Client Successes

Nasa Constellation

"I have worked with Nancy over the last eight years as we developed our integrated risk and knowledge management approach for human exploration and operations at NASA. She has been both a friend and colleague who we could go to for advice in order to develop and maintain a set of practices and products that aid in capturing and transferring knowledge. Nancy has been instrumental in our success and we plan to keep her involved in our future endeavors."

The Problem

NASA had been working on Constellation, the next manned space, flight for five years when the government cancelled the program. In that time the NASA engineers had accrued an enormous amount of new knowledge, for example, new habitats for astronauts living on the moon or Mars, more sophisticated space suits, and of course many new vehicles including, Ares 1 and 5, the Orion crew capsule, and Altair Lunar Lander. With the ending of the Constellation program, the engineers and scientist who created all that knowledge would now disperse to other NASA projects, or in many cases leave NASA altogether to work for other organizations. Without some direct intervention the “know how” accumulated over 5 years would be lost.

Dave Lengyel, who heads NASA’s Risk and Knowledge Management Program was committed to ensuring that Constellation’s knowledge would not be lost. But the task of saving it was an enormous one. The program was spread across NASA’s eleven centers from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Jet Propulsion Lab on the West coast, each working on a different aspect of the program.
Dave invited myself and Larry Prusak, to serve as thought leaders to help him
develop a knowledge capture strategy that would provide direction over the next year as the program shut down.  The capture strategy needed to include:

  • How to identify the most critical knowledge to be retained
  • Effective methodologies for capturing knowledge
  • How the captured knowledge should be formatted so it would be most useful to other parts of NASA or to the commercial companies that might eventually use it
  • Effective knowledge transfer techniques for a wide range of explicit and tacit knowledge
  • An estimate of the potential cost of capturing and storing five years of work
  • A way to prepare engineers with the skills to effectively capture and then transfer what they have learned

The Solution

Thirty five people who had worked on the Constellation program attended a two day meeting in Huntsville Alabama for the purpose of jointly developing the knowledge capture strategy.

The processes we designed for that meeting included

  • Each center constructing a knowledge map that identified and prioritized the knowledge in their part of the project. 
  • A panel discussion of KM thought leaders, to talk about  best practices in   knowledge capture and transfer from other organizations. 
  • A day-long knowledge café, complete with all the trappings including red and white checkered tablecloths and menus.   
  • Table facilitators who put together a draft plan based on the discussions at their tables and then presented it to the group for review
  • The use of Think Tank, to allow each person to use their own laptop to project their reactions and comments about the draft plan for everyone to see.

This meeting was an excellent example of leveraging collective knowledge.

The result was a coordinated plan to save Constellations knowledge that all of the stakeholders supported, because they had created it themselves.

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