Thursday 13 February 2014

Don't like Best practices? Try Best Principles! How the Navy could learn from the Army

Article Here
There is a common view in Knowledge Management that "Best Practices don't work".

I disagree; I think that there is nothing wrong with the concept of Best Practice, only with it's application. Best Practices, when they are seen as a) applying in a specific context, b) applying to a practice-based operation, and c) are open to continuous improvement, can be a mainstay of any practice-based Knowledge Management approach.

But what can you do when sharing knowledge between radically different contexts? Here Best Practices will fail, but what can you use?

Maybe you can use Best Principles.

This article is an interesting proposal to the US Navy, in a 2013 Essay, that they learn from the Army's success in dealing with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).

Now hang on a minute, you might say.

IEDs are roadside devices, hidden under rubble and in civilian cars, and detonated by cellphones. The Navy operate at sea where there are no roads, no rubble and no cars, and cellphones and seawater do not mix. Practices related to IEDs surely cannot translate to the Naval context.

Yet if we avoid looking at detailed Practices and instead look at Principles, there is a big opportunity to learn.

The suicide attack on the USS Cole in Aden in October 2000, for example, showed that the Navy is under threat from explosive devices in civilian craft - a concept not that different from the car bomb. And the mining of supply routes is not that different to the bombing of transport corridors.

So what could the Navy learn from the Army? According to the essay -

  • They could learn about the use of remote operated vehicles in dealing with mines, much as the Army use robots in dealing with bombs.
  • They could learn about how counter-IED specialists have been integrated into normal operations Army operations prior to deployment, and do the same with counter-mine personnel and craft in the Navy.
  • They could learn from how the Army use each IED as an opportunity to gather intelligence thus fusing operations and intelligence together.
In each case the learning would not be blindly copying Best Practices, but looking at the Principles behind the Army success, and applying them within the Navy context.

As the author of the proposal, Commander Thomas Reynolds, says, 
"We can begin immediately to tap the valuable lessons we've learned from the military's decade-long experience and hard-won success in dealing with IEDs, and use them to restructure our naval mine countermeasures"
That's Knowledge Management!

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