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The Performance of British and German Army Lessons-Learned Processes during EU and NATO-led Operations: The Struggle to Achieve Knowledge Transformation

Tom Dyson

The formal lessons-learned (LL) processes of European militaries have undergone significant development since the early-2000s. The ability of militaries to facilitate and identify successful adaptation in the field and translate it into organisational change is a critical dimension of success in operations across the spectrum of conflict. LL will, therefore, have an important impact on the success of European states in meeting a variety of security challenges through both EU and NATO-led operations. However, the role that LL play in encouraging the institutionalisation of adaptation in the field as organisational learning has received limited attention in the academic literature. Drawing upon extensive original empirical research, the paper examines the state of play in Army LL processes in Britain and Germany and the extent to which they have implemented key principles of LL best-practice. It looks especially at the ability of the British and German Armies to achieve 'knowledge transformation' by effectively combining existing organisational knowledge with new knowledge gained from operational experiences. The paper focuses on the ability of the two Armies to achieve shorter-term changes to mission-specific training and operational design for follow-on contingents in a variety of EU and NATO-led operations, as well as longer-term changes to doctrine, officer education and foundational training. Finally, it explores the factors which determine the development of effective Army LL processes and argues that Neoclassical Realism provides the greatest analytical leverage in understanding the sources of military learning.

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