How often do you hear someone say after a disaster, “if we only knew about the warning signs…”? And then you discover that the warnings were there all along, but we missed them. In other words, the information was available, but the right people did not find it and were unable to act on it. We heard these words in the aftermath of 9/11. And now we’re hearing it in the aftermath of the Fort Hood tragedy.
Today’s news included a report on a supervisor’s assessment of Maj. Nidal Hasan:
Two years ago, a top psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was so concerned about what he saw as Nidal Hasan’s incompetence and reckless behavior that he put those concerns in writing. […]
Officials at Walter Reed sent that memo to Fort Hood this year when Hasan was transferred there.
Nevertheless, commanders still assigned Hasan — accused of killing 13 people in a mass shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5 — to work with some of the Army’s most troubled and vulnerable soldiers.
We may discover that the supervisors at Fort Hood saw and ignored this letter. Presumably, there will be legal consequences for that behavior. But what if they never saw the information? That’s a classic case of inadequate knowledge management.
If the only thing knowledge managers do right is to set up systems that help get the important information before the decisionmakers, we’ll have done a great deal. It’s critical to focus on this issue every day — otherwise you may end up with incomplete information leading to bad decisions and horrible human consequences.
[Photo Credit: Flags lowered at Fort Hood, The U.S. Army)