Tools for the Zombie Apocalypse: Avoiding the Brain Drain in Transportation Organizations


Information is coming in and knowledge is going out more rapidly than anticipated. Not only are we losing knowledge from long-time employees, but consultants and contractors have an equal amount of knowledge that could escape at any moment. On July 13th and August 8th, the TRB Task Force on Knowledge Management presented the two part webinar “Tools for the Zombie Apocalypse: Avoiding the Brain Drain in Transportation Organizations”. This webinar sought to answer two questions:

  • How can transportation agencies make sure that essential knowledge is retained?

  • How can they make sure that employees have access to the right information at the right time to be effective and contribute to the success of the organization?

The first session focused on recent guidance and current practices that transportation agencies can apply to tackle these challenges.   Below you can view a recording of the webinar and download copies of the presentations.

Part I

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Presiding: Becky Burk, Maryland State Highway Administration

Leaning Forward: Knowledge and Information Management for a Nimble Organization

– Leni Oman, Washington State Depart. of Transportation

This presentation highlights WSDOT’s approach to understanding business needs, establishing a foundation for execution, and strengthening the learning culture. 

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) demonstration program to help support deployment of Practical Solutions.  The project, titled Deploying Practical Solutions Using Lean Techniques and Knowledge Management was developed to understand the overall business process and the knowledge and information flow through the process.  This presentation highlights WSDOT’s approach to understanding business needs, establishing a foundation for execution, and strengthening the learning culture.

Leni Oman has been employed at the Washington State Department of Transportation for more than 23 years. She has been the Knowledge Strategist at WSDOT since 2014. She is a member of AASHTO’s new Committee on Knowledge Management and former Chair of the TRB Task Force on Knowledge Management. She is a member of the panel for the National Cooperative Highway Research Project titled A Guide to Ensure Access to the Publications and Data of Federally Funded Research (NCHRP 20-110).

Capturing and Learning Essential Consultant-Developed Knowledge within Departments of Transportation

– Frances Harrison, Spy Pond Partners, LLC

This presentation highlights a recent NCHRP study that developed guidance on assessing risks and establishing knowledge capture procedures when using consultants.

DOTs increasingly are using external consultants and contractors to supplement their employee workforce.  This presentation highlights a recent NCHRP study that developed guidance for transportation agencies on (1) assessing risks associated with potential knowledge loss when consultants and contractors complete their engagement – and (2) develop strategies for capturing and learning essential knowledge.  The research included case studies of notable practices.

Frances Harrison is a co-founder of Spy Pond Partners, a Boston-based transportation consulting firm.  She has more than 35 years of experience in transportation consulting for state DOTs and other transportation agencies and has served as PI for several NCHRP projects.  She currently specializes in knowledge, information and data management but has a diverse background in transportation planning, asset and performance management.  Frances currently serves as the chair of the TRB Task Force on Knowledge Management, and is also the Research Coordinator for the TRB Data Section.

Part II

Presiding: Becky Burk, Maryland State Highway Administration

Anticipatory Knowledge – Donna Cuomo, MITRE Corporation

Based on her experience as Associate Director of Knowledge, Information and Collaboration Solutions for The MITRE Corporation, Ms. Cuomo will share MITRE’s approach to anticipating the knowledge and process needs of employees – and delivering the right information at the right time via notifications and tailored guidance.

Dr. Donna Cuomo is the Associate Director of the Knowledge, Information and Collaboration Technology Division, within MITRE’s Center for Information and Technology, where she is responsible for strategy development and the enterprise-wide advancement of MITRE’s collaboration, knowledge management, work program management, intranet, reporting & analytics, and partner-facing environments. Currently, Donna is implementing MITRE’s Anticipatory Knowledge Delivery strategy.  She holds a PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering, with a concentration in human factors engineering/user-interface design.

Guidance for Development and Management of Sustainable Information PortalsBenjamin Pecheux, Applied Engineering Management Corporation

This presentation summarizes the results of a recent NCHRP study that created a guide for development and management of effective DOT enterprise information portals (EIPs). The guide is intended to help agency business-management personnel to understand the issues to be addressed in making information and data about the state’s transportation system and agency operations available to information users and the responsibilities and costs associated with portal development and maintenance. The guide will also help agency information technology managers to develop strategies for evolving existing EIPs and creating new ones to effectively and sustainably deliver information of value to users.

Ben Pecheux, Director of Information Research at Applied Engineering Management Corporation, has more than 15 years of experience in auditing, architecting, and prototyping data collection, data mining, text mining, business intelligence and data visualization systems. Mr. Pecheux worked on high-visibility projects for several clients including the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Homeland Security, the Government Services Administration, the US Department of Transportation, and the US Department of Education. He serves as senior data scientist for the Institute of Educational Science / Department of Education for the maintenance and enhancement of Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), the world’s largest library of digital education literature.

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