|Army Logistics Knowledge
Management and SALE:
A Paradigm for Military
|by Dr. Nicholas J. Anderson
This article, the second of a three-part series on Army logistics knowledge management and the Single Army Logistics Enterprise, suggests knowledge management practices that Army logisticians should employ.
The Army logistics community should institutionalize and implement knowledge management (KM) practices in support of KM requirements. Logistics KM practices should serve as processes with which the Single Army Logistics Enterprise (SALE) can align. The primary sources of data on KM practices for Army logistics KM requirements include KM studies, Army documents, and interviews with personnel involved in implementing logistics KM initiatives and SALE.
Michael Stankosky’s “DNA of KM Model”1 suggests four KM practices for an organization. These practices are leadership and management, organization, learning, and technology. The leadership and management practice pertains to KM guidance for the logistics community. The organization practice includes structure and metrics. The learning practice focuses on explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge sharing. The technology practice deals with KM capture and creation tools and funds.
Leadership and Management
The Army organizations involved with KM include the Army Chief Information Officer (CIO)/G–6, Army G–4, Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), and Army Materiel Command (AMC). The Army has launched a couple of KM initiatives, such as the Battle Command Knowledge System (BCKS) and the LOGNet knowledge-sharing portal. However, no organization has taken the lead on logistics KM, and no one has developed a KM policy to distribute to the logistics community.
The Army Knowledge Management (AKM) policy developed by the Army CIO/G–6 provides overarching Army-level directions for information management and information technology. The AKM policy represents the Army information technology community’s perspectives on KM, so it does not address the collection, sharing, and use of logistics data and information. The AKM regulation, Army Regulation 25–1, Army Knowledge Management and Information Technology, “establishes the policies and assigns responsibilities for the management of information resources and information technology.”2 AKM focuses on leveraging information technology to help the Army become a network-centric force. The policy identifies KM goals for the Army; however, it focuses on the needs of the information technology community, not the logistics community.3
AKM Guidance Memorandum Number 5 designates TRADOC as the Army Training Enterprise Integrator (ATEI) for “strategic direction and guidance for transforming and standardizing Army training and leader-development business processes.”4 TRADOC “recruits, trains and educates the Army’s Soldiers; develops leaders; supports training in units; develops doctrine; establishes standards; and builds the future Army.”5 As the ATEI, TRADOC “ensures integration and synchronization of training and leader-development requirements, resources, and priorities.”6 However, TRADOC has not provided KM guidance for the logistics community.
The Army G–4 is responsible for “establishing policies and providing guidance that ensures responsive, flexible, and effective logistics support to the Army.”7 However, as of the completion date of this research, the Army G–4 has not established a logistics KM policy. Meanwhile, CASCOM has stepped forward in an attempt to institutionalize the KM efforts of the logistics community. A CASCOM KM representative stated during an interview that the Army G–4, AMC, and CASCOM intend to establish KM guidance for the logistics community. The collaborative efforts of this triad could help the Army establish a logistics KM policy, which could provide direction and guidance to the logistics community for creating, collecting, sharing, and using logistics data and information.
According to Stankosky, organization KM practices “ensure a flow down, tracking, and optimum utilization of all the organization’s knowledge assets.”8 Army logisticians follow a similar approach as organizational structures help guide their efforts. Flexible organizational structures and metrics represent the main organization KM practice themes.
Structures. W. Richard Scott identifies three perspectives of organizational systems: rational, natural, and open.9 The organizations in which Army logisticians operate possess dominant features of rational and open systems. Logisticians follow a formal structure that standardizes procedures and controls behaviors, which is similar to Scott’s views about a rational organizational system. Scott states—
Recall that a structure is formalized to the extent that the rules governing behavior are precisely and explicitly formulated and to the extent that roles and role relations are prescribed independently of the personal attributes and relations of individuals occupying positions in the structure. Formalization may be viewed as an attempt to make behavior more predictable by standardizing and regulating it. This, in turn, permits “stable expectations to be formed by each member of the group as to the behavior of the other members under specified conditions.”10, 11
From a rational system perspective, Army logisticians have a formal chain of command and adhere to policies, guidance, and directives from the chain of command. That is, the formal structure influences individual behaviors. Unlike the natural system perspective that advocates social relationships, informal group processes, supervisory skills, and cooperation,12 the Army relies on a formal chain of command to accomplish goals. However, features of the natural system perspective complement the Army’s rational system approach. “Knowledge sharing is dependent on relations and behaviors of individuals,”13 and formal organizational structures and command and control relationships under the rational system approach affect logistics KM practices.
