Knowledge sharing for Joint Chiefs of Staff

Currently at the KM Australia 2017 conference at which I’m presenting tomorrow on knowledge management and innovation. Some interesting talks so far and I’ve already found myself sharing one of my notes from the Association for Information & Image Management (AIIM) 2013 Conference held down in New Orleans, so am late-posting here as they’re still interesting and relevant from a great speaker. I’ll follow-up with posts from similarly interesting KM Australia shortly –

AIIM Conference 2013 (20-22 March 2013) – Knowledge Sharing for the Best Military Staff on the Planet

AIIM Conference 2013 (New Orleans, 20-22 March 2013)
Thursday, Mar 21 – 10:00 AM

DESCRIPTION: Knowledge-sharing in the best military staff on the planet – Engaging the people who support the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
As the United States emerges from a decade of war, our military’s challenge remains managing information in an organization founded during World War II. Many of its older records are still germane and still classified. Immensely complex and varied missions around the world, combined with a work force that is always on the move, exponential data growth and emerging cyber threats, have shattered old information management norms. As the Joint Staff grapples with social and mobile, we are doing more than muddling forward, but it isn’t always pretty. Learn how this unique information management story has unfolded from a member of the Joint Staff.
Learning objectives:

1. Collaborating across functional lines in a highly regulated, formal organization—at the seam of records and IT;
2. Engaging time-challenged knowledge workers who turnover at a rate of 33% a year; helping them provide historically consistent, academically rigorous advice, draft policy and correspondence to executive leadership and
3. Balancing the Open Government Initiative, FOIA and legal discovery with the need to protect sensitive information.


Knowledge Sharing in the Best Military Staff on the Planet
Mark Patrick
Leads the US Joint Staff’s Corporate Memory Management Team

Mark’s team assists the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ( The Chairman (most senior military officer by law) is principal military advisor to – The President, The Secretary of Defense, The National Security Council, The Homeland Security Council. The Joint Staff are located at the Pentagon and other locations.
* The Joint Staff have 3731 staff as at March 2013, 36% military, 28% civil servants, 36% contractors
* The nine combatant commands – ‘administrative oversight’ includes records management.
* 261 detailees from other organisations and 42 international detailees.
* When you think of that clash of cultures, and distinct ways of thinking about things organisationally, and sub-cultures (sub-mariners, etc.) it’s an interesting staffing environment to work in, CEOs are unique. The organisation is now on its 18th CEO, Martin Dempsey, and has traditions that make it a classical industrial age organisation.
* Napoleonic staff structure broken up by number codes – 1. ???? 2. ???? 3. Logistics 4. Plans & Policy 5. IT
* When they Mark’s team is asked for information everything has to be connected, and where necessary needs to refer to history
Their Theatre of Operations is the sea, space, sky, cyberspace all around the globe, they divide it up and have created regional commanders – Central Command, Pacific Command, Northern Command, Southern Command, African Command. All of which have staff, records officers, and a few that have specialities that aren’t geographic (Transportation Command etc) with their own staff.
Their customers – everyone (primarily American citizens). Their key internal customers are Action Officers, someone working on a decision product that is being put together to help a decision maker – their team works primarily with Action Officers on a day-to-day basis.

* Role primarily coordinating knowledge-sharing with very high stakes. What does collaboration even mean? At one point in his role Mark found himself wondering ‘if this is the best military staff on the planet, and his team works through school training for this purpose and end up in the major league working with the best peers, then why aren’t we there yet?’
* A work-in-progress since 1947.
Relevant Standards?
Why do we have them? Compliance/governance and business use of information, not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately Action Officers don’t care about standards if they’re focussed on Afghanistan efforts. In terms of evaluating the value of the knowledge his team provides, they view this on a spectrum, with the best to worst collaboration being:

(a) Best Collaboration:
All stakeholders in the room
Best living experts
Best explicit knowledge (data, files etc)
Face-to-face no ‘tools

(b) Next Best:
Video conference
Emails circulate to fix things afterwards.

Rationale for Mark’s Spectrum:
Chat – Have trusting relationships with those we chat with.
Teleconference – Real-time, but things start to break down as participants hit mute, emails start to fly to correct what’s said.
Email – We’ve stepped away from real-time interaction, if the Chairman wants real-time quality products then email isn’t going to cut it, frankly it sucks and is the worst form of collaboration.

How does Mark’s team help Action Officers find information?
Mark’s team creates and fulfils expectations – if the information exists then Mark’s team will find it and get it to them as quickly as possible (using all tools). We’re not done until you’re satisfied you have what you need, you’re connected to a better expert, we agree the information is lost or never existed. They have created a place on the internal portal to facilitate emailing a bunch of people to get back to you as a human, invite you into a chat if needed, and will provide the required information via hyperlink or alternatively determine it doesn’t exist. Whenever requests come in that’s you’re top priority — is what Mark tells his team. In the modern world of cost constraints Mark’s team is not going to be able to throw more bodies at knowledge-sharing problems any more, so they have to do more with less. Even collaboration is a buzz word – even the great book Collaboration, states that it’s a buzz word. Even simpler – together making things easier, better faster – business use of our information and statutory compliance aren’t mutually exclusive.

How does Mark’s team work –
* Good information housekeeping ‘as you go’
* Training others to do likewise (cajole, mentor)
* By having a crisis management team which is on-call to help staff set up knowledge-sharing initiatives as required
* Sorting out taxonomies, address information-finding
* By trying to model problem-solving and help the team change the way they work
* The primary goal is to have information perfectly ordered to reduce wasted time and effort.
The classic KM concept of People – Process – Technology isn’t simple, for Mark’s team:
* People are the top priority
* Process is the next priority
* Technology is the lowest priority

Mark’s team helps their customers ‘at the speed their job request requires’ by connecting systems of record with their systems of engagement. Their focus is on people, on getting into the organisation and the organisation’s sub-cultures, and by figuring out how we can use their suite of tools to help the organisation work better. Recent observations in their organisation:
* A new type of team member is required – one that is multi-disciplinary, understand the whole organisation, everyone is customer service oriented, you can’t understand the organisation unless you understand what they need.
* New ‘boss’ skills – build synergy across the organisation for speed, efficiency and higher quality in a time of shrinking resources – you have to bring the box-pushing basement dwelling records people together with the IT superiority-complex people and get it to work.
* New need for efficiency? No there is no new need for efficiency; organisations have always strived for efficiency.
* Converting the way you do information into a service is a part of how Mark’s team has changed.



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