Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Knowledge Management and Six Sigma at Raytheon

Raytheon, the high-tech defense contractor, presented at last week's joint meeting of the Boston KM Forum and the New England Chapter of KM Pro. The afternoon-long program reviewed the progress of the award-winning Raytheon Six Sigma program.

Larry Chait of KM Forum and Lynda Moulton of KM Pro co-MC'd the event at Bentley College in Waltham. They noted that their monthly meetings are increasingly well attended, as evidenced by the fifty KM practitioners who were there to hear Raytheon's story.

Highlights from the presentations:

Roberta Preve spoke about "Knowledge Management -- Hidden but Alive & Well." She explained how Raytheon captures, shares, and re-uses knowledge. Ironically, Roberta is not yet well-versed on this topic (by her own admission) because her predecessor just retired. Raytheon was refreshingly open about their work in progress, and revealing blemishes like this one to a KM-savvy audience seems like a good way to stimulate dialogue about possible solutions. On this particular topic (retirement brain-drain), a notable expert I recommend is David DeLong of the MIT Age Lab.

Keith Cromack spoke about "Transforming the Organization -- An Information Approach." One of his big themes was Less is More. Raytheon does not need more information; they need to reduce information overload. For an amazingly thought-provoking article related to this, see "Can You Have Too Many Choices?" by Christopher Caldwell in the March 3, 2004 issue of The New Yorker.

Christine Connors spoke about "Practical Approaches to Sharing Information at Raytheon." She explained how Raytheon has developed a Google-like tool to help users explore the company's enormous universe of data. Her biggest plug was for The Bentley College Design and Usability Testing Center, which provided invaluable assistance in overhauling the initially clumsy UI.

As interesting as the presentations were, I found what was not discussed even more thought-provoking. I'll write about that next time.

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