Thursday, January 13, 2011

ECBC Engineering Strategy Engages Workforce, Improves Technologies Available to Warfighter

Senior leaders within the Department of Defense (DoD) find themselves in one of the most challenging times our nation has ever seen; in addition to orchestrating the necessary defenses for our deployed warfighters, the emergence of domestic terrorism has extended the threat to the homeland, requiring government leaders in DoD to solve problems that are more complex within shorter timeframes.

As part of the nation’s principle research and development center for non-medical chemical and biological defense, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s (ECBC) Engineering Directorate senior management found itself struggling to balance the desire to support the workforce with people, learning and growth initiatives against the demands of a fee-for-service business model within the Joint Service-chemical biological defense world. Engineering Directorate leadership turned to the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) strategy management system as the best framework for the organization’s strategy development.
Since this strategy development process began in 2005, Engineering Directorate staff has remained engaged because the strategy itself is relevant and accessible. The structure of the strategy calls for continuous efforts to educate individuals about strategic initiatives and these initiatives seek to improve daily operations for the workforce — including a specific initiative to incentivize innovation.

Officials at ECBC are hoping this new incentive program, sponsored through Engineering Directorate’s BSC, is the key to providing scientists and engineers with some extra motivation to generate cutting-edge ideas to benefit the warfighter. The focus of the initiative is to “demystify motivation” and provide tangible, valuable incentives that will encourage the ECBC workforce to contribute creative capital. By fostering creative intelligence, ECBC believes individuals will be more likely to take on a greater sense of self-empowerment and a new personal vision, resulting in an improved “quality of life” for the workforce

“If we really want to get the workforce excited about innovation, first thing, we’ve got to put carrots out for incentive,” said Jim Genovese, chief of ECBC’s Innovative Development Engineering Acquisition Team. Genovese represents one of the many individuals throughout the Engineering Directorate who have become engaged in the strategy, and effected positive change in the organization.

“New patents can produce technologies that aid the warfighter and emergency responders, develop the professional credentials of the patent holders, provide numerous awards opportunities, and produce royalties,” Genovese wrote in the ECBC Innovation Incentives Decision Paper. “But the patent process is difficult, and patent incentives have always been low. Improving ECBC innovation is now addressed comprehensively in the ECBC and Engineering Directorate organizational strategies, and improving innovation incentive is a key initiative of this effort.”

In addition to increasing awards for invention disclosures and issued patents, Genovese is teaming with others in ECBC to apply monetary incentives to honorary awards dealing with technology development-transfer and scientific research innovation.

“In working on this initiative, we have found that you can give honorary and monetary awards for the same project; but there’s never been a precedent set to give cash for the same act that someone receives an honorary award for,” Genovese said.

According to the Army Regulation AR 672-20, and a review by Research, Development, and Engineering Command’s legal office, both monetary and honorary awards can be given for the same act. Based on this positive consensus, Genovese is moving ahead in a similar fashion with discussions and decision papers to incentivize honorary awards that are technology based.

Successes like this in the strategy implementation process have had a great impact on morale, because they create a feeling of empowerment and confidence in the process for those working to make change.

“They realize their ideas make a difference and that leadership is committed to their success,” said Engineering Associate Director Bill Klein. “These success stories also inspire individuals that are not already involved in the strategy management process to propose new initiatives for change, and promote the value of the process.”

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