!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The Caterpillar Knowledge Network

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Caterpillar Knowledge Network

A few days ago Sarah Boehle of ManageSmarter published an account of Caterpillar, Inc.'s approach to knowledge management. Both the description of the components of the network, and the tips on how to make such a network actually pay off are useful.

The five Knowledge Network components are:
  • Communities of practice whose members carry on threaded discussions of issues of interest in their particular niche of Caterpillar's business.

  • Knowledge entries that Caterpillar employees submit and that are validated prior to posting.

  • Bulletin boards on which employees, outside experts, suppliers, and Caterpillar partners can carry on discussions.

  • A template used to capture lessons learned.

  • A directory of experts whose areas of expertise are described so others within Caterpillar itself, and also in its value chain, can contact individuals with questions.
The tips that Frederick Goh, Strategic Learning Manager at Caterpillar University, highlights are:
  1. Have a qualified, self-nominated community leader overseee each community of practice. The leader ensures that discussions are robust and that best practices are publicized.

  2. Establish a sharing culture, as opposed to a culture in which individuals believe it is in their interest to hoard information. (In Boehle's brief article, there is no detail concerning how Caterpillar maintains the sharing culture that Goh says exists at the company.)

  3. Recognize expertise. At Caterpillar, both the community leaders (see item 1) and the experts in the online directory have special visibility.
Caterpillar sells its Knowledge Network software commercially. A brochure is available here (pdf).