Central to a successful Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) effort is the willingness to openly share and exchange lessons learned and best practices with other groups having similar interests. Such selfless "openness" enriches the experience and knowledge base for both givers and receivers of information. The key to perpetuating this activity is to engage a wide audience and to encourage active participation by all.
In that regard, the Office of Safety and Health (EH-5) is embarking on a effort to utilize the techniques of knowledge management to improve on the ways it captures, communicates and stores knowledge. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that by doing so in an organized and effective manner, the efficiency and usefulness of organization is greatly improved--both internally and externally to its customers.
So what is knowledge management and what is EH planning to do? There are several definitions of knowledge management in circulation. The one noted by Turban in Expert Systems and Applied Artificial Intelligence, however, seems to capture its essence. Knowledge management is information that has been organized and analyzed to make it understandable and applicable to problem solving or decision making. As stated by Patrick Brown in How to Place a Value on Information, "…it is the actual act of inference about specific information that elevates it to a level of understanding that we call knowledge".
One key vehicle that EH will be using to encourage and promote active dialogue among the Department's Voluntary Protection Program participants and other interested parties is through the establishment of a Community of Practice for DOE-VPP. Collaboration, innovation, and knowledge sharing are main attributes of Communities of Practice. Communities of Practice represent a group of individuals who are connected together by a common language (in this case that of VPP) and a common set of goals (e.g., achieving or maintaining VPP certification). EH is evaluating various software collaboration tools for establishing a virtual environment wherein these exchanges can take place efficiently and in an organized fashion. As soon as the tools are in place, EH will formally announce the initiation of the DOE-VPP Community of Practice along with the names of discussion group moderators to assist you in getting started. Your participation is vital since it will only work if we establish active dialogue in an open and trusting environment.
It is the ultimate goal to have EH-5 moderators seek to "capture" or mine useful nuggets of information for archiving and making it availabe to all users for easy search and reference at any time. This activity will form the basis for instituting a true knowledge management project. It represents a natural next-step transition to harvest useful knowledge from the various information exchanges occurring.
You are invited to stay tuned for this exciting new development. Once underway, the DOE-VPP Community of Practice will give all of us a chance to assist others with what we know and we may even learn something ourselves.