Army logistics organizations follow formal rules for managing logistics data and information. AMC is a strategic-level logistics headquarters, and its mission is to provide “superior technology, acquisition support, and logistics to ensure dominant land force capability for Soldiers, the United States, and our Allies.”14 AMC also plays a key role in the procurement of supplies, equipment, and materiel for the Army from industries.
|This figure represents Stankosky’s four knowledge management practices and the subcategories for each practice.
Theater sustainment commands (TSCs) provide command and control over logisticians at the operational level. “The TSC will maximize throughput sustainment of Army forces and other supported elements and provide . . . overall sustainment support to Army forces.”15 AMC can attach organizational elements with direct links into AMC headquarters to TSCs.
Tactical-level logisticians orchestrate support close to warfighting units. According to Army logistics doctrine, tactical logistics elements “provide coordinated and tailored support for the warfighter. These elements provide support as close to the point of need as possible to satisfy specific tactical requirements.”16 AMC can also embed organizational elements in support brigades at the tactical level.
Formal rules foster a cooperative approach to logistics KM. According to Kathleen R. Conner and C.K. Prahalad, the “organizational mode through which individuals cooperate affects the knowledge they apply to business activity.”17 Formal Army organizational structures, complemented by cooperative social environments, enable logistics knowledge-sharing.
Army logisticians also operate in an environment that resembles an open system with features of the natural system. According to Daniel Katz and Robert Kahn, “Open systems maintain themselves through constant commerce with their environment, that is, a continuous inflow and outflow of energy through permeable boundaries.”18 The Army logistics enterprise is an open system, and the environment influences knowledge creation, sharing, and use.
Army logisticians follow formal rules for creating, collecting, sharing, and using knowledge. However, organizations at all levels collaborate and share data and information. Wenpin Tsai states, “Internal knowledge sharing within a multiunit organization requires formal hierarchical structure and informal lateral relations as coordination mechanisms.”19 Thomas H. Davenport also advocates a combined formal and informal organizational structure to deal with enterprise systems. He states—
In addition to having important strategic implications, enterprise systems also have a direct, and often paradoxical, impact on a company’s organization and culture. On the one hand, by providing universal, real-time access to operating and financial data, the systems allow companies to streamline their management structures, creating flatter, more flexible, and more democratic organizations. On the other hand, they also involve the centralizations of control over information and the standardization of processes, which are qualities more consistent with hierarchical, command-and-control organizations with uniform cultures.20
Army logisticians follow formal rules for creating, collecting, sharing, and using knowledge. However, logistics organizations at all levels collaborate and share data and information across several organizational boundaries, and Army logistics organizational structures facilitate hierarchical and lateral communication.
Metrics. The organizational perspective of Army logistics KM also pertains to metrics. Metrics help measure organizational effectiveness. Army Regulation 711–7, Supply Chain Management, which covers logistics metrics, states—
Logistics performance metrics are tools used to measure a particular process within the supply chain. Logistics includes seven interdependent processes: customer response, inventory planning and management, supply (manufacturing/procurement), maintenance, warehousing/distribution center, distribution of materiel, and reverse logistics. Logistics performance metrics are diagnostic in nature. They also must have the capability to “peel back” the data to facilitate review by commanders at all levels and compile reports at the DA level.21
Logisticians identify, create, collect, share, and use knowledge for their respective portions of the supply pipeline. The supply request goes through several steps, and several organizations involved with supply and distribution processes take action to help fill the requisition. The manner in which logisticians process data and information for the requested items influences the amount of time it takes to fill the requisition.
