Providing focus in a changing environment
July 16, 2013
Upon joining the Installation Management Command team here at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr 18 months ago, I quickly realized the scope of the challenges that lay before us. The operational environment was dynamic and transforming.
In response to changes in our national security priorities and in the face of austere fiscal realities, the U.S. Army in Europe was leaning forward to restructure, reduce and reshape USAREUR's posture to better align with our national defense strategy and to support combatant commanders, NATO, European allies and partner nations.
In support of USAREUR, IMCOM Europe was also transforming, using a three-pronged "consolidate, divest and invest" strategy to more appropriately match installation infrastructure with the changing force structure and to meet challenges posed by our military's constrained resources and shrinking budget.
This strategy consolidates like mission groups onto enduring installation communities, divests excess infrastructure from legacy missions, and prudently invests in remaining infrastructure to optimize the Army's capability and flexibility.
The concept of a single garrison was also transformed as geographically dispersed communities organized regionally under seven enduring installations in order to reduce overhead and streamline command and control structures small sites. The results are intended to be a streamlined, more affordable support structure for a leaner, more adaptable force.
The fiscal environment also complicated the situation with civilian hiring freezes and greatly reduced budgets. So, what tools does a garrison commander have to meet the mission in such an environment of significant and continual change? We decided to focus on developing a strategic plan to empower our workforce.
USAG Grafenwoehr is now responsible for the U.S. military communities in the German state of Bavaria, including Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels and Garmisch. IMCOM Europe's restructuring and consolidation efforts resulted in the conversion of Garmisch to a small site as part of USAG Grafenwoehr in the summer 2012.
Soon, USAG Hohenfels will also convert to a small site and the USAG Grafenwoehr headquarters will be responsible for all three locations, comprising the largest total base population and housing population in Europe.
Our diverse footprint includes 12 rural Bavarian counties, four military communities and 44 outlying communities dispersed through 4,100 square kilometers, including the majority of USAREUR's combat formations and the the only overseas combat training center across two military training areas. Our area also includes the Armed Forces Recreation Center, the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, as well as the George C. Marshall Center and a NATO school.
As we worked through the adjustments of assuming staff responsibility for small sites, we developed an "enterprise" name and logo in order to provide a consolidated identity for our geographically dispersed locations.
Since the remaining garrisons in the state of Bavaria will soon close, we will comprise almost all of the remaining U.S. military locations in Bavaria. Therefore, we chose the Bavaria Military Community (BMC) as our new identity, a decision met with great appreciation by our German partners.
This will soon be confirmed with an official organization name change from USAG Grafenwoehr to USAG Bavaria. This allowed for an organizational identity while maintaining the individuality of each community associated with a nearby town.
Simultaneously, the IMCOM Europe restructure efforts resulted in a Reduction in Force (RIF) affecting our local national workforce. Unique to the overseas environment, 70 percent of our workforce is LN. We engaged in an extensive outreach and communication plan with our workforce, in conjunction with the Works Councils (similar to labor unions in the U.S.) aligned with our employees. This effort has paid dividends in the ensuing months, as we navigated other cost-saving initiatives that affect our LN workforce.
First, we conducted a thorough mission analysis, including the environmental factors and all the relevant campaign plans (IMCOM, USAREUR, and our largest mission partner organization, the Joint Multinational Training Command). A review of our previous mission statement showed a focus on support to specific mission partners.
As USAREUR transforms and restructures, it was clear that although our mission partners may change, so our mission statement should be broader in order to remain constant. Our efforts resulted in a clear, concise mission statement which guides the tactical implementation of the IMCOM mission within our communities:
Our mission is to synchronize, integrate and deliver vital installation support, quality customer service, and necessary programs to enable ready and resilient Soldiers, civilians and families who live and work within the Bavaria Military Community, while ensuring good stewardship of the resources entrusted to us by the American people.
As we faced the challenges of restructuring, restationing and drawing down, we identified our priorities and key areas of focus. In addition to looking closely at our programs and services, we also assessed current services to ensure we are providing the right services, at the right quality level, and at the right location to meet the overarching needs of our community.
Ultimately, we will continue to provide Soldiers, civilians and families the best training, living conditions, and overall quality of life possible. We will continually review our structure and facilities to identify the means to operate more efficiently and effectively with the resources available.
We will continue to modify, relocate and expand services across the enterprise to fit the needs of the community within fiscal constraints. And, the quality of services will not deteriorate as we change to fit the current fiscal reality.
As we continued through this period of uncertainty and change, we wanted to empower our leaders and workforce and provide some guiding principles to help them maintain focus. We identified three keys to success in this endeavor:
Internalize: Provide and standardize quality customer service.
Innovate: Capture and share best practices.
Inform and Communicate: Manage customer expectations.
Next, we worked through the process to develop our organization's vision. While our mission statement is directive in nature, our vision focused on clearly representing the values, direction and desired end state of the BMC in how we support our stakeholders. Through a collaborative process that included leader discussion and workforce engagement, we obtained buy-in for our vision:
A diverse team of professionals dedicated to serving Soldiers, civilians and families of the Bavaria Military Community; the IMCOM standard for sustainable quality services and infrastructure; the model for customer service, innovation, safety, well-being and readiness; a place that offers diverse opportunities for all community members to grow personally and professionally.
This vision works well with the three keys to success we use each day and provides our community's view of IMCOM's vision. As we internalize our profession, we continue to provide and standardize quality customer service.
Using the program developed by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, we implemented standardized customer service training, opening up our "Operation Excellence" program to our entire workforce, including train-the-trainer sessions.
