Monday, February 21, 2011

ECBC Engineering Strategy Engages Workforce, Works to Develop Future DoD Leaders

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 develop leaders.
Officials at ECBC are hoping this initiative, sponsored through Engineering Directorate’s BSC, is the key to providing the Center’s scientists and engineers with applicable leadership training that would be valuable for the workforce.
Since the early phases of the strategy’s implementation, the “Develop Leaders” initiative has been comprised of two primary efforts: Gather and analyze leadership training taken to date by the ECBC Engineering workforce; and create, administer and analyze results of a leadership survey given to the workforce. Both of these efforts have been completed, laying the foundation for the next phase in the team’s initiative.
“Initially when we started with this, our team sat down and looked at the goals set out by the Balanced Scorecard Core Team,” said Allen Swim, deputy product director for Ground Mobile Platform CBR Survivability for Major Defense Acquisition Programs, JPM Protection and the initiative’s team leader. “We wanted to ask the question, ‘What does the workforce think about the ability of their day-to-day leaders?’ Not just people who were their initial supervisors, anyone in the form of leadership — General Schedule (GS)-12 to GS-15.”
The team conducted a survey to poll the workforce and ask them to assess their leadership. The survey was administered to over 150 Engineering employees across grade levels. Along with the gathered training data, the survey was intended to provide a gauge for the team to make informed conclusions about the perceived training needs amongst Engineering Directorate leaders.
According to the survey results, participants scored leadership highest in the area of “Customer Satisfaction.” However, based on the team’s research, this was an area where leaders had taken the least amount of training. Additionally, survey participants scored leaders low in the area of “Leadership,” but according to the data, this was an area where numerous individuals had completed training.
“We have anecdotal evidence that speaks to the discrepancy between the two sets of data,” said Genna Rowe, ECBC chief of Special Projects Branch and a member of the initiative team. “For example, for something like ‘Customer Satisfaction’ where leadership was rated high but there has been little training done, we thought the reason for that was because folks are naturally customer focused. They have an innate skill in some of the surveyed areas, so they are rated higher in the survey results.”
Moving forward, the team has begun a thorough research process to begin compiling a leadership training curriculum unique to ECBC’s Engineering Directorate.
Currently, the team is looking into the Civilian Education System (CES) as a viable option for meeting leadership training needs within the directorate. CES offers a robust leadership curriculum that begins at a GS-5 level and carries through to GS-15. There is a recent push for CES to be rolled out across the U.S. Army workforce, replacing older training systems.
“As with any of the other training programs we consider, we want to make sure CES makes sense for our workforce,” Swim said.

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