Logisticians can find out how long it takes an organization to fill a commodity shortage by accessing a database to determine when a requesting organization submitted a particular supply requisition. Metrics for each segment help the Army identify weaknesses and strengths in the supply chain and transportation network. This supports the goals of the Army’s business transformation strategy, which states that we must achieve “measurable improvement in our business processes and increase our efficiency and effectiveness.”22
The Army measures warfighting readiness in terms of “equipment on hand, equipment readiness, personnel, and training percentages.”23 Army organizations report the status of these four readiness categories on monthly unit status reports (USRs). The “USR system indicates the degree to which a unit has achieved prescribed levels of fill for personnel and equipment, the operational readiness status of available equipment, and the training proficiency status of the unit.”24
Organizational structures and metrics influence the management of logistics data and information. The Army organizational structure facilitates hierarchical and lateral communications. Logisticians collect, share, and use data and information across several organizational boundaries. Metrics help to focus their efforts on the goals of the organization.
|This figure represents Stankosky’s four knowledge management practices and the subcategories for each practice.
Stankosky’s learning KM practice pertains to sharing knowledge. Logisticians share explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is easier to share than tacit because explicit knowledge can be documented. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, resides in the minds of individuals.25 It is difficult to extrapolate tacit knowledge from the minds of individuals. According to Michael Polanyi, “We remain ever unable to say all that we know.”26 Several ideas exist for sharing knowledge, but the Army logistics community does not have a coherent approach to accomplish knowledge-sharing.
Explicit knowledge. Logistics KM training and education fall under TRADOC. TRADOC has overall responsibility for Army logistics schools, such as the Quartermaster, Ordnance, and Transportation schools. The Combined Arms Center (CAC), one of TRADOC’s subordinate commands, provides training and leader development oversight for service schools. The “CAC commander is responsible for providing guidance, leadership and command supervision to the branch centers/schools to ensure that training remains safe, relevant, realistic and executed to Army standards.” 27 The CAC website states—
CAC provides Army-wide leadership and supervision for leader development and professional military and civilian education; institutional and collective training; functional training; training support; battle command; doctrine; lessons learned; and other specified areas that the TRADOC Commander designates. All of these are focused toward making CAC a catalyst for change and to support the development of a relevant and ready ground force to support joint, interagency and multinational operations anywhere in the world. 28
CASCOM is another TRADOC subordinate organization. CASCOM “provides training and leader development, and develops concepts, doctrine, organizations, life-long learning, and materiel solutions, to provide the Combat Service Support to sustain a campaign quality Army with joint and expeditionary capabilities.”29 CASCOM focuses on sustainment training and education. TRADOC, CAC, and CASCOM influence Army logistics KM training and education.
The logistics schools focus on the sharing of explicit logistics knowledge. Although they may not have updated their training and education programs to use the term, “knowledge management,” they cover processes for collecting, sharing, and using logistics data and information. They have written processes for identifying, acquiring, sharing, and using logistics data and information, and the Army has institutionalized these documented processes.
Tacit knowledge. None of the Army logistics training and education programs addresses tacit logistics knowledge. The Army logistics community does not have a tacit knowledge training and education strategy. Without a strategy for capturing logistics knowledge from the minds of subject-matter experts, a wealth of knowledge departs organizations when people rotate to their next duty assignments or depart the Army. The Army should institutionalize tacit knowledge sharing for the logistics community.
CASCOM has launched LOGNet to assist logisticians with sharing tacit knowledge. The open organization structure mentioned in the previous section facilitates rapid exchange of logistics data and information, and logisticians interact at all levels of operations. The logistics community should have a strategy for transforming tacit knowledge from the minds of individuals into explicit knowledge.
A logistics tacit knowledge strategy could serve as the funnel through which explicit logistics knowledge training and education programs receive updates. The manner in which the Army captures lessons learned from military operations could serve as a guide to assist the logistics community with this effort. Logisticians should have instructions from the tactical through operational and strategic levels for capturing and institutionalizing tacit knowledge.
|In an open system, organizations at all levels collaborate and share data and information.
Stankosky’s technology KM practice relates to KM capture and creation tools and funds. Technology “deals with the various information technologies peculiar to supporting and/or enabling KM strategies and operations.”30 The technology portion of this research does not attempt to cover every information technology available to Army logistics KM. Therefore, my research focuses on KM capture and creation tools and funds to help create, share, and use logistics data and information.
KM capture and creation tools. The Army has several logistics KM capture and creation tools to help logisticians create, collect, share, and use data and information. Knowledge capture and creation tools help transfer data and information from Army logistics automated information systems in the logistics enterprise to suppliers, shippers, and customers. These KM capture and creation tools include LOGNet, Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3), and Logistics Information Warehouse (LIW). The Army also uses the service-oriented architecture (SOA) software design approach. These KM tools help logisticians analyze data and information and convert them into knowledge for their organizations. The logistics community has several options for capturing, sharing, and using data and information.
