Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The army comes through on practical knowledge management guidance

Okay, another document from the ARMY. This time it's a 2012 document called Knowledge Management Operations. In short, it's great. This thing really should be the first stop for KM newbies. There's no HBR management-speak in this document.

Wow. They have the Army Knowledge Management Qualification Course (AKMQ-C) with an additional skill identifier (ASI).

It's a good overview of KM. It identifies different processes: creating knowledge, organizing knowledge, applying knowledge, transferring knowledge. It notes that KM is a combination of people, processes, tools, and organization.

The summary of tools include information systems, collaboration tools, expertise-location tools, data-analysis tools, search-and-discovery tools, and expertise-development tools.

Here's an interesting perspective: "An important KM tool is the _common operational picture_ -- a single display of relevant information within a commander's area of interest tailored to the user's requirements and based on common data and information shared by more than one command. Much of the KM effort is devoted to ensuring the accuracy of the data and information the common operational picture draws on, the processes that produce it, and the information systems that display and disseminate it."

The hand book identifies "KM core competencies":

  • "Knowledge capture converts what individuals know into knowledge that can be codified and shared. Knowledge flow is the ease of movement of knowledge within and among organizations."
  • "Collaboration occurs when personnel, teams, and organisations work together to produce or create something."
  • "Standardization refers to building and implementing a common framework of tools, techniques, practices, and processes."

And here's yet another great definition: "_Information management_ is the science of using procedures and information systems to collect, process, store, display, disseminate, and protect data, information, and knowledge products... While KM is an art -- concerned more about the _why_ of knowledge transfer, information management is a science -- focused on the _how_."

Units cycle through the available force pool to the reset force pool. During reset, the focus is on codified artefacts such as after action reviews (AARs); tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs); standard operating procedures (SOPs); lessons learned; and historical records. While available, the focus shits to virtual right-seat ride/virtual meeting and collaboration; reach back and integration; knowledge capture and content management; and family readiness and social media.

The guide includes a description of the responsibilities of KM officers, non-coms, and specialists.

Chapter 3 concerns the knowledge management process: assess, design, develop, pilot, implement, and back to assess.

The assess stage considers the following:

  • standards analysis -- determining the extent to which the unit follows processes as per commander's guidance, policy letters, and SOPs.
  • time management analysis -- can the unit make the best use of time, particularly _battle rhythm_
  • meeting analysis -- meetings must nest within the battle rhythm and avoid duplication. Meetings should: have a clear purpose, have a meeting agenda, identify required personnel, identify inputs, identify expected outputs. Meeting assessments must consider: did the meeting take place; were notices sent to attendees; did the meeting occur as scheduled; were collaborative tools prepared in advance; did it include the five key elements; were the attendees present; were the tasks achieved; were the inputs available; were the outputs templated and available.
  • report analysis -- how are reports created, organized, and transferred. Who uses them and how?
  • technical systems analysis -- what systems are available?
  • content management analysis -- manage the information contained in any medium

The design stage is where managers determine the optimum strategies. Tools could include tactical web portals, professional forums (unit, leader, functional, warfighter), virtual communities, informal networks (not typically supported), knowledge centers/networks (a web page for document sharing); communities of interest; communities of purpose; and communities of practice.

Develop is about building out the KM solution.

Pilot concerns testing and validation. The key activities are "Collaborative Assistance" (meeting a leader or team that needs help) and "Team-Peer Assistance" (facilitating outside-inside knowledge transfer). they are conducted when a unit is about to do something that another has done, need updates on tactics and procedures, and when there is sufficient time. Team-peer assists require the identification of a particular challenge, identification of approaches or lines of thought that have been effective in the past, promotes the sharing of knowledge, and develops networks.

Implement is the last step and involves becoming a "learning organization". Learning has to occur before, during, and after operations. Key techniques include right-seat-rides, storytelling, and experiential learning.

There are a variety of learning techniques:

  • Virtual right-seat ride. This process could involve call shadowing, screen sharing, etc. Right-seat/left-seat basically refers to the process of learning to drive. You start in the right-seat watching what happens. Eventually, you switch seats with the instructor and they monitor what you do. 
  • Storytelling. 
  • Experiential learning -- decision games, simulations, role playing, stories. The unit leaders become facilitators.

Appendix A contains a sort of content management for dummies guide that is actually fairly procedural and not too bad.

Appendix B is about After Action Reviews (AARs). An AAR should review what was supposed to happen, what actually happened, what was right or wrong with what happened, determine how things should be done differently. These notes can be used in training, they can be collated, and they can be analyzed. AARs can be organized as a chronological order of events; warfighting functions; or key events, themes, or issues.

The Appendix reviews the planning process and then basically serves as an SOP for execution -- the introduction stresses that its an open conversation, it's not a critique, is about identifying weaknesses to improve and strengths to sustain. Review objectives and intent. Provide a summary of events.

Appendix C is a guide to interview techniques. Some sample questions include:

  • Why do you think you were so successful?
  • What's your best piece of advice for the next person?
  • What was the missing area of process What caused the problem to occur?
  • What did you put in place to ensure success?
  • What makes you say that?
  • How did you achieve that?
  • Why?

Appendix D discusses the KM Annex Q format... whatever that is. It seems to be a strucured document that captures the following details:

  • references to maps, etc.
  • time zones
  • situation (area of interest, area of operations, enemy forces, friendly forces, inter-agency/-government/-nongovernment orgs, civil considerations, attachments/detachments, assumptions)
  • mission
  • execution (concept of operations, tasks to subordinate units, coordinating instructions)
  • sustainment
  • command and signal

Appendix E is on Facilitating a Professional Forum. It even discusses "facilitating a knowledge management forum" including daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. We've even got some performance metrics.

Then comes quite a good glossary. The references are, not surprisingly, mostly to other defense and army publications.

Overall, a very solid document.


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