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Army Knowledge Management: people and processes enabled by technology.


Over two thousand years ago Sun Tzu said, "Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril." Our Army continues to adhere to this sound advice today. However, the complexity of the current operating environment and the massive amount of data and information available make it difficult to adequately attend to the great Chinese general's advice. It takes talented leaders and disciplined followers to create the conditions that result in knowing both the enemy and yourself.

To address the challenge of "knowing," the U.S. Army is integrating knowledge management (KM) practices into both the Operating and Generating forces. The integration is now beginning to coalesce around people and processes, but began as an information technology driven effort. Many believed we could improve our knowledge transfer capabilities by issuing more computers and building new websites. However, it became obvious that knowledge transfer primarily occurs through iterative experiences and dialogue. People interacting with each other are the key to effective performance. Computers and websites enable broad scale virtual interaction. However, hardware and software by themselves are insufficient for KM.


Knowledge Transfer

The February 2008 version of Field Manual 3-0 Operations is the first doctrinal publication to address KM. Knowledge is information processed by a human to provide meaning and value, which leads to understanding. Chapter Seven describes information superiority and addresses KM and information management. KM is, "the art of creating, applying, organizing, and transferring knowledge to facilitate situational understanding and decision making." This is in contrast to the definition of information management: "the science of using procedures and information systems to collect, process, display, store, protect, and disseminate knowledge products, data, and information." Together, these two complementary activities provide knowledge products and services to decision makers.

Knowledge products and services fall into two general categories. The first category consists of "codification." Information in repositories such as documents or videos, called explicit knowledge is in the first category. Handbooks, story boards, and video interviews are examples of codification products. Content management, virtual team room management and knowledge center design are codification services.

The second category consists of "personalization" or people sharing what they know, their tacit knowledge, through face-to-face or technology enabled dialogue. Web conferences, communities of practice and digital games are examples of personalization products. Expertise location, forum facilitation and collaboration are examples of personalization services. It took almost a decade for the Army to generate doctrine based descriptions of KM and to begin widespread implementation of these practices.

Besides the time needed to mature and grow, the key ingredient to knowledge creation and transfer is leadership. The development of KM practices began and continues to be a result of both bottom-up and topdown leadership. Innovative company level leaders began in the early 1990s and in 2000. These leaders created the sites on their own time and with their own money in order to interact with their peers around the Army. Both those websites were first steps in the Army's journey of sharing its knowledge and creating new insights through online gathering places called "communities of practice."

Professional Forums

The two communities are now part of a larger knowledge transfer capability called the Battle Command Knowledge System (BCKS). The Army refers to these and many other online communities as "Professional Forums." There are forums for other leaders: Warrant Officer Net, Platoon Leader, S3-XO, and Command Net. Additionally, there are forums for functional experts: MI Net, LOG Net, S-1 Net, COIN Net, Advisor Net and many others. All of the forums are available through common access card or Army Knowledge Online (AKO) login at: Thousands of leaders gather at these sites to share what they know, solve problems, and grow professionally.

The leaders who brought these capabilities to the force recognized the importance of leading and managing the online communities. The senior Army leadership saw the value of the junior leaders' initiative and provided top-down support by designating resources for the BCKS network of community facilitators. The BCKS team provides world-class forum facilitation and has the expertise to train others how to be facilitators. The facilitator serves as coach, mentor, gatekeeper, librarian, traffic cop and advertiser for the forums. It's a crucial role that provides rhythm and energy to the communities.

Prior to deploying to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the First Cavalry Division Commander, then Major General Chiarelli inquired about the Company Command online community. He directed his staff to create "CAV Net," a community available to all Soldiers in the division. They used CAV Net to share insights from patrols--enemy activity as well as tactics, techniques and procedures used by either friendly or enemy forces. According to the division leadership, CAV Net gave patrols the "tactical competitive advantage."

