At Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), knowledge management (KM) is built on an architecture of linked practices. Together these practices make up an integrated approach to organizational learning, with a focus on improving project management. One of the pillars of the Goddard KM architecture is the casestudy method, a powerful, proven learning tool. Case studies are being used at GSFC, and increasingly at other NASA centers, in forums ranging from workshops and conferences to training programs and interactive media.
This guide to NASA case writing first examines some principles of the case-study method. It then outlines the objectives of case-based learning at GSFC/NASA. The second section describes the step-by-step methodology that the GSFC Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer (OCKO) uses to develop,
publish, and implement cases. It includes two appendices: a table describing the types of case studies developed at Goddard (Appendix 1), and an outline and task list for the case-creation process
The rationale for the case method is that organizational learning is most effective when knowledge is shared in usable ways among organization members, and that knowledge is most usable when it is contextual—when it relates to one’s own experience. Inert information databases, as in a lessons-learned system, may be part of a knowledge-management process, but by themselves, they are insufficient. To create dynamic organizational learning, the context of the stories must be brought into the KM system.
The case study is the main vehicle to do this. Decision-oriented case studies—the type developed and used at GSFC—are structured and written from the viewpoint of a key player, the protagonist. They are framed around information available to the protagonist at the time of the event. The case typically builds to a point where the decision-maker is confronted with open-ended choices. The reader is left to analyze the information and scenarios and then make critical decisions based on contextual analysis.
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