Day 2 of NLLC 19 focused on providing SACT and SACEUR with recommendations on how to make the NATO Lessons Learned (LL) system more relevant and effective in improving NATO’s warfare capability.
It began with Rear Admiral James Kirk, Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), speaking about his experience of transforming LL from Exercises into doctrine.
He explained how NATO Exercises are becoming increasingly complex, with more stakeholders and participants, and diverse training audiences.
Their value is not just in testing HQ processes, but also in exposing the different levels of command to each other’s ways of planning.
Exercises are testbeds to put new organizations and doctrines under scrutiny. They are where we can muster manpower and materiel and try them out.
It was important to test in challenging circumstances and to understand that what hurts us makes us stronger. We adapt at the point of pain.
Ms Louise Hoehl, NATO Communication and Information Agency (NCIA), then spoke about the Agency’s experiences of doing LLs at Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 (TRJE 18).
NCIA supports over 20 Exercises each year, but TRJE 18 was on a different scale with much greater complexity. Senior management at NCIA was therefore keen to use TRJE 18 as an opportunity to capture its own lessons and to make its own improvements.
NCIA experienced some of the challenges all NATO organizations face when doing LL, such as how to capture observations, turn them into Lessons Identified and then actually learn those Lessons.
Air Commodore Philip Lester, UK Development Concept and Doctrine Centre, spoke about LL in the Space and Cyber domains.
He said that we need to get better at remembering the Lessons that had already been learned, before considering new Lessons.
It was important that LL and doctrine should provide the baseline of understanding from which leadership can make their decisions.
Resources are not used effectively if leadership assumes too quickly that a situation is totally new. It is important to get the jumping off point right.
It is a challenge for both NATO and the Nations to integrate the new domains of Space and Cyber into the existing operational domain structure of air, land, and sea. What we need for the future is an integrated five-domain concept – not three domains plus two.
Learning Lessons at the level of an individual Nation is difficult. It is much more so in an Alliance of 29. He reminded the audience of the indirect benefits from the NATO LL Process from, for example, liaison with colleagues: the journey is important as well as the destination.
In the fourth of this set of presentations, Mr Cornelious (Ham) Doraton, US Army NATO Interoperability/Standardization Representative, spoke about standardization and interoperability LL.
He reminded participants that the military is small in comparison with society as a whole, but its role is very important.
Standardization is vital both in NATO and in everyday life. Standards are the glue that holds NATO together.
He asked the audience why interoperability is important to NATO, the answer being because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
He described how he has worked with the JALLC over the years to embed interoperability standardization through the Capable Logistician Exercises.
Participants then had the opportunity to discuss the issues raised on the Crowdicity App with the Panel of speakers.
During the Panel discussion, there was a call for greater synergy of the JALLC, the JWC, and the Joint Forces Training Centre (JFTC), also known as JJJs, both in general, and specifically to improve the NATO LL Process.
In that connection, there was a need to engage more with the Centres of Excellence and specific Communities of Interest as the Subject Matter Experts.
In the second set of presentations, Professor Heidi Hardt of the University of California, Irvine, spoke about overcoming barriers to learning within the Alliance and how international organizations develop institutional memory.
Her research from 2015 with 120 NATO elites had indicated that there could be inadvertent barriers to LL in NATO.
She noted that her research suggests a preference for informal rather than formal methods for capturing and sharing Lessons organizationally, such as memos or Food for Thought papers.
Professor Hardt also raised the point that NATO’s military rotation and civilian personnel contracting policy can make it difficult to retain institutional memory.
Dr. Henrik Heidenkamp, ACO SHAPE Strategic Management Planning, presented on the links between LL and Strategic Management.
The subject was timely, given that Allied Command Operations (ACO) had recently revised its Strategic Management directive, including adding references to the NATO LL capability, and was about to publish its new Strategic Management Plan.
The aim of ACO’s Strategic Management was to enhance the efficient and effective development of ACO. It can do so more effectively, validly and reliably if it is based on LL.
A Lessons-based execution of the ACO’s Strategic Management System can also improve the justification for ACO’s resource requirements.
Dr. Heidenkamp said that it was important to align and integrate processes so that the Strategic Management community knew about the LL community and vice versa.
As the conference had already heard from various speakers, there are cultural, organizational, and educational challenges for NATO which affect Strategic Management and the linkage with LL.
Dr. Heidenkamp said that his point is not that we cannot make progress. We have to accept, however, that these challenges are inherent to the organization and are not going to change in the short term.
We should define success against the organization as it is, rather than the organization as we think it is or would like it to be.
Finally, Dr Tom Dyson of Royal Holloway University of London spoke about LL best practice from the perspective of the individual Nation and a bottom-up approach.
Dr Dyson described the British Army’s experience of a high-level review team to look at observations in the first instance, with remedial action then overseen by a cross-functional team.
Dr Dyson described factors that can make a difference to organizational culture and can incentivize people to behave in certain ways.
Again, there was the chance for discussion of all the ideas raised by the Panel, with interesting conversation about intelligence sharing, appropriate tools for analysis, the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning, how to present LL information in a way that would find traction with NATO leadership, and how to provide safe spaces for honest reflection.