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Article – A Knowledge Management Crisis for Capability Development by David Walker

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This opinion article, by David Walker, a serving Army Officer who is posted to Land Capability Division, describes how recent information management and organisational reforms within Defence’s capability development sector have inadvertently increased the likelihood of project failure and workforce fatigue. To assist the reader, David provides the concepts through which his argument will be presented, as well as the ‘journey’ of information management in Defence projects in recent times.

After framing his argument, David offers a solution based on automation enabled by standardisation of methodology, data structures, and tooling.

While this article is targeted for those posted to work on Defence projects, it is an interesting and thought- provoking read. David’s thoughts and suggestions may be relevant to information management in other areas as well as within the capability management arena.

 

3 thoughts on “Article – A Knowledge Management Crisis for Capability Development by David Walker

  1. David,
    Thanks for taking the time to writing an insightful and open article with some valuable self-reflection for Defence.
    After nearly 10 years of applying “MBSE” to numerous projects I’ve seen many of the benefits you raise realised in projects. To me, and as your articulate, the benefits come from structuring the currently unstructured information. As our projects become increasingly complex and integrated, the volume of unstructured information will only increase. A model, with its underlying structure (captured in a schema) is a way to address this. This also enforces a greater level of engineering rigor in the development of the information repository. For example, viewing the model it is immediately obvious where gap exist in the information. This is not easily achievable, or even possible, in the unstructured information found in documents and spreadsheets. I believe we need to make the shift to “MBSE” sooner rather than later.
    I read your statement that “…well-designed database could at least double productivity” and initially thought this might be overly optimistic. I then considered the downstream savings and not just the cost of producing the information. For example, your conclusions that a model would reduce the interpretation effort should be included in the calculation. Whilst I still think the assertion is somewhat optimistic, its more true than I first thought.
    Yes, its important to focus on data structures and associated methodology first. Next comes the ability to analyse the model, then consideration of graphical languages and finally choose the tool that best matches these needs. Good Systems Engineering; solution follows needs.
    You are correct about the “MBSE” naming. I guess for the engineers at the time it was very descriptive and differentiated their approach from the traditional (document-centric) approach. To me, and as you indicate, it should be just called (best practice) Systems Engineering.
    What else can “MBSE” provide? You might want to check my INCOSE IS Keynote:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfAuIo_GWTo
    You may also be interested in the early work in this field:
    https://www.shoalgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Robinson-et-al-2010-Demonstrating-Model-Based-Systems-Engineering-for-Specifying-Complex-Capability-SETE-2010.pdf
    Thanks again.

  2. Hi Kevin, thanks for the feedback. I watched your INCOSE presentation and can see we are on the same wavelength. I very much like how you start and finish with the need to embrace uncertainty and complexity. I’m not sure Defence has a grasp on that concept. I think it requires a fundamental shift in thinking. A shift that is substantially obstructed by cultural norms and processes that are extremely difficult to reform.

  3. David, I have scanned your work and enjoyed it. I will read it in some detail in the near future. My initial response includes agreeing with the thrust of your work and sharing some things that worked in the past. I had some positive experiences in CDG 2008-2010 both with MBSE and the Whole of System Analytical Framework (WSAF) as practiced by Aerospace Concepts as well as some good output from the DST Joint Decision Support Centre (JDSC) at RAAF Fairbairn. As a 2011 graduate of the Exec Masters in Complex Project Management I would postulate that the reason that those involved in government procurement do not comfortably embrace uncertainty is because the risk appetite is so low. Paradoxically, this creates an even higher level of risk!. ‘Making Essential Choices with Scant Information:Front End Decision Making in Major Projects’, ed K. Samset makes very good reading!

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