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Managing Knowledge and Learning at Nasa and the Jet Propulsion Library

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Essay title: Managing Knowledge and Learning at Nasa and the Jet Propulsion Library

Managing Knowledge and Learning at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Library

1. What are the implications of “faster, better, cheaper” for knowledge management? That is, what advantages and disadvantages are there for the creation, capture and transfer of knowledge?

Simply put, FBC is incompatible with effective KM. First, there pressure to accomplish more in less time absolutely requires that employees carry huge workloads with little room for revision, evaluation or documentation. It is impossible to ask a project manager who is overburdened to not only document project expertise and new knowledge, but also to mentor other employees. Furthermore, such constraints are not at all conducive to innovation and knowledge creation.

There is also the issue of “project vs. program”. FBC policies resulted in project managers stressing the success of their short term project, and with the added pressures from limited time and budget, ignoring the overall success of the program or organization. This type of environment again is incompatible with a knowledge sharing culture, and ultimately successful KM.

Also, the FBC policy resulted in many failed projects. This inherently would cause future project leaders to distrust the work or knowledge obtained from these projects, even if is was good, because collectively, it was a failure. Furthermore, many of the project practice groups were not very conventional and would not provide good information for future projects, such as Spear’s Pathfinder project, in which talented yet inexperienced people were hired, because experience people would never have complied with the unrealistic timelines. Furthermore, these people were imbedded with poor project practices towards future projects.

One of the few advantages of FBC with regards to KM is that it resulted in a wider variety of projects and more opportunity for component style knowledge to be captured and reused.

2. What different kinds of risk are managers dealing with?

The most obvious risk is the general change from IT based systems, depository system to a knowledge-sharing culture throughout out the organization. First, it is considerably more expensive and this makes it hard to pitch to Congress, when NASA is already over-budget on other projects. Furthermore, NASA leaders would lose credibility if the projects do not result in a better organization or if they are not handled well, particularly after so many past failures, making future projects and sustaining KM even tougher to pitch.

Another form of risk that is also culturally related is that of project managers trusting component or past work done by other teams. This was particularly evident for JPL, an organization which had a pervasive mistrust of external components and research. In order for projects to be “faster, better and cheaper”, the implementation of past component work would need to be utilized and trusted. But it also runs on the risk that past knowledge is good, understood and/or implemented properly.

There is also risk in technology. This is a problem under FBC policies, because thorough technology risk assessment ends up lacking due to budget and time restrictions, and a lack of organizational structure that put would those best qualified to asses risks of different projects on the proper teams due to overburdened schedules. If the right experts were delegated

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