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St. Paul District cultivates need for knowledge management

Published Oct. 27, 2016
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Maj. Dwight Howell, St. Paul District quality and knowledge manager, presents the inaugural RED talk at the district's headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., Oct. 19. The RED talks, short for research, engineering and design, are designed to create a culture of sharing information within the organization.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Maj. Dwight Howell, St. Paul District quality and knowledge manager, presents the inaugural RED talk at the district's headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., Oct. 19. The RED talks, short for research, engineering and design, are designed to create a culture of sharing information within the organization.

Curing work frustration was the focus of the inaugural RED talk at the St. Paul District office, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Oct. 19.

The RED talks, short for research, engineering and design, are 10-15 minute discussions on a variety of topics and are the brainchild of Maj. Dwight Howell, the district’s quality and knowledge manager. He said the program is devoted to the development of knowledge management, creating a culture of sharing information and improving how the district operates. He added that it’s also important to ensure the knowledge is accessible to everyone.

The focus of the RED talks is to share knowledge on topics that are of interest to employees and foster meaningful discussions. A new topic is presented by different parts of the organization every month. There is no limits to the topics or delivery of the talks; the possibilities are endless, said Howell.

Howell said special talks will be added based on requests from employees with a focus on further promoting knowledge worth sharing. He added some of the future topics for the RED talks include effective document design, incorporating climate change impacts to inland hydrology and crafting an effective resumes.

Maj. Jason Toth, St. Paul District deputy commander, said “We can lead, or we can lag” when referencing the new program. He said that it’s a matter of deciding whether we want to influence how knowledge management is developed within the Mississippi Valley Division or wait for someone to tell us how to do it. Either way, he added, knowledge management is here to stay.

Howell said the St. Paul District plans to partner with the Fort Worth District to extend the reach of the RED talks. The Fort Worth District is currently developing the platform to share videos of the talks via the web. Howell said they hope to have that feature available by the middle of November.

“At the end of the day, we need to share our knowledge,” said Howell. “To do that, we need to focus on figuring out what we need to do first, then reach out to people to figure out how to do it.”

Recognizing that the district can be better, Howell cited the fact that too often after action reviews are completed and stored for posterity only to have the same mistakes made the next time a project is created. He said these problems can be overcome by incorporating an effective knowledge management program, and the RED talks are a vehicle to move the process forward.