As we expanded this program throughout our workforce, we continued to use the assessments and metrics available through our customer feedback tools (such as ICE, the Interactive Customer Evaluation), as well as tips and techniques for improving customer service in each area. Ultimately, all of our stakeholders benefit from this program.
We established a Customer Service Standardization working group, chaired by our Plans, Analysis and Integration office, to identify goals, objectives and deliverables for this program. Standardized customer service is one way for our workforce to internalize our ability to continue to provide the best customer service possible, in the midst of a constantly changing environment. Soldiers and families want predictable programs and services.
This key to success also nests well with IMCOM's current standardized approach to Common Levels of Support that can be tailored to local communities, aligning these customer and workforce expectations within current and projected funding levels Army-wide.
Our holistic approach to providing customer service not only set expectations for our employees, but also provided them with additional facilitation and communication skills. As we incorporate aspects of resiliency training into the process, we enable our workforce to weather difficult customer situations, as well as strengthening their ability to handle personal stress.
By internalizing a high, consistent standard of customer service and enabling our workforce with the tools to provide that service, this key to success pays big dividends in our ICE reporting systems, as well as in customer and employee sensing sessions.
The second key to success, our ability to innovate, is exemplified by the development and sharing of best practices, not only within the BMC, but across IMCOM and the Army. Our ability to find better, faster and cheaper ways to do business in an environment of constrained resources is critical in order to allow us the flexibility to provide the services our community needs most.
In addition to our workforce, it was also important to combine forces with our mission partners, community members and other stakeholders. As the largest training center in Europe, our community is uniquely defined by a large transient population that passes through for schools or other training events.
Allowing our workforce to innovate within their own areas while informing them about our unique demographics, resulted in some great ideas we then shared with the larger IMCOM and Army community through "best practices" on IMCOM garrison commanders' net.
We encourage identifying best practices, sharing them across our organization, as well as with others, and personally recognizing that innovative employee as a member of our workforce.
It is equally important to identify those services, programs or processes which we can stop doing.
By engaging our workforce at all levels and empowering them to really assess their areas, we can root out duplicative services or programs and better align our remaining resources.
Finally, we worked, and must continually strive, to inform our community, including our workforce. We strive to ensure our community understands what and why things will change well before they do. We developed and implemented a communications strategy which requires our service providers to publish messages to the community when there are disruptions or changes to services.
By publishing these messages as far in advance as possible, our customers are able to adjust. We use a wide array of media to communicate with our community, including Facebook and other social media, websites, weekly newsletters, our online newspaper, local newspapers, mission partner leaders, school administrators, Works Councils, and a variety of town halls events and digital displays.
One sign of our success is when community members started to share information and inform each other via social media. Monitoring these communication paths also allows us to assess the effectiveness of our communication and whether we are reaching the target audience.
Our efforts have been validated by the increase in social media activity and the accuracy of the information shared by community members who amplify our messaging.
We also strived to keep our own workforce up to date. We met, and continue to meet regularly, with our LN Works Councils to ensure our information is reaching the large, German-speaking blue-collar LN workforce we employ.
We started, and continue to use, leader professional development sessions to provide a forum for our mid-level managers and supervisors to learn more about our environment and organization, while building their own networks for mutual support, resiliency-building and idea-sharing.
Sharing information and providing opportunities for effective communication laterally within our organization empowers our workforce with an understanding of what will happen and gives them a sense of control over the uncertainty in a dynamic environment.
In the process of implementing these programs, we harnessed the power of building and maintaining a strong team. Including our workforce and community members in the dialogue and offering them opportunities to contribute, guarantees their involvement.
Our focus continues to be on the things we can affect, not worrying about the things we cannot. For instance, although we cannot independently control budget and manpower decisions, we can focus our efforts on what we can directly influence, such as our keys to success. Our keys to success also nest well with the IMCOM 2020 Campaign Plan.
As we focus on internalizing, innovating and informing, we tell the IMCOM story while upholding customer service standards and adapting our organization to the current environment.
As we continue to negotiate our ever-changing environment, the Bavaria Military Community's keys to success provide the fundamentals for consistent, quality customer service for the programs and services we provide.
As we focus on these basics, we are better prepared to meet the standards set by our stated mission, strive to achieve our focused vision, and successfully transform into a single garrison of three separate communities, the Bavaria Military Community.
In doing so, USAG Grafenwoehr / USAG Bavaria becomes our Soldiers', our civilians' and our family members' home away from home.
Editor's Note: Col. James E. Saenz serves as the commander of USAG Grafenwoehr. Prior to assuming command, Saenz served as the director of the Commander's Strategic Initiatives Group for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, worked as the senior Special Operations representative at the Department of State, and has held a variety of command and staff positions in the Special Forces community. He earned his commission from the U.S. Military Academy in 1987. His military education includes Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Command and General Staff College, Special Forces Qualification Course, Infantry Officer Advanced Course, and Engineer Officer Basic Course.
His civilian education includes a Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy, Master of Military Art and Science from the Army Command and General Staff College, and a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University.
Lt. Col. Margaret H. Pratt is the chief of staff for USAG Grafenwoehr. Prior to her current assignment, she completed Advanced Civil Schooling at Georgetown University and served as the executive officer for the General Officer Management Office, Office of the Chief of Staff, Army.
She was commissioned into the Military Police Corps in 1995 from the U.S. Military Academy and designated her career field to Adjutant General Corps in 2004. Her military education includes Military Police Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and Intermediate Level Education.
Her civilian education includes a Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy and a Master of Public Management from Georgetown University.