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MITRE Technical Exchange Meeting. Lessons from the DIA Knowledge Lab Adrian (“Zeke”) Wolfberg Office of the Chief of Staff. 5 December 2007. The DIA Knowledge Lab – Introduction Knowledge lessons Stakeholder lessons Process lessons Program lessons Way Ahead. Agenda.

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MITRE Technical Exchange Meeting

Lessons from the

DIA Knowledge Lab

Adrian (“Zeke”) Wolfberg

Office of the Chief of Staff

5 December 2007

The DIA Knowledge Lab – Introduction

Knowledge lessons

Stakeholder lessons

Process lessons

Program lessons

Way Ahead

introduction knowledge lab standup
Knowledge Lab’s mission: Help DIA become a highly networked, knowledge-based organization – imperative from 9/11 attacks

“How do we become something we’re not?”

No model or basis for the Knowledge Lab existed in DIA

Emerged from the 2004 Strategic Planning process

Key issue: Increase collaboration and knowledge integration to improve mission performance across DIA

Realized that to become a learning organization DIA needed to:

Change behaviors in order to improve results

Reorient to “knowledge” as DIA’s primary “product”

Knowledge Lab became a way to introduce change at DIA

Linked to the Command Element, not to a line organization

Focused on behavior change at practice level using pilot projects

Networked volunteer operation with minimal staff and funding

Introduction — Knowledge Lab Standup
introduction a model to achieve the mission
Strategy:Develop capabilities to address unmet “knowledge-related” needs by asking questions that had not been asked

Knowledge Lab created a Process Model to reach its goals

“Step 1” Identify Issues/Problem/Opportunities

Discover important, unresolved, practice-level challenges

Initial focus areas/opportunities gathered from internal and Strategic Planning documents as well as Leadership and Employee Discussions including:

Analytic tradecraft

Organizational boundary spanning

Interpersonal communication


Impact of culture

Knowledge integration

Introduction – A Model to Achieve the Mission









for DIA




Introduction – Knowledge Lab Process Model(continued)

  • “Step 2” Search the commercial, academic, and government sectors for techniques that have been successfully used against similar challenges
    • Leveraged the knowledge management community for pointers
  • “Step 3” Evaluate and adapt a technique for application in the DIA culture
    • Find internal clients who want to use their people to test the technique
  • “Step 4” Iterate the technique and, where successful, institionalize it
    • Find the right process owner to transition
knowledge lessons
Crossing Boundaries (18 completed to date)

Purpose: To allow employees the opportunity to solve complicated agency-level problems by integrating knowledge across boundaries

Lessons: Employees feel they are making contributions not otherwise able, and perceptions of leadership have improved.

Organizations can take advantage of the knowledge all employees have to identify and solve complex organizational issues

Critical Discourse (15 completed to date)

Purpose: To improve the effect of oral communication on mission

Lessons: Employees and managers have challenges listening to others, and they have challenges advocating and clarifying their position.

Organizations should realize that the tactical small conversations that occur everyday have major impacts and should take intervening steps to improve communication

Knowledge Lessons
knowledge lessons1
Full Spectrum Analysis (4 completed to date)

Purpose: To unleash individuals and groups from existing frameworks and procedures to think and act anew to solve or reframe problems

Lessons: As long as the group is protected from the norms of business processes, they will create new results and have consistently exceeded the expectations of leadership.

Organizations faced with new external environments can benefit from creating and using employees who think and act differently

Full Spectrum Leader (1 completed to date)

Purpose: To orient the 1st or 2nd line manager to the value of creative problem solving (Full Spectrum Analysis)

Lessons: The mid-level manager can benefit from this perspective in their relations with employees but also with their seniors

Organizations should spend a significant amount of resources to make the mid-level manager a creative and collaborative part of the job.

Knowledge Lessons
knowledge lessons2
Fast Learning (6 completed to date)

Purpose: To empower teams or organizations to dynamically make necessary changes to be more effective

Lessons: Assumptions become transparent allowing groups to assess what is working and what is not working while the work is happening; clear understandings allow for more accurate solutions.

Organizations should empower employees to dynamically assess what is working and what is not, and make changes accordingly

Smart Mentoring (1 completed to date)

Purpose: To improve knowledge sharing across networks

Lessons: By pairing individuals who excel at collaborating across boundaries with individuals who do not – as long as they share basic values – the latter individuals do become more collaborative

Organizations should leverage this pairing approach to quicken a collaborative environment

Knowledge Lessons
knowledge lessons3
Collaboration and Technology (2 completed to date)

Purpose: To understand why some employees use collaborative technologies and why others do not

Lessons: Conventional wisdom says age determines technology use but our analysis showed it is values, specifically how we value the role we have with our customers.

Organizations can find value in using an ethnographic approach to understanding complex relationships.

