Friday 14 October 2016

KM and "Battle rhythm"

"Battle rhythm" is a concept used in the military, and is used as a framework onto which to pin Knowledge Management. Maybe we can use a similar concept in the office?

My colleague Cory has just published a very interesting paper entitled "Knowledge Management in a combined/joint environment". He looks at the challenges of introducing KM in a joint endeavour between many different military organisations, and makes some great recommendations.

Once of the concepts that Cory's paper refers to is the idea of Battle Rhythm. This is defined as follows:

A deliberate daily cycle of command, staff, and unit activities intended to synchronize current and future operations. (Military dictionary)

The battle rhythm is the heart of the military's operational knowledge management process. Effectively managing the battle rhythm means effectively processing inputs and intent to allow the Commander to make decisive decisions. (Managing the battle rhythm).

The battle rhythm is effectively a learning and decision making cycle of Plan, Do, Monitor, Learn, used to drive effective decision making through gathering and integrating knowledge and information. The second reference above describes how the battle rhythm process can be boiled down to four basic phases:

  • receiving observations from multiple sources, 
  • integrating observations to create usable knowledge and insights, 
  • deriving learnings and knowledge which can be passed to decision makers, and
  • reaching a decision point. 
These steps can be adapted to all levels of command: from the strategic down to the tactical, with adjustments made for the rapidity of information flow using technology and processes. Battle rhythm also ensure the flow of knowledge upward through the layers of command, so decisions can be made at the right level.  Software tools are often applied to ensure the correct upwards flow of knowledge.

So can we do the same in our own organisations?

Yes, of course we can. We can use similar learning cycles of Plan, Do, Monitor, Learn, adapted to our own rhythms of work. As this blog post points out:

Every good organization has certain regular patterns. Staff meetings are at 9:00 on Tuesdays. Quick huddles are every morning at the beginning of the day. Subordinates submit standard reports every Friday on the week's activities. Football teams establish this sort of standard practice week before Saturday games. Teachers / construction workers / policemen know and understand the flow of the week and what they must do as a part of each of the mandatory activities. This is the framework in which we fit everything else we must do.

These rhythms might be;

  • Tasks
  • Activities
  • Projects
  • Sprints and scrums
  • Daily operational meetings
  • Weeky planning meetings
  • Monthly sales cycles
  • Monthly/quarterly/annual production cycles
  • and so on
For example, the world of onshore oil well drilling is divided into three cycles - 
  • Daily cycles of performance targets and reporting
  • Cycles based on individual wells from start to completion
  • Cycles based on programs of wells.  

This is the "battle rhythm" of drilling onshore wells. The learning cycle, and Knowledge Management, can be brought into this at three levels as well;

  • Informal conversations around the morning report to identify lessons and make decisions for the next day's operation;
  • End-of-well After Action reviews to identify lessons used to make decisions for the next well;
  • End of Program Retrospects to capture high level lessons, which will be used to make decisions for future drilling programs. 

So what is the "battle rhythm" for your organisation?

What is your activity cycle, and decision making cycle?

Once you have worked out what this is, then you know how and when to apply Knowledge Management to ensure that the decisions makers at all levels are always supplied with the correct knowledge to make their decisions as successful as possible.

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