In 2012, Navy’s Submarine Force (SUBFOR) experienced a clear uptick in “incidents” – submarines “swapping paint” with other vessels and other problems of equal magnitude. Cultural and leadership issues were believed to be at the heart. And although critical values related to safety, integrity, and team effectiveness were communicated strongly by SUBFOR’s leadership, in their training and elsewhere, those themes were not consistently reflected in actual performance. ELG participated in the process to help assess the culture in order to develop improved internal strategic communication and organizational strategies. Through an extensive interview process, ELG helped discover underlying problems, including problems with SUBFOR’s previous efforts to develop and apply “lessons learned.” ELG developed recommendations from this study, the central ones of which have been employed by SUBFOR. The commander of SUBFOR reports that they have executed these recommendations and are experiencing excellent results.
In 2013 the Navy began to intensify its focus on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR). ELG was asked to help Navy’s SAPR program develop more cogent and effective prevention strategies. As part of this effort, ELG performed an assessment that included extensive research as well as conducting interviews with senior leaders and informed stakeholders. As a result, ELG recommended a set of strategies that has been adopted by Navy. It’s too soon for a victory dance, but senior leadership has expressed strong support and confidence in the way ahead.
One large Navy command, dispersed among three continents, had been given a mandate to find ways to save money. But because of their broad geographic spread the leadership team was challenged to unify their efforts and succeed — each subordinate command had developed its own culture, work ethic, and direction. Working with the flag officer in charge, ELG helped to re-defined the overall organization, identify clear and meaningful outcomes, establish innovative techniques for achieving them, and then set a drumbeat of execution.
Result: this organization and its processes became the model for ten similar organizations based around the globe. In addition, they ended the year 18% under budget, and were the only command among their peers to actually return money to the U.S. Navy.
A few years ago, at the beginning of this millennium, the senior military leader of the Navy correctly foresaw the impending financial pressures of the following decades. He believed that Navy leadership must strongly beef up its understanding of the “business of the business,” in order to meet the coming challenges – a perspective not particularly ingrained in Navy leadership’s culture at the time.
Among other initiatives, the Navy partnered with a prestigious West Coast business school to help bring a “mini-MBA” course to senior military and civilian leaders. That school asked ELG to lead off the course with a section on “Turning Strategy into Results,” which describes how to use ELG’s Whole Goal methodology.
Because of ongoing strong student evaluations – and success stories – ELG taught this course for over a decade at Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Executive Education. Students have employed what they learned from ELG faculty, citing success from all corners of the Navy and beyond, including the White House. ELG has also been asked to present this course to the Navy Intelligence community, Navy Information Professionals, Explosive Ordnance Disposal leadership, Coast Guard Transformation (watch video), US Army Executive Education leadership, leadership at most US submarine bases, and others.
A Pentagon-based Navy organization prepared daily reports for the Navy’s Service Chief, a 4-star admiral, and his senior leadership team. The reports were intended to provide critical information for strategic decisions. The vice admiral in charge of that process asked ELG to improve the efficiency of the process – and the strategic impact of the reports. Result: Working with him and the admirals under him, ELG instituted dramatic efficiencies, such as removing an excessive number of admirals’ edits (“chops”) from this daily process (down > 90%). Also, upon discovering that the people generating the reports had an altogether different definition of success than the people receiving the report, ELG instituted a feedback system that dramatically increased the number of successful reports.
The admiral newly in charge of a premier U.S. Navy think tank discovered that the products of that organization varied widely in quality. The point of the organization was to provide the Service Chief and senior leadership independent insight on emergent issues, yet their efforts were often ad hoc, with no systems to ensure consistently high quality, independence, and responsiveness. Working with the admiral and his executive officer, ELG trained the think tank’s staff in collaborative problem solving techniques and project management, translated those lessons into repeatable processes, and established other processes, such as on-boarding/off-boarding, stakeholdering, and strategic communication. Result: The admiral and his senior leadership reported extreme satisfaction with the resulting stream of products, some of which were used to inform strategic-level decisions by the Service Chief. Because of their success, this organization was later merged with an organization that plays a critical role in Navy’s planning and budgeting.
US Air Force
ELG was asked to help the Air Force design their Force Improvement Program (FIP) to address a major cheating scandal with their missileers. That work included training their 70 FIP interviewers on the best approach to uncovering issues and attitudes related to ethics and integrity, including how to avoid their own ethical problems; ELG consulted to Air Force’s elite team investigating operational training and evaluation practices; and ELG conducted an informal cultural assessment that informed survey questions and produced preliminary findings and recommendations. Air Force’s final findings and recommendations, published March 27, 2014, are consistent with ELG’s input.
US Air Force
Cost overruns in recent years have plagued all the services, and the Air Force is no exception. In their case, one of the several causes is that the ranks of Air Force cost estimators were drastically shrunk in the “peace dividend” years of the 1990’s. This left a workforce of varying skill levels, employing processes of varying effectiveness, and often managed by non-experts – not all of whom were actually seeking expert, unbiased cost estimates.
ELG was asked to analyze the Air Force’s cost estimating processes and related talent management practices, and to recommend improvements. The result was an in-depth analysis and recommendations, a document much-praised for its ingenuity and perceptiveness, and many of the ideas have been adopted with resulting success. See the recommended approach in “Multiplying the Power of Experts: A Systemic Approach.”
US Coast Guard
A major class of ships that has long served the Coast Guard well was due for replacement; the ships (378’ high endurance class cutters) were no longer being built and and neither were many of their parts. However, procurement of a replacement class had been delayed, and repairs to the aging vessels were becoming increasingly difficult, costly, and often, impossible – seriously threatening mission capability.
ELG, working with the vice admiral in charge, helped develop a strategy and execution discipline for bringing financial and manpower forces to bear on decisive points, and matching capabilities to missions. Accountability for precise outcomes was cascaded down through the organization, starting at the three-star level. This maintained required mission capability and bought the time required for acquisition of the new cutter class.