Speeding the business of learning through collaboration and km training quarterly
C A S E B O O K
Many of our grandparents were artisans, farmers
or small shop owners. They gained experience via
apprenticeship, and their ability to learn and share
knowledge was usually limited by geography
(nearby family and neighbors).
A generation later, our parents often worked in
hierarchical corporations. Their learning and job
knowledge usually came from a boss, who was also
the source for answering questions and providing
a list of daily duties.
Today’s world of work and networks is dramatically
different from previous generations, particularly
when it comes to learning. When employees
encounter a difficult issue at work, they often turn
to Google or YouTube for knowledge. Next, they
might touch base with their connections, either
inside or outside the company. Only then might
they look to their boss or their organization’s
Modern work tasks are typically complex, requiring
various sources of knowledge. What’s becoming
increasingly important is not rote memorization or
formal training solutions, but rather knowing where
to quickly find new information and expertise
through a network, judging what to trust, and then
applying it to the problem at hand.
VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER
Over the past couple of years, our customers
voiced their opinions on the state of learning and
training at BAE Systems, and some of what we
heard wasn’t pleasant:
• Lack of ways to effectively share and transfer
knowledge around the business
• Over reliance on instructor-led and costly
• Excessive mandatory training requirements
• Employees and front-line supervisors being
unaware of available development options
This caused us to rethink our learning strategy and
structure to meet critical business needs as well as
position learning for future success.
After exploring numerous options in late 2012,
we selected the Workforce Development Services
Framework (WDSF), created by Jane Hart, as
the best strategy and structure for our learning
function. We chose this model because research
showed that our employees were eager to learn
from each other in new and agile ways, which
WDSF helped capture.
For example, engineers working in one business
area wanted to connect and learn from engineers
in another part of the business, and they didn’t
want to wait for an e-learning or classroom
opportunity to make the connection. They
were also looking to define and drive their own
learning needs as opposed to pre-selected
materials and learning objectives defined by a
The WDSF has provided us structure around the
“70-20-10 model,” where 70 percent represents
learning on the job, 20 percent represents
learning through others and 10 percent represents
SPEEDING THE BUSINESS OF LEARNING THROUGH
COLLABORATION AND KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
BY JOHN HOVELL, ANDREW MURAS, ANGIE DEMPSEY & SCOTT PETRIE
BA E S Y S T E M S
ILLUSTRATING THE POWER OF NETWORKS: SHORT GROUP EXERCISE
Have everyone write down a business issue. Group members should
review individually, and add a note if they can offer ideas or solutions.
Collate and follow up with those who submitted interesting ideas. The
number and variety of ideas will often be astonishing. Now imagine this
knowledge network expanded a hundred or thousand times. Such is the
power of Yammer and other social tools in today’s world.
TRAINING INDUSTRY MAGAZINE - SPRING2014 I WWW.TRAININGINDUSTRY.COM/MAGAZINE 49
learning through formal training. Previously, most
of our organizational learning focused on the
10 percent. The time was right to increase focus
on the other 90 percent, with new attention to
social learning, collaboration, and knowledge
management processes and techniques.
BEGINNING THE TRANSFORMATION
Since we weren’t resourced to build out the entire
WDSF structure, we implemented a modified
version by merging the 70 percent and the 20
percent to form a 90 percent — or an informal
learning practice area. We kept the 10 percent and
renamed it the leadership development practice
We also merged the learning tools practice area
(see iLearn@BAESystems above) and the WDSF’s
learning consultant “intake” into the 90 percent
informal learning practice area.
In this early stage, we are finding that we can still
support the business’s formal learning needs,
while at the same time providing a greatly
improved ability to support and define informal
learning needs. The remainder of this article will
focus on our implementation of the informal side,
primarily the social learning and collaboration
element, or the traditional 20 percent of the WDSF
UNDERSTANDING BUSINESS ISSUES
To help identify our customers’ informal learning
and knowledge needs, we performed several
audits and maturity assessments to help define
key business challenges. Many of these challenges,
which are all too common in most organizations
today, spotlighted inefficient use and flow of
knowledge. Here are the top four:
• Employee turnover/loss of organizational
knowledge and expertise. Approximately
10,000 baby boomers become retirement
eligible each day and job hopping has become
the new normal for millennials, with more than
90 percent expecting to stay in a job for less
than three years. Our workforce age profiles,
similar to others in our industry, show a high
percentage of our employees who are eligible
to retire within 10 years.
• Inability to find internal experts. We were
somewhat disheartened to discover that
commercial social networking tools have more
information about our employee capabilities
than we do. This limits our ability to efficiently
solve problems, innovate and bring new ideas
• Lack of meaningful connections. A very small
percentage of our workforce participates in
communities devoted to knowledge sharing.
Equally alarming is research showing that
quality employee relationships, often through
communities, lead to higher engagement and
better business performance.
• Low knowledge and collaboration maturity.
Results of an American Productivity and
Quality Center assessment indicated that we
had random and informal knowledge sharing.
