Digital Disruption

Digital disruption is a mindset that bypasses analog
barriers, gaps, boundaries to deliver value

James McQuivey, Digital Disruption


DEPSECDEF on Transitioning DoD

As we draw down from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our force needs to make a very difficult transition from a large, rotational, counterinsurgency-based force to a leaner, more agile, more flexible, and ready force for the future.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter

See Dr. Carter’s full remarks at the National Press Club on May 7, 2013.

10 Jack Welch Rules for the Pentagon

DoD’s massive budget cuts are going to drive a transformation one way or another.  There are some great lessons from Jack Welch that may help shape the future of the Pentagon.  Here are 10 of his rules that I believe the Pentagon leadership must adopt today. [My comments]

  1. Manage Less. “We are constantly amazed by how much people will do when they are not told what to do by management.” Let your people do their what you hired them to do.
    [DoD’s countless policies, reports, reviews, and oversight crush productivity, morale, and innovation.]
  2. Articulate Your Vision. “Leaders inspire people with clear visions of how things can be done better.” Leaders do not provide a step-by-step instruction manual for their teams, they let their vision inspire action.
    [Instead of writing more policy or holding more reviews, share your vision with subordinate organizations and more importantly, those on the front lines]
  3. Simplify. Keeping it simple. “Simple messages travel faster, simpler designs reach the market faster and the elimination of clutter allows faster decision making.” Simplicity is not easy, but is effective.
    [Could others in your organization convey the key tenets of your vision or strategy?]
  4. See Change as an Opportunity. Change is a big part of the reality in business. This reminds me of the old Chinese proverb that the icon for danger is the same as the one for opportunity.
    [Budget cuts provide an opportunity to eliminate non-value added processes, reports, organizations, individuals, and systems to be more streamlined, agile, and competitive going forward.]
  5. Get Good Ideas from Everywhere. New ideas are the lifeblood of business. “The operative assumption today is that someone, somewhere, has a better idea; and the operative compulsion is to find out who has that better idea, learn it, and put it into action – fast.” The best ideas of all usually change the entire game–vs. trying to improve it.
    [DARPA and the IC have leveraged the wisdom of the crowds to develop innovative solutions – have you?]
  6. Get Rid of Bureaucracy. The way to harness the power of your people is “to turn them loose, and get the management layers off their backs, the bureaucratic shackles off their feet and the functional barriers out of their way.” Keep bureaucracy to the absolute minimum required to scale with predictability and quality.
    [The DoD bureaucracy imposes greater risks to programs than the risks they intend to mitigate.]
  7. Create a Learning Culture. “The desire, and the ability, of an organization to continuously learn from any source, anywhere – and to rapidly convert this learning into action – is its ultimate competitive advantage.” When you stop learning you are dead.
    [Leverage the web to amass the collective knowledge of the DoD and external sources.]
  8. Involve Everyone. Business is all about capturing intellect from every person. The way to engender enthusiasm it to allow employees far more freedom and far more responsibility. If people are not involved, they have little reason to be creative and add more to the pie.
    [As Nilofer Merchant writes: Get those on the front lines involved in developing strategies and solutions.]
  9. Constantly Focus on Innovation. “You have just got to constantly focus on innovation. And more competitors. You’ve got to constantly produce more for less through intellectual capital. Shun the incremental, and look for the quantum leap.” Again, something very true in today’s technology world where no leaders can emerge from anywhere – if they have a solution that is far more innovative to all others.
    [Divorce strategic plans from the decades old CONOPS mentality – develop innovative alternatives to achieve strategic objectives – you’ll find 10X solutions are out there.]
  10. Live Speed. “Speed is everything. It is the indispensable ingredient of competitiveness.” Everyone who gets the market second is a “me too” follower.
    [Stop wasting time with excessive documentation, reviews, and analysis to get the perfect long term solution (which you’ll never achieve) – deliver users some initial capabilities today and build upon them tomorrow.]
See the full list of 25 lessons from Jack Welch here.

Analyze Successes Instead of Failures

MITRE CEO Al Grasso recently testified to a Senate Subcommittee on Examining the President’s Plan for Eliminating Wasteful Spending In Information Technology:

“I am struck by the amount of attention paid to failures versus time spend analyzing successes for critically important lessons to be learned.  I observe a strong tendency to impose new policies, processes, and reporting requirements in an effort to avoid future failure.  These requirements, introduce an ever increasing burden that reduces agility, imposes costs, and delays the delivery of much needed capability.”

Instead of imposing hundreds of additional policies, we need to integrate a knowledge management culture and platform in the DoD to capture and share lessons learned (both successes and failures). These tools should be woven into our daily operations so that they’re not a separate database or report to check when you have time (rarely), but part of organization and enterprise websites structured for topic areas that cover policies, statutes, guidance, and lessons learned. They should be extremely easy for users to contribute to, not requiring lesson learned interviews, detailed reports, nor controlled by a policy gatekeeper. This enables cross-collaboration across the organization and enterprise, with the right folks monitoring the site to help organize, validate, and encourage additional contributions. A community that actively contributes to and leverages knowledge management platforms increases in the speed and reach of lessons learned and is vastly more effective than imposing additional enterprise wide burdensome policies.