ASK OCE — April 4, 2006 — Vol. 1, 1 Issue 7

Efforts to improve knowledge sharing practices were the focus of APPEL’s twelfth Masters Forum, which took place March 8-10 in Herndon, VA.

Experts Nancy M. Dixon, author of Common Knowledge, and Larry Prusak, editor-in-chief of APPEL’s ASK Magazine, both stressed the importance of conversations in understanding knowledge management. Dixon examined conversations between managers and their subordinates and found that they often result in imperfect communication due to subtle power dynamics. “Every day in inconsequential conversations, consequential decisions are made about whether to provide truth to power,” she said.

Prusak emphasized that the key to unlocking knowledge within an organization is often a matter of identifying the right person to ask about a specific subject. “We are not machines,” he said, explaining the limitations of databases as tools for knowledge management.

The forum also featured first-person accounts of project management challenges from four current NASA veterans. Dr. David Leckrone (GSFC) offered insights from his thirty years of work on the Hubble Space Telescope. Bob Menrad (GSFC) discussed the challenges of “jumping into the fire,” or taking over a troubled project already under development. Kim Ess (JSC) recounted her recent experience developing a robotic arm for the Shuttle to examine its Orbiter for debris damage in the wake of the Columbia accident. Skip Hatfield (JSC) used his experience with the International Space Station to discuss how policy changes can affect a project.

Past NASA veterans also shared their experiences. Angelo “Gus” Guastaferro, former deputy director of Ames Research Center (retired), reflected on how he learned the importance of developing new project managers while working on the Mars Viking project. Frank Martin, drawing on his project management career at NASA as well as his work with APPEL’s Performance Enhancement team, offered a summary of the “Seven Deadly Sins” of project management.

The conference also featured non-NASA perspectives on knowledge sharing from David Dehaven and Nick Incontrera (Northrop Grumman), Bill Altman (Batelle), and Zeke Wolfberg (Defense Intelligence Agency).

Other highlights included an address by Deputy Chief Engineer Greg Robinson on technical excellence and the changing shape of technical authority at NASA.

The Masters Forum is a biennial invitational conference held over 3 days for a small group of practitioners to learn from past masters of project management. Attendees build cross-center relationships, develop leadership expertise, and participate in a community of practice focusing on lessons learned and knowledge sharing. The next event will be held in September 2006.

Learn more about past APPEL Masters Forum events.

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