Knowledge Management on the Battlefield

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
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Rick Brennan, Senior Managing Partner, Brennan and Associates, is up next, sharing considerations for the expanding role of KM in the Department of Defense.

Many challenges and opportunities for KM in an organization that looks ahead a few years, say 5, but has a typical cycle-time of 10 years to deploy systems. This requires a change in thinking. KM is the lever that is helping.

General trends:
Conflicts are smaller and of shorter duration
Resources are more constrained
Effects are global, and felt more rapidly
Stability is the goal

What happens when the bad guys, using social networks, etc., know stuff that happens on the battlefield before the good guys do?

War is different. It's no longer about killing people and blowing things up, but about bringing about change in a nation.

Katrina was a disaster.

So, how can we be  better prepared?

We need to change the way that we think about knowledge and knowledge management operations. But DoD continues to maintain separate knowledge systems.It hasn't changed.

Network-Centric Warfare

Network-centric warfare is a knowledge management driven concept.

Yet. much of DoD looks at the network as infrastructure, rather than the relatedness. We need to be looking at:
Social domain
Cognitive Domain
Shared Awareness
Compressed operations

Why is it so hard for DoD (or any org) to move to KM driven activities?
Culture
Business Model
Organizational Structure
Security Policy
Systems Inertia

The cultural divide. Our warfighters are Digital Natives, but our leaders are immigrants.

(See WikiPedia for definition of Digital Native)

Need to consider the generational differences.

The assumptions that advanced systems will "overwhelm the warfighter" with a flood of information ignore both good knowledge management design and the culture of our young warfighters."

This is wrong. It's not about too much information, it's about derived meaning. That's where we bring KM to bear on the ability to process, understand, and act on this huge flow of information.

(Look at Smart Money heat maps as an example of analysis)

Hierarchical structures tend to produce knowledge stovepipes. That's not to say that hierarchical structures are bad - they have their place - but that knowledge does [easily or often] not flow sideways in orgs that are structured for repeatable performance.

Nimble, fast-Moving organizations trend toward flexibility and innovation. These organizations flatten to adapt to rapid rates of change. The changing nature of warfare requires both hierarchical command and control yet flat communication.

KM functions like situational awareness and decision support are difficult to implement in DoD where tactical systems are built on and require different security levels.

Advanced knowledge management systems must have access to, store, manipulate, and create knowledge products with a broad range of security classifications. Current systems architectures and policies are not ready for real knowledge management on the battlefield. Long cycle times and rigid systems are change resistant. These issues are not unique to the Department of Defense.

Summary: KM driven Network Centric Warfare is a critical component of the DoD's ability to respond appropriately to a rapidly changing world.

Now looking at ways to make holistic changes in the areas of:
Culture
Business Model
Organizational Structure
Security Policy  - Multilevel security has got to be addressed in order to allow horizontal knowledge sharing
Systems Inertia

The good news is this has been done before and we are learning.

Excellent presentation. Sorry I could only summarize. Lots being said. Needed to process it.

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