Think Portfolios, Not Programs

DoD can break from the program-centric model to develop and acquire capabilities in a broader portfolio aspect. Expanding on the systems-of-systems construct, programs can manage requirements, research and development, contracts, budgets, resources, architectures, roadmaps, and many other acquisition aspects at a broader portfolio level. Monolithic systems can be divided into smaller incremental pieces and managed along with related capabilities to regularly deliver capabilities to users. This approach has the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of major acquisitions. See the article Think Portfolios, Not Programs in Defense AT&L Magazine.



DoD Has Erected Barriers To Innovation

The Defense Business Board has another great presentation, this one on Innovation – Attracting and Retaining the Best of the Private Sector.  bright-idea-lightbulb-switched-on

They highlight that DoD needs both sustaining and disruptive innovation.  Sustaining innovation tends to be “top down”, addressing known problems with contracted and independent R&D.  Disruptive innovation tends to be “bottom up”, the source of major breakthroughs from non-traditional, self-funded development.

They found DoD has a closed system that discourages innovation.  From components that are hard wired into programs to a vertically integrated supply chain restricting competition.

The unintended consequences of budget reduction actions will hurt future innovation.  Cost focus via LPTA reduces staff and technical quality discouraging industry investments in innovations.

DoD lacks sufficient understanding of business operating models and drivers of innovation.   The fundamental business imperative is to increase earnings per share.  Profit is the lifeblood of the capitalist system and is risk calibrated.

They also summarized the slow acquisition process has 7-10 year platform cycle vs. 18 month Moore’s Law technology cycle.  The development curriculum for DoD acquisition workforce is inadequate.

The DBB lays out eight recommendations:

  1. Establish FAR Part 12 as default procurement method for non-platform acquisitions
  2. Require adoption of modular approach to new mission-essential platforms
  3. Rebalance policies on Intellectual Property
  4. Remedy unintended consequences of budget reduction actions
  5. Provide clear and consistent senior-level messaging of DoD goals and policies
  6. Systemize and mandate DoD workforce education as condition for promotion
  7. Simplify DoD internal processes and policies: ensure consistent long-term leadership
  8. Re-examine industry structure and incentives from standpoint of future DoD needs

A final series of factoids: The market cap of Apple, Exxon-Mobil, Google, and Walmart each exceed the entire defense industry.  Apple could buy nearly the entire defense industry today with their cash on hand.

So what are you thoughts on the DBB Innovation report?  I believe they go beyond the standard acquisition reform report and identify some key recommendations acquisition executives could implement today.  Which findings or recommendations resonate with you most?

Innovation Booths

Here’s an idea that I’ve been kicking around in my head for months and wanted to share in hopes someone builds upon it and implements.

Conferences are great opportunities to network with others in your industry and learn about the latest trends, strategies, challenges, and players.  Yet most conferences agendas are dominated by Power Point presentations with a few minutes at the end for questions.  Expo floors have booths filled with sales and marketing pitches, but most stroll looking for cool SWAG.  The real benefits are the discussions in the hallways or at a social hour where people can really engage each other yet those are limited in time and supporting resources.

Enter the Innovation Booth

Take a standard conference booth, add a big white board on one side, a projector and screen in the middle, and a flip chart (large blank sheets of paper) on the other side.  For five minutes someone shares a rough idea, a problem they’ve been struggling with, an issue plaguing the community, or a challenge for people to solve.  For the next 10 minutes those gathered around the booth would share their ideas, ask questions, draw on the boards, and otherwise roll up their sleeves and engage on the topic.

Imagine a few of these booths on the Expo floor and time is set aside in the agenda to visit the booths.  The innovation booths would be blocked off in 15 minute sessions (three an hour) with a schedule posted.  These are not for sales pitches but rather a venue to engage others in tackling problems and co-developing solutions.  A diverse crowd of conference attendees could offer innovative solutions and new business opportunities.  This gets people out of their hotel ballroom seats trying to stay awake during the presentations and actively engaging and collaborating others on new ideas for their industry.

