When the NASA Administrator assigned the four Crosscutting ProcessesManage Strategically, Provide Aerospace Products and Capabilities, Generate Knowledge, and CKto NASA senior officials, each owner was empowered to choose an approach to examine the process and to choose metrics for the future measurement of process success.
CK Process Owner Spence M. Armstrong described his planned benchmarking approach in a senior management meeting in February and again on March 31, 1997, in a memo to NASA Officials-in-Charge and Directors of NASA Centers (Appendix A). The memo requested volunteers from each Installation to serve on a CK Process Team. Team members (Appendix B) were enlisted from every Center and many of the Headquarters offices. The first meeting of the team was convened at Headquarters in May 1997.
In their sampling of CK processes across NASA, the team agreed to: (1) visit each of NASA's 10 Installations to conduct interviews with employees who generate knowledge and communicate it; (2) visit other Government Agencies engaged in research and development to conduct interviews, and (3) examine communication initiatives at Headquarters. During the process, members of the NASA CK Process Team sampled the customer community, including professional associations, State and local government entities, and institutes, to assess how well the knowledge was communicated from their perspective.
The process of making the visits, by itself, heightened employee awareness to the necessity of CK planning. The Centers prepared for the visits as they would for a formal NASA Review. The team asked each host facility to identify a cross section of its activities (not necessarily the best) and supply a cross section of personnel for the team to interview in a conference room environment during a day-long visit. Ten questions were developed, which each Installation host previewed with the prospective interviewees for standard sampling purposes (Appendix C).
Each host facility presented those activities that were thought to be of interest to the whole team in a plenary session. These were usually education, public affairs, and technology transfer activities. At every session, the Agency CK Process Owner proposed the following paradigm: "If you are fortunate enough to receive tax payers' dollars to do research, development, or operations for them, then you have a responsibility to assure that the resulting products are communicated as widely and effectively as practicable." The responses by project personnel were invariably positive in acceptance of this premise.
CK teams were formed, each consisting of two to four members. The host provided projects whose members the teams interviewed, generally for about an hour. Each project leader described the project's objectives and discussed what it was doing to communicate knowledge in reference to the 10 standard questions. The CK team members took notes, which were shared with the entire team and which formed the basis for the development of a list of best practices (Appendix D; Sample Report, Appendix E).
A total of 274 projects throughout the country were included in the interview process at the 10 NASA Centers, five additional organizations in other parts of the Federal Government, and other entities listed below. The analysis of the answers to the 10 standard questions led to the findings and recommendations for formalizing the process made in this report.