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KM and Aviation or Aerospace

date: 2014-03-28 13:41:31 -0400


This semester I am teaching a knowledge management (KM) course. I will be posting entries throughout the semester that describe, critique, summarize, outline, etc. KM articles that my students are not reading. The purpose here is to leverage the amount of material I can expose them to.

Article under discussion:

This post is about:

Harvey, D. J., & Holdsworth, R. (2005). Knowledge management in the aerospace industry. Proceedings of the 2005 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, 237-243. doi:

The article was picked after searching for the term knowledge management in CiteULike 1) and browsing the results.

Notes and discussion:

The article begins by stressing not only the size of the aerospace industry, which includes both civilian and military aspects, but also the diversity of its workforce and the diversity of the companies that support the industry. Furthermore, the safety and the economics of the industry are both significant to lives and sensitive to minor fluctuations. Managing knowledge in such a context is not just an organizational problem, it is an industry-wide problem.

Nice passage on the expectation of KM:

In essence, like any other industry, the aerospace industry expects that any knowledge management initiatives will produce cheaper products more quickly without compromising product or personnel safety while maintaining an acceptable level of business risk (p. 238).

Issues that are barriers to effective knowledge management systems and practices:

  1. compliance with regulations
  2. safety concerns
  3. merging “process rigor” (p. 238) with KM in order to create flexibility
  4. insuring information is not lost (keeping tacit knowledge)
  5. issues of reporting errors, disclosure, and trust in the industry; “information context” (p. 238).

Good quote:

It is about information context and optimisation of information to maximize knowledge where and when it is required. Providing people (e.g., the flying public) with information that they do not need, cannot understand, or may misinterpret is equally as bad as not providing information that they do need; it does not increase “real” knowledge (pp. 238-239).
  1. issues with competency and with authority; the problem of “equating information with knowledge” (p. 239)

One key need here, the authors argue, is that knowledge management should help make regulation more effective. The issue here is with decision making, characteristics and contexts of information, access to the right information and excluding the irrelevant, increase flexibility, foster knowledge sharing, wisdom, and storage.

Part of the problem:

For large aerospace companies, the problem is not so much the technologies, but the logistics and costs involved in implementation of the technologies and knowledge management processes (p. 240).

The authors discuss issues related to intellectual property (with respect to commercial industry) and to classified information (with respect to government and military agencies). A number of other complex issues are discussed–issues that highlight the unique knowledge management challenges that face the aerospace industry.

Under the section of People Issues, a good quote about communication:

Particularly in defence aerospace, there are large costs involved in just making collaboration and communication possible (p. 241).

The above leads to a question that can be asked of other areas in general: what's the cost of collaboration? what's the cost of not collaborating?

The authors raise a point about issues of organizational structure, such that payment and terms of employment are generally linked not to one's level of knowledge or skill but to one's level of “accountability and responsibility” (p. 241).

There are cultural implications in the above hierarchy, the authors essentially stress. Management rank themselves by, for example, their budgets and staff size. Scientists and engineers, however, rank themselves by what they know. This would create organizational tensions.

Overall, a nice article that provides additional context about KM issues.

  • categories:
    • academic libraries
    • knowledge management
    • LIS658
blog/knowledge-management-and-aviation-or-aerospace.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/07 11:36 by seanburns