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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Knowledge Management: More than just a collection of Knowledge Base Articles

Just the other day, an IT Operations Manager asked me my opinion on just what Knowledge Management entailed, and more importantly to define what Knowledge Management excellence meant to me.

My answer to his question, while substantive, was no where near as satisfying to me as a short piece I wrote some two years ago in response to almost exactly the same set of questions.  So to make amends and to provide a more definitive response to my associate's inquiry, I am reposting that piece here for all who choose to view it with a goal that more than just one individual may find it beneficial.

What is Knowledge Management? -- Braun Tacon, August 2009

Knowledge, and by extrapolation, Knowledge Management does not stand alone.  If it is to be useful it must permeate every aspect of any organized effort.  Let's consider the role that Knowledge Management plays in something as common, yet exceedingly complex, as airline travel.

The pilot who will fly from Las Angeles to New York between 10:00am PDT to 4:00 EDT will likely begin his business day at about 5:00am PDT.  That early start is needed so the pilot can begin his daily process of Knowledge acquisition, Knowledge assessment and validation, and Knowledge categorization, prioritization and availability.  Then and only then can the pilot build the specific and detailed action plan for his transcontinental flight of today and make the ultimate and final decision as whether to fly or not to fly.

Knowledge acquisitionwill include the local and destination weather reports and all the major weather in-between.  He will need to know the number of passengers and the estimated weight of the passengers and cargo.  He will check to see if there are any notable exceptions such as runway closures or closed airspace that he may encounter on today's flight (NOTAMS, "notice to airmen").  Finally he will inspect the maintenance records of his aircraft to see if his airship is worthy of flight.

Knowledge assessment and validationwill begin with the weather reports and additional live briefings from subject matter experts in order to help him better understand the data presented and to glean information that he can use.  Taking the total weight of his aircraft including passengers, cargo and fuel along with weather information enroute the pilot will decide exactly how much fuel to put in the plane including a sufficient reserve to allot for any unforseen change in plans or the environment.  Runway or airspace closures will help him determine his approach into the destination, and aircraft maintenance will be assessed from a "go/no-go" perspective.

Knowledge categorization, prioritization and availability is the last step of this process which ensures that all pertinent Knowledge is available to the pilot and others at the right time and place.  Weight and weather are factored to determine the optimal takeoff configuration and airspeed. Before takeoff, the total passenger count has been used to determine the ideal food and beverage load for the flight.  Prior to that the passenger's baggage has been routed via the most expedient means to insure arrival at the aircraft's final destination.  Finally, the weight of the aircraft and weather conditions at the destination are computed at many times during flight in order to determine the speed and configuration of the aircraft for landing.

Airline travel occurs thousands of times a day all over the world.  And air travel is only possible because of the myriad of disparate yet synchronized Knowledge Management streams that exist to guide and serve all of the pilot's decisions.  In other words just like "no man", Knowledge Management is not an island.

To summarize: Knowledge Management is both an end to a means, and a means to an end. Good Knowledge Management is designed to provide timely, relevant, and useful information to key decision makers and doers.  This Knowledge comes from a myriad of dynamic and disparate sources which must be available at any time and with guaranteed accuracy.  The intended outcome of Knowledge Management should always be to provide agility and confidence when making plans or decisions.  It does not matter if your goal is transcontinental flight, open heart surgery, or making ice cream.  The principles, goals, and outcomes are largely the same.

More to follow...

Braun Tacon
4:19 pm pdt 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Try Before You Fly: How Dreamliner Pilots Train Without Lifting Off

An interesting article from WIRED about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  The most interesting part is how computers and computer systems have completely taken over modern aviation, including the training of prospective pilots of these craft.  From the article:

"No matter their experience level, none of them will actually fly a 787 during training. It's all done electronically. There are no books to study, airframes to inspect or airplanes to fly. From learning about the airplane's hydraulic system to making a virtual walk around pre-flight inspection to even learning how to take off, pilots learn everything needed for their type rating without ever even seeing a real 787.

At one of the 787 training centers it all happens inside a nondescript office building south of Seattle. This is where pilots learn the difference between traditional airplanes that use bleed air to power systems and the 787 that uses generators. They work through checklists and practicing landing the Dreamliner in a severe crosswind, in the clouds, and with an engine out.

But even before they learn how to fly a 787, they learn what the cockpit is like. And they do that sitting in an office cubicle."

Read the rest as they say.

More to follow...

Braun Tacon
10:44 am pdt 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When you thought you had it all figured out

...at least you knew that you could count on E=MC squared.  Maybe now...not so much.  From an article posted by the AP today,  Roll over Einstein: Pillar of physics challenged

GENEVA (AP) -- A pillar of physics - that nothing can go faster than the speed of light - appears to be smashed by an oddball subatomic particle that has apparently made a giant end run around Albert Einstein's theories.

The physics world is, to say the least, gob-smacked!  More from the AP article.

"It's a shock," said Fermilab head theoretician Stephen Parke, who was not part of the research in Geneva. "It's going to cause us problems, no doubt about that - if it's true."

Just goes to show that the more you think you know, the more you realize how little that you actually do.

Read the rest as they say.

Related:  E=MC2=?

Update 9/23/11:  The jury remains out on this claim.  Scientists stunned, sceptical on faster-than-light particles.  Not surprising if you step back and consider the implications.  The 70's comedy troupe Firesign Theater probably stated it most succinctly. Everything you know is wrong!  See also Through the Looking Glass.

More to follow...

Braun Tacon

1:12 pm pdt 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Around the World in 60 seconds

Sixty seconds of time-lapse photography taken from the International Space Station
(ISS).  Both spectacular and humbling indeed!

Look closely for the flashes of lightening and the reflections of earth light on the ISS superstructure.

And to think that the US currently has no vehicle with which to continue the exploration of space.  Sad at best, disheartening at worst.  Edit 9/22/11:  Related Neil Armstrong says US space program 'embarrassing'

More to follow...

Braun Tacon
5:17 pm pdt 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ant defense can be a sticky business...

Kamikaze Ants give their all for the colony.

I've always found ants to be fascinating.  Not because of what I know about the species, but rather because how much there is to learn about them.

Hat-Tip: Instapundit

More to follow...

Braun Tacon

3:03 pm pdt 

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BraunsBlog...Random musings on specific topics.  The central themes will be ITIL V.3, Information Security, and other sundry ITSM topics.  That said, there are many more things in this world on which to opine, so don't be surprised if I do now and then.

About me...Braun Tacon, Portland Oregon.  Husband, father, aviator and former Air Traffic Controller with over 20 years experience in the Information Technology and IT Service Management field, the last thirteen years of which having been spent at a Fortune 500 in the Pacific Northwest. 

Professional background and certifications include Aviation Management, Education, Systems Management, Information Security and Process, Standards and Quality Management.  Always delivered with a strong focus on ITIL and similar Process Improvement Frameworks such as LEAN, SixSigma and TQM (Thank you Mr. Deming!).

Hobbies include reading, writing, and even the occasional Karaoke contest!

All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

Contact me...

Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions?  You may contact me at btacon@BraunsBlog.com.

BraunsBlog - 99 and 44 one hundredth percent pure ITIL...66 one hundredth percent pure Braun