Browning seeks knowledge revolution

"Culture change involves changing the dynamics of how we work, rewarding risk and innovation rather than the status quo." -- Miriam Browning, principal director for enterprise information at the Army

Miriam Browning doesn't see herself as just a manager, but rather as a revolutionary guard.

As the Army's principal director for enterprise integration, she oversees the effort to transform a service branch that has been reluctant to make cultural changes.

'Culture change involves changing the dynamics of how we work,' Browning said, adding that this means 'rewarding risk and innovation rather than the status quo, encouraging people to share rather than hoard information, and thinking horizontally rather than in stovepipes.'

It's a task that's easier said than done, a slow and sometimes painful process, Browning conceded. She said the obstacles to the Army's efforts to change the way it operates result from a combination of Industrial Age processes and Internet Age technology.

'The Army's Industrial Age processes include personnel, acquisition, logistics and budgeting. Each of these systems is mired by cumbersome procedures and long lead times,' Browning said. 'The Internet Age demands decisions and actions now. All of us are trying to redesign our processes so that they are speedier and less bureaucratic.'

Browning said she thinks the Army is on the right track. After three decades as a civilian employee, Browning will retire from the Army next month. She has spent much of her career managing information and knowledge operations for the service.

Browning said her years as a manager have shown her that the federal government needs to overhaul how it treats its employees, specifically in pay levels and work schedules, or federal agencies will continue to have problems replacing IT workers who leave because of retirement or attrition.

During her one-year tenure as principal director for enterprise integration, she has overseen the establishment of an IT career program for civilians.

'I do believe that the federal government, to attract the best and brightest for the future, needs major reform in the area of human capital,' Browning said.

She helped establish the Army Knowledge Management initiative, which promotes a network-centric, knowledge-based force.

The concept includes using advanced IT on the battlefield, incorporating a knowledge-based system for battlefield and business operations, and integrating Army systems with those of the Defense Department.

The Army started work on its knowledge management initiatives two years ago when Browning and other Army officials visited companies to study their best business practices.

On those visits, the Army officials gained insights into how companies conducted business on the Web and how they managed their computer and communications infrastructures, she said.

'We presented our findings to Army senior leadership who gave us the go-ahead to change how we do the command, control, communications, computers, IT business in the Army,' Browning said.

Efficiency sought

Knowledge management will help the service function more efficiently by cutting the numbers of computers, networks and systems it operates, and improving security, configuration management and deployment of more knowledge online, Browning said.

The AKO enterprise portal lets soldiers conduct a variety of online operations, such as sending e-mail, receiving customized reports, reviewing personnel and medical files, and filing travel claims.

During her retirement, Browning said, she plans to spend time with family and friends and to pursue work in the private sector.

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