In addition to online communities, Army leaders use other KM techniques. While he was in Iraq, MG Chiarelli also introduced the practice of virtual teaming. He used the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) system to conduct daily command and staff meetings with his 13 subordinate brigade commanders and the division staff. The CPOF enabled all to view a common operating picture from their respective locations, work with shared content and connect with experts throughout the CPOF network. The practice saved time, accelerated knowledge transfer, and reduced travel along hazardous routes.

The leaders of the Stryker Community expanded KM practices in the Army to the Enterprise level. Their efforts represent a best practice called the Stryker Warfighters' Forum. Initially under the leadership of I Corps Commanders, Lieutenant General Dubik and now LTG Jacoby, the Stryker Warfighters' Forum is a powerful holistic approach to KM. The forum consists of a repository of content, including video, after action reports, lessons learned, articles and studies. The Stryker Free fire zone is an online community within the forum, part of the BCKS, where Soldiers participate in asynchronous discussions. Stryker leaders collaborate quarterly through a synchronous online Adobe Connect web conference linking commanders, command sergeants major, and staff officers and noncommissioned officers from all seven Stryker brigades from Hawaii to Iraq. The Stryker Warfighters' Forum is a model that is spreading to other parts of the Army.

The commander of Forces Command (FORSCOM), General Campbell, directed the III Corps and XVIII Airborne Corps to develop similar capabilities for the heavy brigade combat teams and the infantry brigade combat teams. These Warfighters' Forums are undergoing development through a deliberate process of building content and community. The Warfighters' Forums are communities of purpose. They blend both hierarchy and networking by requiring the chain of command to orchestrate forum activities and to expect leaders throughout the communities to participate. The Commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), General Wallace, directed the TRADOC Schools and Centers to create Warfighters' Forums for the functional and separate brigades as well as the Experimentation Brigade for the Future Combat Systems. These forums hold great promise as knowledge creation and transfer capabilities. However, careful implementation is essential. Fortunately, there is synergy building around the effort as FORSCOM and TRADOC turn to the Army Operational KM Proponent for assistance.

To further establish the importance and relevance of KM, the Department of the Army G3/5/7 designated the Combined Arms Center (CAC) at Fort Leaven worth, Kansas as the proponent for Army Operational Knowledge Management (AOKM). As a collective organization where the Army does much of its thinking and learning, CAC is a wise choice to lead the development of KM. Personalization and codification are two principle activities at CAC, which is responsible for much of the Army's training, education, leader development, doctrine development, lessons learned, and battle command. Army leaders physically and virtually pass through the gates and servers of CAC to share what they know and find what they need.

Those who leverage the power of KM practices have demonstrated its benefits to Soldiers, mission accomplishment, and organizational learning. The Military Intelligence (MI) community routinely takes data and information, transforms it into knowledge and then transfers it to leaders to help them understand and act. A stated objective of the Commander of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, Major General Custer, is to, "build an intelligence force that dominates in the 'fight for knowledge'--in all environments to achieve decisive victory." MI professionals throughout the Army are organizing people and processes around enabling technology to make this vision a reality.


The future of KM is very promising. Soldiers throughout the Army are growing up as "digital natives" who are very comfortable collaborating online. They move seamlessly between the physical and virtual worlds. Leaders are learning how to follow the guidance of the chain of command while leveraging the ability to network with others across organizational boundaries. CAC is laying out a vision and roadmap for the implementation of knowledge networks to connect capabilities development, the warfighting functions and operating forces. Numerous enablers are also under development to ensure individuals,

teams, organizations, and communities effectively manage knowledge. Activities to elicit, distill, and transfer knowledge through interviews, games, and stories are also underway. The opportunities for individuals to contribute and create the future are limitless. The initiative and innovation of the MI community will undoubtedly play a major role in expanding and enhancing the practice of knowledge management.

Colonel James J. Galvin Jr. is the director of the Battle Command Knowledge System at the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He previously served with the U.S. Southern Command, the Army Staff, the 18th Airborne Corps and V Corps. A West Point graduate, Colonel Galvin has an MA in Operations Research and Systems Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School and a PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
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Author:Galvin, James J., Jr.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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