The strike group knowledge manager faces many challenges to ensure seamless information flow between warfare commanders, strike group units and other organizations critical to operations.
The knowledge manager's role is critical to identifying and ensuring a shared awareness of the Commander's Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs) and decision cycle, the battle rhythm supporting that cycle, and the means for effective information exchange among players.
Several processes and tools can assist, including establishing a Knowledge Management Working Group; assessments such as the "7 Minute Drill" for battle rhythm analysis; developing an information management matrix; and codifying business rules in operational tasking orders (OPTASKs) for standardization.
KM ACROSS THE STRIKE GROUP
The KM Working Group provides a forum for the knowledge manager to coordinate KM and information management initiatives and ensures a common shared awareness of issues and solutions. The KM Working Group operates under a charter that provides a framework for the scope of the group's efforts to improve information exchange of the information resources within the strike group.
Specific KM Working Group activities should include sharing best practices for wider strike group implementation; prioritizing KM and IM initiatives; identifying potential resource shortfalls for successful implementation; recommending changes to improve IM policies and procedures; suggesting standardized processes to capture and codify lessons learned within the strike group; sharing with other Navy and joint organizations; implementing IM/KM training for personnel; standardizing Collaboration at Sea (CAS) Web pages and document management; identifying metrics for baselining and gauging success of KM initiatives; and identifying additional tools required to accomplish KM/IM objectives.
Because KM is essential in all warfare areas and across staff functional areas, I suggest that the group include permanent representation from each of the warfare commanders, every unit in the strike group and special assistants to the commander. Other key stakeholders or change agents can be invited as ad hoc members or to support specific initiatives.
It is important to engage the KM Working Group early in the work-up cycle prior to the first group sail to ensure that participants understand their KM roles and responsibilities and become active proponents of change. Whenever possible, core membership should remain constant throughout workups and the deployment.
Due to the dispersed location of participants, a low bandwidth chat tool is the recommended means to conduct KM Working Group meetings. CAS is recommended for document sharing to improve collaboration between bandwidth disadvantaged platforms.
Personnel selected to represent a warfare area or unit should have a solid understanding of the strike group mission, operational tasking and their area's existing decision-making processes. Members of the Working Group will be instrumental in conducting KM assessments and implementing process changes; they need to be both comfortable and aggressive in eliciting information and proactive in pushing solutions.
Understanding and prioritizing the focus of KM efforts can be a daunting task given the complexity of the strike group decision-making environment. The knowledge manager can help frame the problem by identifying the processes needed to support effective decision making and information exchange by conducting a KM assessment.
KM assessments can identify gaps that require corrective action and are valuable in discovering what assessment respondents consider successful processes that should be continued or replicated in other operations.
The KM assessment can take many forms such as an automated survey tool or personal interview. Interviews often provide the most comprehensive feedback and are recommended over automated tools because they provide more detail and immediate feedback. Regardless of the means for collecting information, when conducting the KM assessment it is important to target those personnel who understand the strike group mission and its context within the larger operational environment to get the most relevant feedback.
The initial KM assessment is the first step in a larger KM continuum that should include reassessments of strike group information sharing and decision-making processes. It will also provide a starting point for the focus of effort and a baseline to gauge the success of subsequent KM efforts to improve the decision cycle and information exchange processes.
The knowledge manager should identify trigger events or a specific periodicity for conducting reassessments. Metrics should be developed and maintained to quantify degrees of improvement whenever feasible.
Some key items to cover in the KM assessment include:
• Processes and process owners, how the process contributes to the mission and identification of key supporting players;
• Process inputs and outputs, when they are due, format and information exchange mechanisms that support the process;
• Known overlaps between processes;
• Cultural issues that may adversely impact process success; and
• Information technology tools used in support of this process, such as collaborative tools like CAS, portals, chat, blogs and any other tools that might enhance process effectiveness.
An important byproduct of the KM assessment is the IM Matrix, a document the knowledge manager develops to codify critical information flows supporting the battle rhythm and other key decision processes.The IM Matrix lists what the information is; its relative importance (high, medium, low); the drafter or information owner; key collaborators; who the information is provided to and how it is provided, for example, orally in person, via video teleconference, posted to a Web site or network drive; and any other relevant information. It also includes technical attributes of the information, such as format type, means of delivery, and nontechnical attributes, such as classification, releasability and perishability.
The IM Matrix easily identifies information dependencies that must be considered to ensure the right information is available to decision makers at the right time and in the correct format.
Information gaps that could cause a process or decision breakdown should be quickly identified and corrected. For example, the input for an Air Tasking Order is needed by 1200, but the targeting working group is scheduled to meet at 1300 so input will not be provided on time. The IM Matrix should be updated as command and control structures, roles, missions and their corresponding information exchange requirements evolve.
Another key assessment is the battle rhythm analysis. The battle rhythm is the heartbeat of operations on a strike group staff and consists of a series of recurring decision points and events throughout the day that must be properly aligned to support operations. The battle rhythm includes meetings by boards, centers, cells or working groups, and events such as the release of the “Commander’s Daily Intentions Message.” These must be carefully orchestrated and synchronized to ensure information flows properly to enable timely and accurate decision making.
The battle rhythm analysis must not only take into account the staff’s decision points and events but those of higher authorities, subordinate organizations and other ancillary partners (i.e., another supporting joint task force, group or unit).
While the initial analysis is a snapshot in time, like the IM Matrix, the battle rhythm must be periodically revised as operations evolve and tasks change. As changes occur, the battle rhythm analysis should be repeated to identify any necessary recalibration or realignment of specific battle rhythm events.
A tool commonly used by knowledge managers to conduct the battle rhythm analysis is the 7 Minute Drill, originally discussed by retired four-star Army Gen. Gary Luck in his paper, “Insights on Joint Operations: The Art and Science, Best Practices, The Move toward Coherently Integrated Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations” of September 2006.
The concept behind the 7 Minute Drill is that each event in the battle rhythm should be scrutinized to determine how it contributes to the decision cycle. The 7 Minute Drill documents the event and purpose and the IM/KM tools needed to accomplish the event, the product or output, and the procedures and techniques used (where and when it is conducted, the inputs, key tasks and membership).
As with the IM Matrix, the battle rhythm analysis can identify key information linkages and the continuity that must exist to provide the correct information to decision makers.
Examples of 7 Minute Drills on the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group battle rhythm, include the Commander’s Daily Brief and the Main Planning Group. The box at right shows the Main Planning Group 7 Minute Drill.
Once the 7 Minute Drills are completed, the knowledge manager, warfare commanders and other staff personnel align the events, ensuring proper synchronization for effective information flow that will shorten the decision cycle.
When analyzing the battle rhythm, the 7 Minute Drills will help with strike group controlled events, but other external factors must also be considered, such as the numbered fleet or joint commander’s battle rhythm; potential changes to the command and control structure or mission assignments; and the enemy's battle rhythm, for example, the enemy only conducts operations during daylight hours.
Additionally, analysis of information exchanges necessary to support the battle rhythm between the strike group and coalition and interagency partners or nongovernmental organizations must be identified early to ensure sufficient time is built into the battle rhythm to account for information releasability requirements.
CODIFYING THE RULES
The strike group knowledge manager promulgates documents that codify processes and business rules. Two primary documents are the OPTASK IM and OPTASK Chat. These are normally coalition, joint task force or strike group specific and should be released early in the workup cycle to ensure units are trained and familiar with the processes prior to the start of combat operations. The documents will need to be revised as strike group units transition to other theaters of operations and are assigned new missions.
When a strike group is assigned as the lead for more than one task force, it will normally produce a separate OPTASK IM and OPTASK Chat for each task force. This is especially important because different processes may be used for various missions and task force compositions, which may include coalition partners or other non-Defense Department organizations.
Many task forces today are dynamic and subject to frequent changes in participants. For example, the members of Coalition Task Force 152 (maritime security operations in the central and southern Persian Gulf) and Coalition Task Force 151 (counter-piracy operations) in the 5th Fleet often change on a daily basis, so careful attention must be paid to those fluctuations and shifts in roles and responsibilities.
A fine balance must be achieved in the promulgation of KM guidance. If guidance is too specific, it will require constant modification; if it is too generic, it will be useless. The KM should work with key stakeholders and higher authority to ensure that processes articulated in the OPTASK IM and OPTASK Chat are relevant, executable and meet mission requirements. Proper execution of guidance and adherence to policies must be a priority for the warfare commanders and all other members of the strike group and task force.
The knowledge manager plays a critical role and has many tools available to enable decision superiority within a strike group. These tools are part of an iterative process that requires constant tuning and commitment throughout the strike group to ensure mission success.
Capt. Barrett is an Information Professional Officer and the assistant chief of staff for C4 for Commander, Carrier Strike Group 2.