your Agency’s Problems


The Digital Age has given new meaning to the phrase, “Knowledge is power,” as federal agencies seek to keep up with the rapid pace of technology changes and emerging trends. Toss in an ever-proliferating volume of Big Data, and the potential for the accumulation of actionable knowledge takes on staggering proportions.

But don’t let this intimidate you. We live in an era, after all, when it’s easier than ever to better manage knowledge by sharing it. Whether we’re talking about fresh insights into new technologies, process improvements, stakeholder/taxpayer support, etc., there are many ways to “spread the word.” One site, KMT, provides a number of recommendations, including the conducting of post-project reviews in which success stories and teachable moments are exchanged; the IT-led pursuit of reverse engineering to identify knowledge stored within products; and the redesign of workplace layouts to encourage collaboration.

It doesn’t stop there either. Through portals, employees can collaborate upon the latest best practices and agency-relevant news/reports. Mentorships present great opportunities for experienced staffers to pass along both applicable and institutional intelligence. Meanwhile, the leadership-driven cultivation of a knowledge-sharing culture will inspire impromptu conversations about “doing something better” over lunch or a cup of coffee.

Note the reference to culture. Without leadership’s proactive, strategic support and guidance, any tech investment into knowledge-sharing will amount to very little. Fortunately, this needed support is taking hold here within the corridors of the Nation’s Capital. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, makes good on its motto, “Turning Discovery into Health,” by using formal, informal and systemic methods to share information internally in creating a more effective organization. The Open Opportunities portal invites federal employees to make connections, build skills and collaborate upon new ideas, and the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) is expanding knowledge-sharing by improving the collaboration and coordination of government IT delivery.

So why should federal leaders buy in? Because such activity can address a number of key, current challenges:

Succession planning and development. With the retirement tsunami underway –30 percent of the more than 2 million federal government employees will be eligible to retire in the next three years, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) – knowledge-sharing can prevent “brain drain” as veteran staffers work with younger ones to enable seamless successions. What’s more, agency leaders can incorporate it into their succession strategies, to ensure replacements acquire critical expertise.

Millennial recruitment. Today’s young professionals want to move fast, using the right tools and information. Within a knowledge-sharing culture, they gain confidence with the swift building of their skill sets and intellectual assets.

Engagement. With another Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) upon us, the pressure is on agencies to raise engagement scores. Those which embrace knowledge-sharing are fostering greater trust between employees and managers, thus elevating engagement levels. As a result, agencies benefit from higher retention, productivity and quality of work.

Government leaders are constantly talking about “smashing silos.” Usually, they’re referring to the consolidation of IT systems, replacing stovepipe legacies with solutions that serve users enterprise-wide. I’m all for this. But a genuine transformation involves far more than just tech. It’s about establishing an environment in which everyone in every location – from the mailroom to the boardroom – embraces a “pay it forward” mindset in sharing ideas. When this happens, you’ll find that your agency’s potent “knowledge power” can tackle just about anything.

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Katarina Hong

Thanks for pointing out these current challenges! Definitely things to think about because of the digital era we live in.

Mark Hammer

People at the top all too often forget that not only is knowledge power, but “power is knowledge”.
That is, folks in the management loop are often aware of things that the regular infantry, like myself, are not privy to. The contingencies that may preoccupy management are simply not integrated into the suggestions of subordinates, and that makes it hard for upper hierarchical levels to accept ideas from lower ones, and easy to dismiss them as unrealistic.

If one desires innovation, then the front-line people have to be able to think like management, or at least juggle management concerns in their thinking about solutions. And that requires knowledge-sharing and concern-sharing across different hierarchical levels.

A wide receiver can run 40 yards downfield, zig-zag, and be at the right place at the right time, because they have a shared plan with the quarterback. And the quarterback can throw a long ball to a place on the field hat no one is presently standing in, because – through a shared plan – they can trust in the receiver to BE at that place at the appointed time. Both participants are aware of the same level of detail about the overall plan. And THAT’s why it works.

Joe Abusamra

Thanks for the comment, Mark. Great points on knowledge sharing. There is definitely much “rethinking” on both sides (management and non-management) that has to occur for optimal implementation.