Monday, 11 July 2016

30 years of KM in the US Army

Last year the US Army "Center for Army Lessons Learned" celebrated it's 30th anniversary. Here's what it does for the Army. 

CALL logo, from Wikipedia
One of the longest-running organisational Knowledge Management initiatives in the world, and one of the most successful, the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) has been at the heart of the US Army's attempt to become a leading learning organisation. As the CALL Director, Colonel Paul Reese, says,

"CALL is the one Army directorate completely dedicated to making sure the Army does not repeat the same mistakes twice and to save Soldiers lives in future conflicts."

CALL is a function and a set of roles and accountabilities within the Army Knowledge Management Framework that continuously leads the Army Lessons Learned Program and identifies, collects, analyzes, synthesises, publishes and archives lessons and best practices. It is a body of about 70 people in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas consisting of analysts, experts, facilitators and editors.

By looking at the CALL Bulletins we can see some of the tasks that this function performs.

  • Owning and operating the Army Lessons Learned Program. "The ALLP uses people, processes, tools, and organizations to gather, rapidly share, and integrate lessons and best practices across networked commands, units, organizations, and UAPs. CALL .... implements the ALLP as the office of primary responsibility"
  • Collecting and analysing lessons from various operations and exercises. "CALL recently collected and analyzed lessons learned and best practices in Australia at the Talisman Saber ’15  exercise, which provided a great opportunity, and model, to simultaneously collect at a combined, joint, and multi-echeloned training event".
  • Hosting workshops on key topics. "CALL hosted the second annual Army Lessons Learned Synchronization Workshop, [which] synchronized and prioritized 309 topics/issues to 13 key efforts the Army lessons learned community will address in fiscal year"
  • Creating guidance note publications. "The Security Cooperation Bulletin ... provides observations, analysis, lessons, and best practices gleaned from the past decade of war that can be applied toward all theatres of operation"
  • Observing partner organisations. "CALL has embedded liaison officers (ELOs) deployed at major Army headquarters to observe operations in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe ... to collect what these headquarters are seeing on the ground and then pass them back to CALL for analysis and dissemination to units getting ready to go into those environments".
  • Teaching lesson learned courses. "CALL conducts a five-day course designed to train multiservice officers and non-commissioned officers serving as lessons learned officers at battalion, brigade, division, or corps levels."

The Non-Military equivalent.

CALL effectively provides a military lessons management function. Many large project-based organisations have something similar. Often hosted within the Project Management Office, the lessons management team will:
  • Own and manage the lesson learning process
  • Facilitate and collect lessons from major projects
  • Arrange for the synthesis of these lessons into organisation guidance by subject matter experts
  • Teach lesson learning skills.
This is a crucial function within the lesson learning framework, and is an area where any project based organisation needs to invest some KM resource.

Let's learn from the 30-year success of CALL, and build this role into our Knowledge Management Frameworks. 

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