As readers of this blog and the Knoco website will know, lessons should only be considered ‘learned’ when we have either changed something as a result of an identified lesson or when we have deliberately decided not to do so.
Organisations that seek to change things through the lessons management process have many different ‘levers’ on which to pull, in order to improve performance, such as:
- Revising the priorities by which resources are allocated on future projects;
- Creating new roles or updating the job specs for existing ones;
- Modifying processes and the procedures used to ensure such processes are being followed;
- Introducing or amending staff training courses.
These last two are very common examples of the kind of recommendations made in lessons as they can have a relatively high impact quite quickly, whereas budgets and recruitment issues often take a while to resolve. Consequently, it makes sense for organisational learning or KM teams to be co-located (or, at the very least, closely aligned) with those responsible for the development and delivery of policy and training.
Using the British Defence community as a model, this paper will examine the relationship between knowledge newly acquired through lessons and the policy and training mechanisms that can help implement and embed such knowledge.
Over the past 15 years or so, each of the UK’s armed services has acquired its own ‘warfare centre’, responsible for the development of concepts, doctrine and training policy and delivery thereof, examples of which include:However, with this approach as with many others, the UK has lagged behind the US. In a far-sighted move and, recognising the potential benefits of aligning development, delivery and high-level command, the US Army developed the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in 1973, with the British Army’s version (Force Development and Training (FDT) – below which the LWC sits) being formed in 2009.
Having spent 3 years as a lessons analyst within the Land Warfare Centre (LWC), I shall use this as the model for discussion. The LWC contains two primary organisations, namely:
The Directorate of Land Warfare (DLW) - responsible for the development and delivery of conceptual support to both deployed units and the ‘Army of the future’ – contains a number of teams, including:
- Counter-Insurgency Centre (COIN)
- Command and Control Development Centre (C2DC)
- Lessons Exploitation Centre (LXC)
- Scientific Advisory team (SCIAD)
- Warfare Development (WARDEV) - including Doctrine, Research, Simulation and Influence
The Collective Training Group (CTG) – responsible for the development and delivery of collective training to the Army, also includes:
- British Army Training teams (i.e. Canada, Kenya, and Borneo etc.)
- Land Warfare School (LWS)
- Operations Training & Advisory Group (OPTAG)
The Lessons Exploitation Centre receives information feeds from operations and training (including weekly reports, post-incident reports and, as part of Mission Exploitation, Post-Operational Reports and Post-Operational Interviews) and identifies lessons from the fused material which can either support those deployed on operations or inform force development (i.e. how the Army is organised) and training (i.e. how it prepares for operations). Indeed, the lessons from operations and training are captured and managed under a single, unified process which helps achieve consistency.Of the many lessons identified from the current operation in Afghanistan, it is worth noting that there are far more containing recommendations for training than any other functional area, reflecting the earlier point - that a relatively high impact can be achieved from changes in this area. As the Army reduces its operational commitments this year and the amount of training increases to meet the challenges of contingency planning, we can expect this number of lessons both ‘from training’ and ‘for training’ to increase further.
One final observation relating to training lessons – whilst those charged with their management had many more than other departments (e.g. equipment, personnel etc.), the rate at which such lessons were resolved (i.e. recommended changes implemented or lesson closed for other reasons) was far higher. This was because they managed their lessons as an integral part of their daily work, instead of seeing them as a chore to get round to when time is available - good practice that others would do well to replicate.
In the world of commerce, some organisations have developed ‘corporate universities’ or developmental teams that either conduct training direct or undertake the strategic and conceptual work needed to inform such training delivery but these are relatively few.
Examples of corporate universities that cover both Training and Knowledge Management are seen at Caterpillar, Disney, McDonalds and Toyota. In some cases, such as the Mars University, the company recognises that only 10% of learning comes through training courses and that a blended learning solution must combine formal training, coaching, and knowledge management.
Such organisations can act as KM or learning hubs, well-placed as they are to ensure that those responsible for upholding, maintaining and updating policy (through training delivery) have strong links with those that facilitate (or enforce) KM and learning throughout the company. Naturally, such links by themselves are not enough to enable true learning to occur and a supportive learning culture is needed. We shall look at the concept of a learning culture in due course.