Voice of the Customer (2 completed to date)

Purpose: To get a better understanding how customers/partners see us

Lessons: Tremendous insights were achieved not previously understood: customers want products faster, and partners want to share in the knowledge creation process, not just receive final products

Organizations need to spend the resources to understand what customers and partners think about you, not just about your products.

Knowledge Lessons
knowledge lessons4
Social Network Analysis (4 completed to date)

Purpose: To understand the details of how work actually gets done

Lessons: The more diverse the person’s social network, the higher the performer.

Organizations should encourage the development of network diversity

Collaboration for Success (1 completed to date)

Purpose: To understand the challenges in working together

Lessons: The nature of one’s work defines their culture as unique and when different cultures co-mingle they must understand the other person before mutual work can become effective

Organizations should sensitize employees that cultural differences exist within their organization and have nothing to do personal identities but with structure instead

Knowledge Lessons
stakeholder lessons
Stakeholder Lessons



























Other IC




Other IC






1st Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

Engagement Strategy

process lessons
Senior-level champions key to success

Tremendously important during the first year “value-proving” stage

Continue to be important nowto “sustain and grow”

Minimal resource footprint important for initial acceptance

In “zero-sum game” environment, Knowledge Lab minimized resource competition

To accomplish its mission within resource constraints, Knowledge Lab relies significantly on its Agency-wide volunteer network

Prove value by focusing on real-world working-level problems

In crises, novel, networked approaches outside the process norm succeed; however, using such approaches in non-crisis situations was a novel experience

To ensure success working in this novel way required great attention to detail

Tackle important DIA-wide issues by identifying and successfully executing techniques and approaches to address them

Stakeholders acknowledge Lab’s value when their problem is resolved

These stakeholders will advocate Knowledge Lab’s contributions to their peers

Process Lessons
process lessons1
Build a Knowledge Lab “toolbox of capabilities”

Concentrate on only one new problem at a time

Managing all the variables involved with behavior change is too hard

Document value-added results and lessons

As techniques are proven, consider or combine capabilities from the entire toolbox that can provide maximum value against the issue

Carefully and deliberately craft all communications

For example, the names of Pilot projects

“Socialization story” to engage stakeholders and participants

Precisely articulate Knowledge Lab approaches emphasizing unique and distinctive characteristics differentiating Lab events from established agency offerings

Strategic communications strategy to publicize opportunities and successes

Use words that are familiar to culture, yet inspire new ideas and directions

Process Lessons
process lessons2
Constantly “listen” for issues and/or opportunities

Often people are not aware they are describing a work-related challenge

Careful listening and inquiry can identify both new Knowledge Lab challenges or potential pilot project venues

“Walk the Talk”

The Knowledge Lab member behavior should reflect Lab’s mission—to help DIA become a learning organization

The Knowledge Lab must act like a learning organization so others can emulate

Change is continuously ongoing; Knowledge Lab must respond and adapt

The Knowledge Lab is a “long-term” strategy

Recognize and accept that “baby steps” are a win

Cultural change takes years or decades to accomplish

Process Lessons









for DIA




Program Perspectives

Collect Better/

Best Practices

Identify Problems/





Facilitate Broad




for DIA

Simplistic Model

of the Knowledge Lab

Realistic Model

of the Knowledge Lab

program lessons

Government funding procedure requires a two year lead time to get “guaranteed” funding as part of organization’s “base” level

If you don’t have base funding, you compete for “unfunded requirements” (UFR) funds which makes it hard to realistically plan

The timing of UFR funds approval and distribution always changes, and sometimes they are split in two disbursements which makes the contract process a challenge

The Knowledge Lab process model relies upon identifying and leveraging techniques in industry to solve problems; creative ways of leveraging the contracting process are essential.

We have established two mechanisms where primes can sub-contract to others we need.

Program Lessons
program lessons1

Insuring consistent UFR approvals is one of the key roles for leadership

Another role is to increase the Base funding limit so the Knowledge Lab is less dependent on UFR funding

Leadership is often the first place where value is perceived of the Knowledge Lab contribution so great attention is focused on their support

Our projects mostly target the practice level with the goal of solving their problems and thereby spread the word up to their leadership

The last step of the Knowledge Lab process model (“institutionalization”) is the most difficult and leadership support in bridging that gap is important (more in “way ahead”)


Agency value and acceptance has grown through identification of early adopters

External engagement and feedback to DIA’s leadership has been a key ingredient

Internal engagement has been linked to identifying problems people want solved

Program Lessons
way ahead
Becoming part of the institution

We have begun to address the challenge of institutionalizing successful pilot projects

When not transitioned, the Knowledge Lab continues to own the projects and becomes more operational and less exploratory

What is happening is a shift in thinking to what needs to be first institutionalized: the Knowledge Lab itself first needs to be more integrated into the organization, then pilot projects will follow

Viewed as “improving performance,” the agency is in the process of leveraging allcapabilities focused on improving performance creating a broader “toolkit”

This shift should raise the importance and role of organizational effectiveness and the role that the DIA Knowledge Lab will play

Way Ahead