Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Rafael Landaeta

Committee Member

Resit Unal

Committee Member

C. Ariel Pinto

Committee Member

Garrett Haltiwanger


A variety of research underlines the increasing need for adaptable leaders in the military and enhancing operational adaptability is accepted as one of the crucial factors for achieving success in future military operations. In general terms, operational adaptability is the ability to successfully respond to unforeseen changing situations during military operations. However, this study reveals that operational adaptability is not clearly conceptualized and supporting factors are not investigated in detail in the literature. Among possible factors, knowledge transfer is claimed to be an important practice that increases personal performance and effectiveness.

This research conceptualized operational adaptability and investigated the relationship between military leaders' operational adaptability and knowledge transfer. The concept of operational adaptability was developed by using current literature and researcher's experience in military professionalism. The operational adaptability is constructed to include three main dimensions: handling emergency or crisis situations, dealing effectively with unpredictable or changing operational situations and solving problems creatively. The literature review reveals inter-knowledge transfer and intra-knowledge transfer as the main practices whereas lessons learned and best practices as the main forms. The primary research question is "Does knowledge transfer have a positive impact on military leaders' operational adaptability?"

A research conceptual model was developed and five hypotheses were identified and statistically tested. A data collection instrument was developed, improved through peer review, and distributed using the Internet. Seventy one complete responses provided raw data to statistically test the validity of the measures and the hypotheses.

The results do not support the general hypothesis that an increase in knowledge transfer will have a positive impact on military leaders' operational adaptability. However, the results also confirm that the measures developed in the investigation are reliable and possess construct validity. Although no direct cause and effect relationship could be determined between knowledge transfer and operational adaptability, the research enhanced our understanding on both phenomena. This research confirms that knowledge transfer practices are not dominant drivers of operational adaptability; nevertheless, they still have a significant statistical association with operational adaptability. Furthermore, inter- and intra-knowledge transfer practices carry almost an equal weight for their association with operational adaptability. The research also confirms the crucial role of encountering more dangerous, challenging operational situations on operational adaptability especially in the problem solving dimension. This research concludes that knowledge transfer practices have more statistical association with handling crisis and dealing with change dimensions whereas encountering more dangerous, challenging operational situations has more positive impact on problem solving dimension of operational adaptability. The results of this investigation can be used as foundation for further research and development in the area of operational adaptability and knowledge transfer.