LOGNet is a web-based collaborative site. CASCOM established this Internet-based forum for personnel with common interests to share logistics information. LOGNet allows logisticians to access, share, and use information from numerous sources and benefit from real-time collaboration.
The Army’s BCS3 is a system that pulls data from automated information systems to help logisticians make decisions. BCS3 is a KM decision support tool that provides estimates, friendly force tracking, in-transit asset visibility, and collaborative planning.31 Logisticians use information from BCS3 to prepare management indicator reports and control logistics operations. BCS3 obtains information that logisticians analyze and synthesize into knowledge to help them perform their duties.
LIW links data from several databases into a collaborative web-based environment and “provides a common point of entry to the existing web capabilities of the Logistics Integrated Data Base (LIDB), the Integrated Logistic Analysis Program (ILAP), and other LOGSA [Logistics Support Activity] tools.”32 LIW provides logistics managers access to data and information to make decisions. With the KM enablers from LOGSA, logisticians can manage the logistics pipeline at all levels of operations.
SOA “is a new approach to building information technology systems that allows business to leverage existing assets and easily enable the inevitable changes required to support the business.”33 SOA solutions for pulling data from databases to help make decisions include Raytheon’s Distributed Common Ground System Integration Backbone (DIB) and Boeing’s Network-Centric Logistics (NCL). Other software suppliers provide comparable SOA solutions as well. These enablers provide a means for the Army logistics community to leverage KM technological enablers without having to buy new automated information systems to keep pace with technological changes. DIB, NCL, and other SOA solutions rely on adapters to access databases to obtain logistics information.
SOA solutions provide additional decision support system options to the Army logistics community. Army logisticians do not have to rely on decision support systems that are part of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) package because they have KM system options to help with making decisions. The Army logistics community has several KM capture and creation tool options that logisticians can use to assist with several types of decisions. The logistics KM capture and creation tools help logisticians analyze data and information and are not limited to ERP package solutions.
Funds. The Army logistics community needs funds for linking KM capture and creation tools to shared databases in web-based environments and for completing the implementation of SALE. The logistics community should identify and quantify additional funding requirements for logistics KM capture and creation tools and should link these tools to Army Knowledge Online.
Access to the Internet is an important consideration for logistics KM. The Internet plays a major role in integrating information. Michael Porter states, “The special advantage of the Internet is the ability to link one activity with others and make real-time data created in one activity widely available, both within the company and with outside suppliers, channels, and customers.”34 Porter further states that the use of the Internet for a particular process will have far-reaching effects on other processes that are without access to the Internet.
The Army should provide additional funds not only for linking KM capture and creation tools under SALE to the Internet but for linking other logistics automated information systems as well. The components of SALE do not cover all logistics KM requirements. Therefore, the Army will have a combination of logistics KM
capture and creation tools funded by SALE implementation projects and other logistics automated information system projects. Additional funds could help provide access to logistics data and information in a web-based environment.
But, as of the completion date of this research, installation-level logistics organizations have no plans to link KM capture and creation tools to the Internet. According to a representative at the CASCOM Enterprise System Directorate, the Army has not funded the Logistics Modernization Program component of SALE for installation logistics KM requirements. The Army also needs funds for establishing a web-based entry point managing logistics data and information. According to the Army G–4 Logistics Automated Information Systems Office, if the funds were available, Soldiers would have one web-based entry point for every system. But logistics organizations do not have enough funds to make this a reality. The linkage of logistics KM capture and creation tools to the Internet should not be limited to the SALE portal.
The Army G–4 representative further stated that twenty-five command systems currently exist and, given a few dollars, those systems could be reduced to one. By doing this, the Army could eliminate the support contracts for the other systems and save money. The Army would give the Soldiers what they need and free up training dollars. (Soldiers’ operational training dollars fund those systems.)
The Army should not rely exclusively on SALE to link logistics KM capture and creation tools to the Internet. The Army should also provide funds for linking KM capture and creation tools under LIW to the Internet. The Internet plays a major role in establishing the logistics KM infrastructure; it provides a common structure for linking logistics data from functional systems to shared databases and reinforces the execution of logistics processes.
