Thursday, 8 November 2012

A sad indictment

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia ...
I recently came across the 2012 report from the Office of the Inspector General into NASA's Lessons Learned system. It appears that many of the recommendations are  similar to that from the NASA Lessons Learned GAO report in 2002, and others such as the 2003 Columbia Accident Investigation Board report. As a result, the conclusion of this latest report is pretty damning.

As I learned some years ago madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different resultsHere are a few thoughts about what NASA might do differently:


  • As well as fixing the 'supply' side and codification of information; what about really stimulating the 'demand' side of the learning loop? This barely gets a mention. KIN Associate Nick Milton has advocated this for ages
  • Things are not helped by the report conflating information management and knowledge management, when the two require quite different approaches and processes. The recommendations should use this differentiation and resources be applied appropriately.
  • There is a fascinating tension between the need for accountability / due-diligence and the informality that effective knowledge sharing often needs to foster trust. The legal ramifications of high profile and expensive disasters (Challenger, Deepwater Horizon, Buncefield) have done us no favours in this regard. The answer: Communities of Practice remain the most effective vehicles for the stewardship and accessibility of 'latent' knowledge and know-how. Large organisations such as NASA do recognise this but rarely do they see the same level of investment or monitoring as Lessons Learned Systems.
Let's hope we do not see yet another NASA 'Lessons Learned System' failure report in 2013.


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