Our low knowledge maturity is not helping
our business perform better, which was far
from our goal of having aligned processes that
impact strategic goals.
Our social learning group recently implemented a project to consolidate and
upgrade the existing LMS. We implemented a number of techniques to collaborate
and drive engagement across the business; for example, we used crowd sourcing to
select our LMS brand, generating more than 3,000 suggestions.
We’ve added several new capabilities and customizations to support our informal
learning strategies, including:
• Share: Allows learners to“share”their interest in a learning activity (course, class,
e-learning, book, curriculum, and certification) with others.
• Collaboration Centers: Allows groups of users to create, manage and participate in
“community spaces”built around learning activities.
• User Interface Redesign: The homepage emphasizes informal learning with links to
communities, social sites, collaboration centers and the intranet.
iLEARN@BAESYSTEMS — LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (LMS)
THE IDEA OF
GETTING TO SUCCESS
We define success as providing social learning
and knowledge management techniques,
solutions and ideas that employees actually use,
and by showing positive impact to the business.
We’ve attempted to steer clear of what our past
experiences in knowledge management have
shown don’t work; for the corporate landscape
is littered with unused SharePoint sites, lessons
learned databases, and many other solutions
focused around technology implementations
that just end up gathering digital dust.
Our social learning and knowledge efforts have
instead focused on collaboration processes
and techniques that emphasize the human
element, solve business problems and can be
implemented in a cost-effective manner.
To date, we’ve developed a strategy around four
• Knowledge Continuity (KC). KC is a human
teaming process that builds and transfers
knowledge from individuals into the broader
organization. We’ve piloted the technique to
address knowledge loss through retirements,
turnover, job rotations and moves. KC has
shown excellent successes in 2013, often
generating cost savings and avoidance of
more than $200k per team, and will be rolled
out enterprise wide in 2014.
• Communities. Communities are groups of
people who voluntarily choose to participate
in a shared conversation around specific
topics of interest. Community participation
at BAE Systems has languished over the
past several years. Therefore, our current
efforts are centered on rebuilding and then
developing new communities that not only
tackle business issues, but also help address
employee engagement and promote overall
• Expert Location. Finding experts is critical for
developing new business, as well as solving
current customer and business problems.
Unfortunately, expert location crosses many
different organizational boundaries (e.g.,
HR, New Business, IT, etc.), making it difficult
to develop a coordinated strategy. We are
currently supporting initiatives to build
out employee profiles in our new intranet
system, plus looking at pilots for talent market
• Culture. The defense industry is not known
as being an open and knowledge sharing
environment, for “need to know” often
dominates the business. We realize the uphill
battle and have adopted a theme of “working
out loud” to help broaden understanding
of collaboration and knowledge sharing
concepts for the workplace. We’re trying
to move culture one pilot at a time (see
We launched our first enterprise-wide virtual conference in
October 2013, and wanted to provide the opportunity for all
employees to connect across business silos to create networks
that are more than social. This was not a traditional conference.
Along with 15 virtual conference sessions in dual tracks, we
invited participants to connect using Yammer and Lync.
During the virtual sessions, senior leaders and technical experts
discussed topics relevant to their business to drive collaboration.
The event helped employees discover innovative ideas, share
expertise, and improve business acumen with zero direct
program cost. We are looking to make this an annual event,
potentially with up to two conferences per year.
• 400 cross sector business connections
• 97 percent report an improvement in collaboration
• 67 percent report and improvement in innovation
• 70 percent applied what they learned to their job
BAECONNECT — ENTERPRISE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE
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THE JOURNEY AHEAD
In the best of scenarios, we would have loved the opportunity to
spend months developing our strategy, getting full executive buy-
in around the company and implementing many other standard
change management plans. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the
luxury of time. With the downturn in the defense industry, the
emphasis was, and continues to be, on getting results quickly.
Therefore, we’ve been implementing the idea of “think big, start
small, get quick wins.” We think big by understanding business
needs and how our efforts could help increase sales or lower costs.
We start small by developing pilots and generating interest, or pull,
from the business. We then focus on getting wins, publicizing them
and using the results to generate additional support.
As we get more pilots and quick wins under our belt and
demonstrate payoffs to the business, we expect by year three to
begin expanding efforts throughout the company; truly building
a culture of collaboration that not only speeds the business of
learning, but also provides measureable business impact.
John Hovell is a senior manager of social learning. Andrew Muras
is an advanced learning manager. Angie Dempsey is an advanced
learning manager. Scott Petrie is a manager of learning tools. All
authors are employees of BAE Systems. Email John, Andrew, Angie
WORKING OUT LOUD: FIVE-MINUTE PRACTICE
EXERCISE FOR GROUPS
In one or two sentences (or, 140-200 characters),
write down a re-cap of something you’ve done or
learned that day that might be of interest to others. It
could be a quick overview or have the explicit goal of
teaching others, such as “this is how I do xyz.”
Read out loud to the group and ask for quick
comments and feedback.
Congratulations! You’ve now begun narrating your
work, or working out loud.