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Asynchronous Learning Network Conference. Government & Military Panel. Integrating Distance Education Technology and Organizational Learning into the Army National Guard (ARNG). MAJ Todd Chamberlain Army National Guard. Ira Monarch & Gene Miluk Carnegie Mellon University.

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Asynchronous Learning Network Conference

Government & Military Panel

Integrating Distance Education Technology and Organizational Learning into the Army National Guard (ARNG)

MAJ Todd Chamberlain

Army National Guard

Ira Monarch & Gene Miluk

Carnegie Mellon University

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New Forms of Advanced Learning

  • Organizations have to become more like institutions of higher learning to achieve successful innovations

  • Not just individuals learn, so do organizations

  • Organizational learning requires a social-technical infrastructure, a virtual space of learning beyond face-to-face

  • Organizational learning is always distance learning though–if not physical than virtual.

    In the case of the ARNG, “failure” to adopt a shared learning tool becomes an opportunity for incipient organizational learning and the basis for the culture change needed to perpetuate organizational learning.

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Organizational Learning Infrastructure

Technical issues: networking, connectivity, multicasting, machine performance (speed, memory, resolution…), microphones, video cameras, maintenance expertise

Social issues: innovations and the carriers of innovations threaten current cultural and social schemes, especially positions therein of power and security

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Army National GuardAn Introduction

The Army National Guard (ARNG) is very similar to a large national conglomerate.

  • The "corporate headquarters" (the ARNG Directorate) in Washington, D.C. provides guidance and financial distribution (of federal dollars) to

  • 54 autonomous "companies" (each of the State and Territory National Guards). The State National Guard is run by an Adjutant General who reports directly to his/her respective Governor

  • The "CEO" at the ARNG Directorate is the Director of the Army National Guard. The Directorate consists of 15 functional divisions, each headed by a "Senior Vice-President" (a Division Chief).

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ARNG Case History:“Failure” to Adopt a Learning Tool

Learning Tool to Measure ARNG Performance:

  • Identify and map the core business processes related to the Army National Guard Directorate

  • Provide a system dynamic stock & flow representations for these business processes

  • Identify the key decision making information requirements of ARNG leadership

  • Design a “Dashboard” to monitor the performance associated with decision making gauges

    Implementation:formed a team of 20 action officers representing all functional divisions to look at the ARNG Directorate business processes using systems thinking

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The “Dashboard”Learnings

What We Learned

  • Cultural issues (knowledge sharing) must be addressed prior to and during implementing organizational learning tools

  • Productive “Failures” can lead to change

  • A small learning community can build a “network” that will last

  • In hierarchies, senior leaders must be involved and “buy-in” in order to have credibility

    If the ARNG is to become a learning organization, availability of technical infrastructure like the dashboard is not enough.

    It will only be installed, used, and improved if there is sufficient social-technical infrastructure for the inquiring system that enables and interprets it.

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Vision Based Management SystemActions

The “Dashboard”Actions

Actions Taken

  • Once a few people fully appreciated the problems that thwarted this new technology and an approach that could have uncovered them, an educational course for senior leaders was designed.

  • The educational course was arranged through collaboration with CMU, resulting in face-to-face training provided by the Heinz School and SEI.

  • Actively sought to engage senior leaders

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ARNG/CMU CollaborationOrganizational Capabilities

ARNG Directorate

  • Provide opportunity to implement organizational learning in a unique environment

    • Military Culture

    • Crisis Management

  • Provide a high speed network to all 54 states and territories


  • Provide expertise in:

    • Organization and technology change management

    • Distance and organizational learning

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ARNG/CMU CollaborationObjectives

Utilize CMU’s expertise in managing cultural and technological change to assess the ARNG cultural readiness for change

Assist the ARNG Directorate to become a “Learning Organization”

Capitalize on GuardNet XXI and the ARNG Distance Training Technology Program to establish a Virtual Readiness University

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Issues in Exchange of ExpertiseARNG/CMU

Not merely a matter of the transfer of expertise from CMU to ARNG–Mutual understanding is needed.