Stankosky’s leadership and management, organization, learning, and technology KM pillars could serve as guides for institutionalizing logistics KM practices. These KM practices should support logistics KM requirements, and the logistics community should adopt these practices at all levels of operation.
Dr. Nicholas J. Anderson is the president of O&M Consulting, LLC, in Goose Creek, South Carolina. He is a retired Army colonel and a graduate of South Carolina State University. He has a doctor of philosophy degree in organization and management from Capella University, a master’s degree in management from Webster University, and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Army War College.
1 Michael Stankosky, Creating the Discipline of Knowledge Management, Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, New York, 2005.
2 Army Regulation 25–1: Army Knowledge Management and Information Technology, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2005, p. 1.
3 Ibid., p. 3.
4“Army Knowledge Management Guidance Memorandum Number 5—Army Training Enterprise Integration,” Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2004, p. 1.
5 “TRADOC Mission,” Army Training and Doctrine Command, 2007, http://www.tradoc.army.mil/about.htm, accessed on 27 July 2007.
6 “Army Knowledge Management Guidance Memorandum Number 5,” p. 1.
7“General Order No. 3: Assignment of Functions and Responsibilities Within Headquarters, Department of the Army,” Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2002, p. 24.
8 Stankosky, p. 6.
9 W. Richard Scott, Organizations: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems, 5th ed., Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2003, pp. 31-101.
10 Herbert A. Simon, Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making in Administrative Organizations, 4th ed., Free Press, New York, 1997, p. 35.
11 Scott, p. 35.
12 Ibid., pp. 60-66.
13Georg Von Krogh et al., Enabling Knowledge Creation: How to Unlock the Mystery of Tacit Knowledge and Release the Power of Innovation, Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 2000, p. 173.
14 “AMC Mission,” Army Materiel Command, 2007, http://www.amc.army.mil/, accessed on 22 January 2007.
15 Terry E. Juskowiak and John F. Wharton, “Joint and Expeditionary Logistics for a Campaign-Quality Army,” Army Logistician, September–October 2004, p. 5.
16 Field Manual 4–0, Combat Service Support, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2003, p. 4-17.
17 Kathleen R. Conner and C.K. Prahalad, “A Resource-based Theory of the Firm: Knowledge versus Opportunism,” Organization Science, September–October 1996, p. 477.
18Daniel Katz and Robert Kahn, Social Psychology of Organizations, 2d ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1990, pp. 18–19.
19 Wenpin Tsai, “Social Structure of ‘Coopetition’ Within a Multiunit Organization: Coordination, Competition, and Intraorganizational Knowledge Sharing,” Organization Science, March–April 2002, p. 179.
20 Thomas H. Davenport, “Putting the Enterprise Into the Enterprise System,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 1998, p. 127.
21 Army Regulation 711–7: Supply Chain Management, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2004, p. 8.
22 Army Game Plan, Secretary of the Army, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2006, p. 4.
23 Army Regulation 220–1: Unit Status Reporting, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2006, p. 2.
24 Ibid., pp. 1–2.
25 APQC, “Retaining Valuable Knowledge: Approaches for Capturing and Sharing Valuable Knowledge,” 2003, http://www.apqc.org/portal/apqc/ksn?paf_gear_id=
&docid=111968, accessed on 20 December 2006.
26 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, University of Chicago Press, Chicago,1958, p. 95.
27 “TRADOC Mission.”
28 “Combined Arms Center-Overview,” Combined Arms Center, 2008, http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/overview.asp, accessed on 10 December 2008.
29 “United States Army Combined Arms Support Command Command Overview Briefing,” 30 October 2008, http://www.cascom.lee.army.mil/command/commandbrief/
CommandOverviewCoSI30Oct08.pdf, accessed on 3 December 2008.
30 Stankosky, p. 6.
31 Field Manual 4–0, p. 8-23.
32 “About LOGSA Logistics Information Warehouse,” LogTool, http://logtool.net/html/_tool_detail.php?tid=416, accessed on 12 February 2007.
33 Judith Hurwitz et al., Service Oriented Architecture For Dummies, Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2006, p. 3.
34 Michael Porter, “Strategy and the Internet,” Harvard Business Review, March 2001, p. 74.