Conference organizers could schedule the first round of booth sessions with a published schedule to get it started.  Later rounds could be filled by attendees signing up on a big board.  If there’s competition for space in the booths, some voting system could be established on a board so those with the most interest get the time slots.  Throughout the conference the booths would be open so if a few people get into a good discussion, they could use the white boards to further flesh out their ideas.  Imagine the ideas developed and evolved on these boards.  Essentially a larger version of writing on the back of a napkin.

A Dozen Ingredients for a Culture of Innovation

Apparently developing a list of factors for an Innovation Culture is a common trend these days. While VG had 9, Jeffrey Baumgartner has 12 in his post A Dozen Ingredients for a Culture of Innovation.

  1. Top Management Buy-In
  2. Trust
  3. Priority of Innovation (Often Confused with Time)
  4. Freedom to Take Action
  5. Freedom to Make Mistakes
  6. Rewarding Rather than Stifling Creative Thinking
  7. Collaboration Tools
  8. Places and Opportunities to Talk
  9. Places and Opportunities to Work in Isolation
  10. Access to Information
  11. Transparency
  12. Humor

Read the full post here.

10 Great Quotes from Macrowikinomics

Macrowikinomics is less of a business book and more of a blueprint for a moment to redefine industries, government, and society. It serves as my inspiration for this blog and my efforts to transform the Pentagon. Here are 10 great quotes from Macrowikinomics:


  1. The Web provides a platform for networking human minds.
  2. Transition from Industrial age thinking and hierarchical organizational designs to a new set of bottom-up institutions that are being built on principles such as openness, collaboration, and the sharing of data and intellectual property.
  3. Some are focused on tinkering with old models rather than moving to something new and viable.
  4. Mass collaboration provides an attractive alternative to the hierarchical, command-and-control management systems that are failing many of our key institutions.
  5. Young digital natives everywhere are questioning the historic traditions of venerable institutions such as the university, the newspaper, the medical establishment, and the entire apparatus of representatives government.
  6. Organizations can succeed and even thrive in this new environment by embracing the five principles of wikinomics: collaboration, openness, sharing, integrity, and interdependence.
  7. New forms of bottom-up collaboration now rival the hierarchical organization in its capacity to create information-based products and services and, in some cases, to solve the critical challenges facing the world. Whether analyzing the human genome or designing a smart energy grid.
  8. A doctor successfully dealing with a patient one-on-one in a small treatment room has no way to record the process of diagnosis and treatment in a manner that would be educational to others. But this is something the system should be capable of doing. Rather than handwritten data housed silently in filing cabinets, the data should be captured in a way that could tell us quickly if a treatment is exceptionally beneficial or conversely, is doing harm. Such information could be used to teach new doctors, or enable researchers to investigate new approaches to medicine. If patients were collaborating among themselves, sharing experiences and learning from one another on a mass scale, this would create an almost infinitely large database that could feed science and the advancement of medicine.
  9. Smart companies increasingly collaborate globally to get things done
  10. When you say “collaboration”, the average 45 year old thinks they know what you’re talking about – teams sitting down, having a nice conversation with nice objectives and a nice attitude. That’s what collaboration means to most people. But for Google and many other companies and organization, collaboration is now a profoundly new approach to orchestrating capability to innovative, create goods and services, and solve problems. Social networking is becoming social production, where self-organizing groups of peers can design and produce everything from software to motorcycles.
This book should be atop your summer reading list.
Visit the Macrowikinomics site for more about the book, blog, and authors.

The Eight Pillars of Innovation

Google’s exciting new project Think with Google has a mission “to engage the industry in conversation about the digital world and its future, and to inspire new ways for you to approach your business and better serve your customers.”


Google’s employee #16, Susan Wojcicki posted The Eight Pillars of Innovation

  1. Have a mission that matters
  2. Think big but start small
  3. Strive for continual innovation, not instant perfection
  4. Look for ideas everywhere
  5. Share everything
  6. Spark with imagination, fuel with data
  7. Be a platform
  8. Never fail to fail
Using Google products and services to articulate her points, Susan offers some great advice for organizations seeking to advance their innovation culture.