The National Academies

NCHRP 20-98 [Final]

A Guide to Agency-Wide Knowledge Management for State Departments of Transportation

  Project Data
Funds: $185,000
Research Agency: Spy Pond Partners
Principal Investigator: Frances Harrison
Effective Date: 2/19/2014
Completion Date: 6/18/2015

The knowledge that any organization possesses is a valuable asset to be applied in pursuit of the organization’s mission. That knowledge resides in the organization’s staff and in myriad files, manuals, databases, and other forms distributed throughout the organization. State departments of transportation (DOTs) rely on their knowledge to pursue their mission, the management of a complex system of facilities and services that supports our nation’s economy and quality of life. The DOTs face many challenges to effectively maintaining and applying their knowledge assets. For example, employees depart through retirements, downsizing, and reorganization; and physical and electronic information resources become inaccessible or underutilized because of technology change or loss of staff. Failures to take advantage of experience reduce organizational productivity. The changing character of the workforce has made old techniques for knowledge capture and transfer less effective. The changing mission of the DOT raises needs for new knowledge. Leaders at all levels, faced with urgent competing demands, cannot focus on strategic issues of knowledge management. Knowledge management (KM) comprises the set of principles, strategies, and practices used by an organization to identify, generate, collect, organize, preserve, disseminate, share, and apply critical knowledge in pursuit of the organization’s strategic mission. Effective KM makes knowledge available to the people who can use it, when they need it, and helps them understand why and how the information can be useful. KM uses a variety of practices and tools to help an organization avoid knowledge loss; promote knowledge capture, preservation, and sharing; and facilitate access to useful knowledge and its application to pursuing the organization’s mission. While some agencies have adopted some KM practices and tools, few DOTs have applied an agency-wide perspective in strategically managing their knowledge resources or kept pace with new techniques and tools developed to support agency-wide KM.
The objective of this research was to develop a guide to the fundamentals of agency-wide knowledge management for state departments of transportation (DOTs). The guide describes (a) the meaning of agency-wide KM and motivations for its application within a state DOT context; (b) typical KM strategies and processes for developing an agency-specific strategy; (c) steps in developing an agency-wide KM plan and the roles of state DOT leadership and staff in the plan development and execution; (d) performance measures and procedures for assessment of KM effectiveness; and (e) the key points underlying successful agency-wide KM. The guide will inform state DOT leadership and staff on the benefits of KM and assist them in sustainably applying KM in their agencies. The final product of this research project is a guide published as NCHRP Report 813: A Guide to Agency-Wide Knowledge Management for State Departments of Transportation.  The guide's development was informed by results of a  2014 review of leading KM practices conducted under NCHRP 20-68A U.S. Domestic Scan Program; the report of that review is available for download by clicking here

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