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Lessons learned from two decades of knowledge management


Knowledge management is rooted in the work of management thought leaders such as Peter Drucker and W.E. Deming. In 1968, Drucker identified knowledge as the central capital of the economy. By 1990, knowledge management as a practice began to emerge simultaneously with the technology boom. Since then, knowledge management has continued to evolve in support of business practices and the need to address complex, multidisciplinary, and multi-organization knowledge flows.

The transportation sector began to take note in the 1990s. In 1998, the Federal Highway Administration initiated a Knowledge Sharing Initiative to examine the use of communities of practice. State departments of transportation began to explore knowledge management in early 2000s such as a study of knowledge management technologies by Kansas DOT and the creation of a Knowledge Management Division at Virginia DOT. Since then, several state DOTs and USDOT Administrations have implemented knowledge management activities including AK, CA GA, KS, KY, MD, ME, MN, PA, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, FAA, FHWA, FTA, and Volpe. Research projects on knowledge management have been conducted by ACRP, TCRP, and NCHRP and several journal articles and papers have been written addressing knowledge management in various disciplines.

Despite the number of activities and substantial body of information on the use of knowledge management in transportation, awareness of the practice remains limited. This research project proposes to follow up with the organizations that conducted initiatives and studies to learn about the value of the practices on their work and document lessons learned. This information will help state DOT’s develop actionable strategies for deploying knowledge management.

Literature Search Summary

A literature search of knowledge management in the transportation sector identified over 400 publications including research reports, journal articles, and news articles. Fifteen state DOTs 15 state DOTs were represented in the literature. Papers also addressed knowledge management in support of pavement management, transit, airports, marine transportation, railroads, and traffic operations. There is a wealth of information to use as a foundation for this study.


This study seeks to extract lessons learned for the early knowledge management activities conducted in the transportation sector. It is anticipated that this project will:

  1. Conduct a literature review to identify types of work conducted, the organizations that implemented them, and subject/discipline in which knowledge management was implemented.

  2. Follow up with the organizations involved to learn whether the knowledge management practice has persisted and gather lessons learned from implementation.

  3. Review the feedback, summarize factors that contributed to the success or demise of the practice, extract lessons learned, and prepare case studies that illustrate common themes derived from the review.

  4. Prepare a report and outreach materials.


State DOTs are losing institutional knowledge due to retirements and employee churning. Many state agencies are trying to quickly develop knowledge management practices but have limited resources for the effort. Reading the large body of information requires more time that staffing levels permit. This project will provide state DOTs an efficient way to use the work that has been done and to develop actionable strategies with a higher probability of success.


The products of this work will be useful for all disciplines within the transportation sector. It is anticipated that the AASHTO Committee on Knowledge Management, the TRB Standing Committee on Information and Knowledge Management, state DOT leads will help champion the products and within their organization and with other committees and disciplines. In addition, it is expected that the technical disciplines represented in the literature will be interested in the findings and the AASHTO Committee on Knowledge Management will help facilitate this outreach.


We believe that our attitude to lessons learned should be lesson-learning—these are KM experiences distilled from past activities and practices among DOTs that should be actively and continuously taken into account in future KM learning actions, behaviors, and practices. A lot has happened in KM development in the transportation sector. This research will explore actual gaps and opportunities. Therefore, we can measure individual agency and collective progress, don’t reinvent the wheel, and identify some fire-cracking elements that will exponentially increase the adoption and maturity of KM in the transportation sector. Many DOT and practitioners lack the sophistication, resources, time, and analysis of countless KM literature and history. This project will provide end-users with synthesis and an efficient way to use the work that has been done to develop actionable KM strategies with a higher probability of success.

Sponsoring Committee:AJE45, Information and Knowledge Management
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Leni Oman, Washington State DOT Dr. Denise Bedford, Georgetown University Matt Miller, TTI
Date Posted:03/18/2022
Date Modified:03/25/2022
Index Terms:Knowledge management, Lessons learned, History,
Administration and Management
Data and Information Technology
Education and Training

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