Here’s a fascinating article from Spiegel on how the American military, via its Center for Army Lessons Learned, analyzes – and learns from – its mistakes. [Think of how many corporations could use that approach.] An excerpt:
His job here has changed by quantum leaps in recent years. It all started with the computer and Internet revolution of the early 1990s, and it continued after Sept. 11, 2001, a day Lacky sees as marking a radical turning point. Before this seminal date, Lacky says, it would take two to three months until the information gleaned from an experience with value for the entire army had been processed, printed and distributed.
But these days, when a brigade reports from Iraq that the insurgents are hiding their roadside bombs in dead cats, all it takes is a few inquiries, a few e-mails and a few mouse clicks and, within the space of a few hours, the news has been distributed to everyone. Lacky and his staff used this approach to develop concepts for building checkpoints after US military personnel had repeatedly fired unnecessarily at civilians in Baghdad. The regulations for convoys were rewritten, as were those for how to behave during mass gatherings and while on foot patrols.
Lacky's department now has precise location descriptions for every sector of every Iraqi city, descriptions that are a far cry from the information the military would gather and disseminate in the past. While the old documents described the world topographically merely as a battlefield, officers nowadays can consult information that tells them where kindergartens, mosques, Koran schools and meeting points are located. They can also learn a great deal about the social makeup of a neighborhood, including ethnic affiliations, local customs and unwritten laws.
How many civilian organizations do you know that have a systematic way to distribute lessons learned?