Federal Computer Week has a piece on knowledge management as seen by the US Department of Defense and the soldier in the field. I think it shows a nice juxtaposition between the needs of the front line soldiers (employees) and the back office executive organization. DOD's antagonism toward info sharing inhibits warfighters:
Military operations increasingly rely on instant communications, collaboration and information sharing. For a warfighter, timely access to information can mean the difference between life and death.
But DOD isn’t always receptive to the open disclosure required of knowledge management.
I am reading between the lines in this article, but it sounds like the DOD "back office" isn't terribly interested - or designed - for the kind of knowledge sharing needed on the front lines of battles. In many (non-military) organizations this has a natural consequence: Either the front line figures out a way to do what they need to do, or the back office forces them to do things their way. Based on what's been written elsewhere, I understand that the front lines have many of the tools they need to do their jobs. I wonder what is missing - this article suggests something is missing without telling us what that is.
If you aren't in the military, how does this situation affect your knowledge management efforts? In rigid organizations that don't see the value or don't want to jump on any bandwagon, the front lines have to be flexible and work with what they have. While it is more challenging without the classic "executive buy-in," people can create knowledge sharing cultures that enable them to work as effectively as possible.
A thought after re-reading this: What does this mean for situations where the back office wants "knowledge management" but the front lines don't get the point? Is it the same problem in reverse? That the front lines of employees and the executive suite don't understand the needs of the other?
[Photo: "Front Line Assembly" by Funchurch!]