Innovation, experimentation will help keep Army relevant
June 11, 2014
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 9, 2014) -- "The world is rapidly changing, and we must change with it to remain relevant," said Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson at the annual William H. Kushnick, John W. Macy Jr., and Nick Hoge awards ceremony, in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
To make that change, Soldiers and Army civilians should experiment and try to discover new and innovative techniques, methods and approaches that can be applied to people, processes and systems, he explained.
Experimentation and innovation are "distinctly American ideas, deeply engrained in our culture and in the Army culture," he added.
Carson spoke during the ceremony honoring three innovative Army civilians with the William H. Kushnick award, the John W. Macy Jr. award and the Nick Hoge award: David A. Helmer, Human Resources Officer (Labor Relations), G-1; Freddie L. Giddens, deputy to the garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud (Area-1), South Korea; and, Dianne V. Smith, supervisory strategic planning specialist at the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office, U.S. Army Garrison Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The Army can't rest on its laurels, he said, referring to its accomplishments in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We must now reorganize our systems to prepare for the next fight.
"While all of the Army's accomplishments are appreciated, even celebrated, we can't afford to make any of those accomplishments sacred," he continued. "Our vision is to recreate our workforce, not necessarily based on precedent, but to meet the future requirements and demands that will come upon us."
The undersecretary then pointed to Army civilians as leaders in innovation.
The Army is a "massive global enterprise," he said. "The responsibilities of the civilian workforce in underpinning the forces we deploy abroad are critical."
This is a time of opportunity for civilians, he said. "The professionalism of the force is rising. The time to make large, enterprise-wide changes to our processes is upon us."
The under secretary encouraged senior leaders to give Army civilians all of the "authorities and the tools they need" to meet the many emerging challenges.
He then recognized the three Army civilians, noting that throughout the Army there are many like them who are unsung heroes.
DAVID A. HELMER
Helmer received the William H. Kushnick Award for guiding the human resources community through the 2013 furloughs, downsizing and restructuring actions, according to his citation.
His efforts at managing labor relations during this difficult period "built trust between Army leadership and national labor unions, and his work has been essential in retaining quality civilian workers," Carson noted.
Two furloughs have "placed a crushing strain on Helmer in his role as chief of the Labor and Employee Relations Division," Carson said. "Some 1,660 grievances were filed by Army civilians last year, an increase of 70 percent. All of those landed at David's feet."
Yet, he managed the crisis with courage and grace, Carson said.
After the ceremony, Helmer said his key to success in working with the unions was "open communications, sharing all information, being upfront and working collectively."
He said it's the best way to conduct business, acknowledging that those simple rules are not always followed by people in organizations and that can lead to poor labor relations.
FREDDIE L. GIDDENS
Giddens received the John W. Macy Jr. Award for establishing a standardized, fully transparent hiring system for civilian personnel that has become the standard for garrisons in the Pacific Region, according to the citation.
His "innovative and impartial processes have led to the highest hiring rate for authorizations in the Pacific region," Carson said. "He was personally responsible for exporting his talent management systems to garrisons in Japan and elsewhere in the Pacific."
Also, Giddens was "an extremely positive proponent" of the Ready and Resilient Campaign, "and the data proves it," Carson said, noting that Camp Red Cloud and Area 1 have the lowest suicide rate in the Army and there was a "startling drop in Area 1 for sexual assault and harassment cases, a 40-percent reduction in one year's time."
Carson pointed out that Giddens began his many years of government service on March 4, 1970, when the Army drafted him.
After the ceremony, Giddens credited the garrison's "commander's cup program" with inspiring Soldiers and civilians to participate in education and resilience programs instead of spending their off-duty time drinking.
DIANNE V. SMITH
Smith received the Nick Hoge Award for using her leadership, technical knowledge and innovation skills to build high-performing teams, according to her citation.
She also wrote an essay on team building. That essay "provided insights into the challenges ahead and reforms needed to empower our workforce," Carson said.
Smith proposed that two critical elements are needed to form high-performance teams, Carson said. First is the creation of a shared culture, dependent on values. The second is that superior results are tied to a leader's vision.
Carson said the part of her essay that sums up team building was that "the relationship between the organization's vision and its values generates the very potential of high performance."
After the ceremony, Smith explained more about her team-building work.
Her focus for team building in the Army, she said, is creating ad hoc teams for specialized job training and professional development education within the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
Over the years, she said she built many teams, watched others build teams and observed teams that were dysfunctional and ones that were effective.
From those experiences, she came up with some rules of conduct that team members need to discuss during team formation:
• Know the goals and the commander's intent and vision for the outcome of the group.
• Agree on the tasks, organization and execution of getting them done, including deadlines.
• Discuss the values of why the task is critical to the Army's success and mission.
• Agree to be respectful of each other, realizing everyone has their own opinions and personalities that may be quite different from their own.
• Put in place a system for conflict resolution.
• Ensure everyone works collectively and everyone is engaged so that each member of the team has "buy-in."
Smith said groups that don't adhere to these principles often break down.
When something breaks down, particularly "on the values path, then people stop talking to one another. The end result is that the work either isn't going to be done or won't be done properly or efficiently," she said.
(For more ARNEWS stories, visit http://www.army.mil/ARNEWS, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArmyNewsService)