Academic journal article Military Review

The Army Transformation-Learning While Doing

Academic journal article Military Review

The Army Transformation-Learning While Doing

Article excerpt

Lieutenant Colonel Lon R. Seglie, US Army Reserve, Retired, and Captain April Selby-Cole, US Army Reserve

Learning from doing and sharing the knowledge gained are the essence of organizational learning. By listening to the organization and fostering a dialogue about performance, the leader opens the door to learning, sharing lessons learned and reducing risk. By stretching the organization to act differently, to do new things in a learning atmosphere, the leader fosters an entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and growth.1

-Gordon R. Sullivan and Michael V. Harper

THE ARMY FACES many formidable decisions on how best to transform, so the sharing of information must be continuous. The collapse of the wall, the demise of the Warsaw Pact and advances in technology have led to a more flexible and lethal force-projection Army that maintains the capability for large-scale combat. Fortunately, history and determination have provided the Army with tools to change more rapidly and efficiently. The challenge is to use the tools to the Army's best advantage; therefore, the question is not "what to learn" but "how best to learn." Based on previous work by its leaders in this educational process, the Army has developed methods to assess quickly how best to learn. Actually, phrases such as "on the job training" and have been used for years to describe educating individuals to quickly become proficient in their roles. As many corporations struggle with methods to develop best practices, the Army has been building a foundation through individual and collective learning for the past several decades.

The Army's continuing evolution into a learning organization has taken time and determination, but many objectives have been met. The evolution and the many advances in learning collectively provide a definite advantage for the Army. All that the Army has accomplished has set the stage for the acceptance of the lessons-learned process, a key method to manage change. Even so, nothing would help properly and rapidly change the Army if the Army were not willing to take an important step forward-to accept change.

Following Vietnam, the Army, through a concerted effort and succession of conceptual methods, accepted change and successfully transitioned to a true learning organization. The following short history reviews how the Army came to collect, process and disseminate lessons and information. Today's sharing enables the Army to work collectively toward transformation using the after-action review (AAR) process that has become the cornerstone for learning in the Army. The AAR process slowly but definitely moved the Army culture to embrace "learning from doing" and "while doing." The AAR was the driving force behind continuous shared learning, provided a new perspective for soldiers and leaders on learning and promoted continual collection and dissemination of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP), and lessons learned. Learning while doing has become common practice and provides the Army the ability to "get it right quickly." Starry-Wass de Czege Model

In 1983 General Donn A. Starry set forth seven generalized requirements for effecting change in an Army (see figure). He argued that this framework was "necessary to bring to bear clearly focused intellectual activity in the matter of any change, whether in concepts for fighting, equipment, training or manning the force."2

Colonel Huba Wass de Czege built on this framework in 1984, underlining the importance of change: "Knowing why, when and how to change is key to maintaining an Army's effectiveness." He noted, too, the unprecedented difficulty of getting change right, given the unmatched complexity and rate of evolution in contemporary warfare. Wass de Czege added an eighth ingredient or constant precondition of successful change: the growth of theory (and, more generally, of theoretically-- grounded knowledge and practice of the art and science of war). …

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