Connection, not Collection


The Essence of Lesson and Knowledge Management in Western Australia’s Emergency Management Sector.

An adapted article from a research thesis.

There has been steady improvement toward understanding the value of knowledge through lessons in Australia’s Emergency Management sector, particularly since the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (Department of the Attorney-General, 2011) highlighted that emergency service organisations must focus on a sector-wide attitude to knowledge sharing. Smith and Elliot’s (2007) argument however, is that any useable post-event information still fails to be properly integrated for it to work and for any length of time. So, the question is if the lessons-learned approach is the way forward, how it is implemented for emergency management agencies to comprehend it? Smith and Elliot’s argument is that although organisations must learn from previous events if they wish to be successful in the future, they must do more to practice information sharing, reflect on learned and acquired knowledge to become valuable in an operational environment full of uncertainty.

Study Background

Lesson and knowledge management is not a new concept in the emergency management domain. Prince’s (1920) examined the lead up and response to the 1917 Halifax explosion and outlined preparedness stages to ensure such events would not reoccur. This highlights a pioneering example into preparedness using lessons-learned (Perrow, 1967). In examining Princes work, Rostis (2007) concluded that lessons must motivate change, or at minimum, adaptation, to ensure repeated oversights do not reoccur. Nevertheless, research continually highlights that emergency management agencies are yet to be as effective as they could be given their operational tempo demands adaptability to changing situations.

Torlak (2004) stressed that a critical aspect of staying ahead in such environments, is for agencies to be cognizant of generating a workplace committed to learning and as Edmondson, Gino and Garvin (2008) explain, a competent learning organisation is particularly savvy across two critical skill sets. First, their aptitude to acquire, interpret, share and retain information and second, their ability to adjust their organisational mindset to this new information. Argyris and Schön (1978) and Senge (2003) suggest that if agencies commit to a culture of learning, then decision makers and leaders build the ability to grow individual and operational capabilities through knowledge retention and integration…Click here to read full article.