Success Stories: BAE Systems

Success Stories: BAE Systems

This is a case study of the BAE systems company and how they shifted their culture to promote knowledge sharing across their global offices and business units. This is a great example of how companies can re-evaluate their culture and the potential actions they can take to make it happen.


BAE Systems is a British aerospace company with civilian and military contracts. They have offices around the world including USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Australia. During the 1990s BAE management noticed a shift in the contracting market and decided to adapt their company culture to focus on increasing knowledge sharing across their worldwide company to remain competitive in the future. The management was particularly concerned that vast areas of their company operate independently for civilian, military and geographical based contracts.

What did they do?

BAE initially collected over 130 business unit managers into a forum they called Benchmark BAE. Here they asked the unit managers to brainstorm the goals and objectives that would allow BAE to become a more collaborative organisation. Eventually the group decided on 5 objectives which include: -

  • People represent BAE’s greatest strength.
  • Customers are the number one priority.
  • The future of the company lies in partnerships.
  • Innovation and technology provide a competitive edge.
  • Performance must be measured for continued success.

This core list of objectives was then given out to the majority of the 1500 line managers to discuss and improve upon. With the additions of the line managers, 5 dedicated teams were formed with each to enact one of the objectives listed. The original list of objects, now with each being driven by a team of its own, is now called the ‘Value Plan’.

The second proposal was an evaluation tool for business units and line managers. The ‘BEST’ plan uses an online evaluation tool focused on the 5 aspects of the ‘Value Plan’. Each of the 1500 line managers were also given access to training programs to boast their understanding of how the wider company operates, efficient managerial techniques and leadership skills. The goal was for to support the line managers to achieve the ‘BEST’ plan.

The final aspect of the strategy was the creation of an internal university called the Virtual University (VU). Here the VU combines outside academics and industry leaders to discuss the latest knowledge management research with the goal of implemented best practices throughout the company. The VU is open for any employee and at the end of its first year, a regular session had over 140 in person participants and over 1400 online contributors. The VU also won the US Corporate Xchange Excellence award with the support of the financial times for its innovative approach to continuous learning.

What they found?

This knowledge sharing initiative found some interesting key points:-

  • Over 80 percent of their employees spend over 30 minutes a day searching for information.
  • Over 60 percent spent over an hour duplicating the work of other employees each day.
  • Evidence of significant savings through the program.

“We discovered engineers working, in different parts of the country - on the same wing construction issue - but in very different areas, a military aircraft and an airbus. One group took the step to establish best practice, which was transferred to another plan in another geographical location with multi-million pound savings.”


  • BAE, a civilian and military aerospace contractor, re-evaluated their knowledge sharing culture.
  • Gathered key business managers to form a set of company wide objectives and values.
  • Created a team for each goal to promote it throughout the company.
  • Provided inclusive training to line managers to help them understand their position in the company and to promote cooperation.
  • Created an award-winning internal university to push knowledge management techniques and best practices.


More information on this case study can be found in Carl Frappaolo's book 'Knowledge Management'.

Great book, a review will be published soon!