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Teams of Leaders: The Next Multiplier

May 7, 2007

Effective communications have been a critical component of command and control throughout the ages of conflict. Recently there has been national focus on ensuring ability to communicate among complex systems across all Department of Defense (DoD) operations—the Defense Enterprise. Now with the demands of waging and winning the complex Long War, effective communications and derivative new national security decision-supporting capabilities need to be extended fully to joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational (JIIM) operations.

The overarching military vision has been the enabling of joint net-centric operations as an important part of the U.S. Revolution in Military Affairs—force transformation. Soon after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland, confirming tactical success achieved by vastly improved communications was demonstrated in operations in Afghanistan—the horsemounted Special Forces Soldier employing strategic airpower tactically and successfully. This was a powerful example of an unprecedented capability to collaborate across jurisdictions with decisive effects.

There has been an enormous and generally successful effort to extend this capability across various functional areas of both the generating and the operating forces of America’s Army. From the top down, ubiquitous information technology (IT) in both classified and unclassified domains extends globally from the corps joint task force level and above to the squad level with the emerging Land Warrior system. The wholly correct and successful focus has been to provide leaders at all echelons with timely data and information with appropriate security.

But data and its translation to usable information—the staples of information management (IM)—while necessary, are not sufficient to prevail across an inordinately complex spectrum of operations. Data and information need to be converted into usable knowledge. Knowledge is information that has been analyzed for meaning and value or evaluated for implications; then, hopefully, that knowledge becomes actionable understanding. Understanding is synthesized knowledge with judgment applied in a specific situation to understand the situation’s inner relationships. Actionable understanding directly supports accomplishing the mission for the individual leader and leader teams across the full Defense Enterprise.

The purpose of now-maturing knowledge management (KM) is to complement IM to cause the conversion from data and information to knowledge and actionable understanding. This conversion should occur effectively, efficiently and routinely. That requires much more than support of an important technical process of communication. KM process stimulates social learning through collaboration, both for individual leaders and for teams of leaders now grouped globally by enormous improvements in information technologies. New opportunities for collaboration emerge in KM, inviting and then supporting building teams of leaders.

In fact, it seems highly likely that KM developed to generate intense human collaboration to build and sustain battle-effective teams of leaders, then multiplied by effective global communications enabled by IT, will serve to define the processes of command and control for battle command of the future. In that context, expanding KM completes the larger command and control vision associated for years with IM programs.

Battle command will become “IM x KM,” not “IM + KM.” A multiplier effect of increasing social sharing or collaboration among leaders expands the impact of shared actionable understanding achieved through net-centric operations. With expanded collaboration comes intensified development of commander leader teams (CLTs), many of whom become high-performing. CLTs become another performance multiplier. The interactive combination of IM, KM and high-performing commander leader teams (HP CLTs) is what we (the authors) describe as Teams of Leaders (ToL).

Such social as well as technical transformation is vitally important to success in each of the four strategies of the Army Plan because understanding permits second and third order insights and implementation initiatives that capitalize on the quality of deeply experienced Soldiers.

When CLTs supported by IM and KM are added, opportunities for exponential improvement in America’s Army and national JIIM programs emerge. The combination seems sufficiently powerful that ToL can be considered a new joint force multiplier.