This is an old story, reprinted from here, but its still a good one.
In the third quarter of 1996 the Technology Advisory Board of BP senior scientists, R&D etc., external professors and industry experts met for one of the two or three colloquia BP delivers annually. This colloquium was focused on the enabling use of IT. A memorable event was Dr. John Henderson's (Boston University) rousing speech to the group on knowledge and leadership. He got people to think about this statement: “if you become part of a team or organization that learns and reuses learning, you can be ready for anything”. Among the stories Henderson told was the story below, from the US Army – a compelling story that provided BP with a vision of what KM could make possible.
“I interviewed a Colonel. Now this Colonel was a Colonel in one of the elite groups in the US army. He had gotten a call, 8 am Saturday morning, reminding him that a hurricane had just hit outside a US city and was told that because the current administration had very strong ties to the area, they believed that this should not be left to the reserve group, because they wanted no Mess-Ups. The orders to the Colonel were clear – go down there, provide any help and support necessary to the state of Louisiana after this hurricane, and Don’t Mess Up. Clear orders, The Army calls it “Intent”, “Strategic intent”. The strategic intent was clear. Now this particular Colonel was in fact a highly decorated combat soldier, he had never done this in his life. He had never actually commanded any type of civilian related activity; he had always been right on the front lines in hot action.
It turns out though that as part of his executive education in the Army he had been exposed to this thing called the Center for Army Lessons Learned. So he got on his laptop computer, dialed into Army Net, hooked into the Center for Army Lessons Learned, and asked the following question (he actually showed me the type) –
“What does the Army know about Hurricane Support Clean-up?"
“And within four hours he had a profile of the deployment of troops from the last three hurricanes in North America that the Army had been sent to support and clean-up on, including types of staff, types of skills, numbers of skills, had a proforma budget, both what budget was requested and what the actual budget was, and where the cost overruns were, he had the ten questions you will be asked by CNN on the first 30 minutes after your arrival, he had a list of every state agency and federal agency that had to be contacted and coordinated with, and the name of the person that he had to contact with, and the Army liaison person who was currently working with that group, some place in North America. And he had established a Lotus Notes advisory team of the three commanders, two of whom were currently generals, one was still a Colonel, who agreed to be his advisory group in this command structure. Four hours later.”
That for us was a tremendous vision of what KM can deliver