Increasing recognition that mutual understanding would benefit by emergence of a virtual organization representing both CMU and ARNG

Organizational learning by the ARNG Directorate begins in the emerging virtual organization.

The virtual organization is the scaffolding of the coming ARNG virtual university and learning organization.

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Virtual Organization Begins Face-to-Face

First Steps: Training at CMU

  • Classes a hit - all of them provided information that the senior leaders were excited about using

  • One in particular, a cultural assessment based on a survey of ARNG Directorate and Senior Leadership provided:

    • valuable insight into problems in organizational communication and management

    • impetus for senior leadership to make immediate corrections

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Cultural Change AssessmentLearnings

Both Directorate and Senior Leadership identified the same top two barriers in implementing change:

  • Communication:People have to be careful about what they say to different levels of management and to different parts of the organization.

  • Management Processes:ARNG management processes are authoritarian and decisions must be checked with many people before execution.

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ARNG Hierarchy

State National Guards

The Army National Guard Directorate

When mobilized for federal active duty, state guard units report to Army or Air Force commander.

Division ChiefChief Surgeon

Division ChiefReadiness

Division ChiefProgram Analysis

Division ChiefTraining

Division ChiefStrength Maint

Division ChiefPersonnel

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Cultural Change AssessmentActions

Initial Actions

  • Senior leaders provided immediate feedback to ARNG Directorate upon returning from the training session

  • Division chiefs empowered with decision making authority to speed processes


  • Members of the senior leadership are working more as a “team”

  • Senior leaders are now “seeing” the interrelationships between all their activities

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Next StepsOrganizational Learning

CMU training provided a recognition space for the ARNG to learn about problems that thwarted previous introductions of organizational learning tools.

Senior leaders agreed to the following next steps:

  • Develop a knowledge management infrastructure

  • Install Collaborative Virtual Workspace (CVW) for virtual collaboration

  • Develop ways to “target” cultural barriers

  • Develop follow-on training for remainder of the ARNG Directorate

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Next StepsVirtual Organizational Learning

Need to overcome barriers to fielding and implementing the virtual university

  • Cultural issues (politics) not addressed

  • Learnings not shared

  • Collaborative relationship not established

    ARNG and CMU can mutually learn from one another by reinforcing virtual organization

  • Establish networks of communications between learning communities (Use of collaborative tools)

  • New “mental models” for collaborative endeavors across organizations (government - contractor)

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New technology must be introduced as part of overall change management and usually involves cross-organizational collaboration

Technology introduction is inextricably tied up with cultural/social issues–both organizational and cross-organizational.

Change management requires distance education, training and mentoring to be successful.

It will take longer than you think.

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Conclusions:ARNG Cultural/Social Issues

Cultural/social issues need to be addressed

  • New learning capabilities require new types of communication–both within and among organizations

  • Hierarchical organization and organizational boundaries often prevent the appropriate feedback for action to become more flexible, learnable.

  • The challenge of the cultural assessment is to exercise and grow the ARNG’s and CMU’s capabilities for open communication of heretofore bounded information

  • The capacity to act on that information needs to be established.

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Conclusions:ARNG Technological Issues

Technological change cannot be separated from social change and must be introduced as part of overall change management

  • Technical understanding of a collaborative distributed system like CVW is tied up with organizational/political issues of who has the authority to do what and who should talk with whom.

  • New technology always has problems introducing tradeoffs between expensive polished versions in rich environments and inexpensive raw versions in plain environments.

  • Fielding and extending new technology is part of organizational inquiry necessary for change management.

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Conclusions: Implementation Issues

  • Organizational learning is like swimming; if you stop once you start, you’ll drown (e.g. we must have sustained education and mentoring for continued learning to occur)

  • Have to maintain a balance between those that feel change is too slow and those that feel change is too fast

    • Too fast = organizational resistance

    • Too slow = death/status quo