What’s your Battle Rhythm?


As you may know, the United States Army has embraced knowledge management.  On the battle field getting the right information to the right people at the right time couldn’t be more important, and off the battlefield they use an “Up-or-Out” personnel system, which by-design results in a high turn-over rate.  One tool the U.S. Army chose to meet this challenge is knowledge management.KM Tools - The Battle Rhythm

Many corporate leaders admire the military for its ability to drop everything, move half way around the world, and rapidly set up operations.  Most people don’t realize what an achievement that really is; the whole organization’s daily routine changes as they pick up new responsibilities and work with new higher headquarters in a new environment.  Over time military leaders realized a coordinated schedule, or “Battle Rhythm” was a great first step toward getting information to flow effectively through the new organization.

The initial entry for the Battle Rhythm is the commander’s daily decision brief, where all of the day’s missions are reviewed one last time and approved for execution. This is a last minute chance to see how the various missions might affect each other, and an opportunity to make sure the situation hasn’t changed from when planning started.  Sometimes changes to the plan are directed on the spot.  This last minute re-planning is fast, stressful and more prone to errors, since so little time is available to check ones work, but it’s better than executing a known flawed plan and trying to fix it later.  Leading up to the decision brief the commander attends a slew of other briefs; reviews of the prior day’s results, updates on the current day’s operation, and a pre-planning brief for the following day’s events. The commander uses all of this information to make decisions throughout the day.  It’s not just the commander’s schedule that’s important here, each staff section builds their meeting schedule on top of the commander’s.  They all want to be sure they are using the most current information so their decisions aren’t trumped at the last minute.

I thought this was a KM blog…

OK, enough on the military decision making process, hopefully you get the idea.  The main lesson here is how carefully planning a schedule around specific action points, and around the others in your organization on whom you depend, can help ensure your decision makers are using the best information available when they make their decisions.  While military KMO responsibilities vary, based on the unit’s knowledge management maturity level, the one constant I’ve observed is that the KMO manages the Battle Rhythm.

You don’t really think my company is going to let me plan our CEO’s schedule?

No, probably not, but you probably can review the published schedules in your company.  If schedules are not published, see if the conference room schedules are. Then map out the meeting flow. Which meetings feed information to other meetings? Which meetings should? Is the flow of information logical? Are there gaps in the flow? Is there circular reporting? If nobody is synchronizing meetings across your organization you will probably identify areas for improvement. Your CEO may not understand knowledge management, but he or she will certainly understand the danger of circular reporting and the cost of making decisions armed with old or bad information.

About John Donahue

I'm a practicing Knowledge Manager, providing KM consulting for organizations from small businesses to large governmental agencies. I've organized and participated in KM and IKM Working Groups at a US Embassy overseas, with the US DoD, and with deployed NATO headquarter staffs. I served 20-years as an Air Force officer and aviator, during which time I was an award-winning instructor at the US Air Force Academy and logged nearly 100 combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. Now a seasoned Knowledge Manager and certified Project Management Professional I'm applying my organizational, leadership, teaching and technical skill to the knowledge management profession.

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