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Going, Going, Gone - Knowledge Capture at DC WASA

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The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), like many utilities, had updated its strategic plan in 2005 to include the development and implementation of succession plans for key positions. Succession planning is integral to maintaining its high levels of service. However, some of its key employees would not necessarily be around to participate in a traditional succession planning process. After attending a seminar sponsored by the Virginia Water Environment Association's Utility Management Committee on the Succession Planning for a Vital Workforce in the Information Age study that the Awwa Research Foundation and the Water Environment Federation jointly funded, WASA found the tool it needed to address its short-term needs – Knowledge Capture.

Utility managers have been exposed to many management theories for improving their organizations. Some of those ideas are more easily implemented than others. Knowledge management is one of those concepts that are sound, but whose implementation in the water and wastewater industry is still a work in progress on a large-scale basis. In 2005, the average age of WASA employees was 46 years old, with an average length of service with of 14 years. During the preceding decade, WASA had undergone significant changes with respect to leadership, work rules, processes and, as expected, experienced an exodus of employees with technical and tacit knowledge of key processes. During the preceding five years, the average age at retirement had been declining. The average at retirement had dropped to 56 years of age. It is increasingly more time consuming for utilities to recruit and hire replacements for vacant positions and the best pool of potential candidates often work underneath key employees.

Although WASA was familiar with the manner in which the Frederick County Sanitation Authority's (FCSA) knowledge capture process was conducted, it had adapted the knowledge capture methodology to fit its needs, rather than go through the process in the exact same way that FCSA had conducted it. As the first step in developing its succession planning process, WASA initiated a Replacement Planning Program that used knowledge capture as its primary tool for:

Detailed review of select organizational units

Analyze key processes to identify tacit operational knowledge

Identify competencies required to successfully execute high risk processes

Provide recommendations to improve processes that are consistent with best practices

Assist in identifying internal candidates who could potentially fill vacancies

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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