The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Supply Operations (SO) faced a challenge common to many of today’s large organizations. A large number of SO practices were undocumented. Where documentation existed, it was often outdated, in need of revisions, and available only in limited quantities in hard copy. This was compounded by a pending loss of the tacit “in your head” knowledge held by a large quantity of employees who were nearing retirement. GSA SO wanted to establish a knowledge management (KM) program that would incorporate existing documentation and the “know how” of SO personnel into a Web-based portal/library that would be both accessible to all SO staff and capable of being updated and revised as processes change. In addition, GSA SO wanted to establish internal KM representatives who would support their respective organizations.
Engility employed a multidisciplinary approach to assess, design, develop, and implement a KM system for GSA SO. Engility conducted 100+ individual and 10 group interviews in six locations. These interviews were grounded in cognitive task analysis (CTA) theory to uncover deep-seated tacit (i.e., in your head) knowledge. As a result of these interviews and site visits, Engility identified gaps in both documentation and content management. Engility then worked with GSA SO personnel to document processes, establish communities of expertise, and set the conditions for real-time collaboration and document management. Engility designed and is developing a KM system using GSA SO SalesForce.com software as the platform. This system is designed to become the online “front porch” where GSA SO personnel can collaborate and share information. Engility also developed a comprehensive and interactive 5-day KM training program for GSA SO KM managers across all regions and the central office in Washington, DC.
The first benefits were apparent before the training even ended. Collaboration among students resulted in a process solution for rejected purchase orders at distribution centers. GSA SO was able to gain better visibility of electronic and paper standard operating procedures (SOPs), files, and folders that were stored in multiple locations across the regions. This, in turn, allowed GSA SO to consolidate the knowledge into a library that was accessible across the organization. In addition, GSA SO established several collaborative working groups that developed new and updated existing SOPs, handbooks, and guides to include current best practices. Based on Engility’s training, GSA SO embarked on an ambitious effort to interview all departing employees, stopping the drain of expertise from the organization as seasoned professionals retired. The sharing of information throughout the organization enabled the standardization of procedures and created efficiencies all across GSA SO.