Army civilians focus on change
Instructor Andy Kirkpatrick, a management analyst, mentors a group of 10 Army civilians during a May 13 executing coaching session at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Nowhere is change more evident than Aberdeen Proving Ground, where the Base Realignment and Closure program is changing the face of the installation into the Army's center for science and technology.

By 2011, major, long-term organizations, such as the Army Environmental Command and the Ordnance School Brigade will have departed the installation. New organizations will move in from nearby bases. More than 6,000 high-tech jobs are coming to the region as the Army invests more than $1 billion in major construction. Change is coming to the installation on many levels.

During a May 13 executive coaching session at the Edgewood Conference Center, 10 Army civilians from the Research, Development and Engineering Command learned how to make change effective.

Using a bestselling book, "Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard," course facilitator Andy Kirkpatrick set the stage for how the executives can make positive changes in their personal, professional and organizational lives.

"Knowledge doesn't necessitate change," he said. "Change happens when leaders tap into the values of their employees."

Kirpatrick said the most familiar path is always the status quo.

Building skills, influencing the influencers, adding accountability, lowering costs and adding rewards will allow management to "rally the herd," he said.

"I think it's important to create an environment where people are eager to get things done," said Neslie Etheridge, a student in the class. "If you don't set the environment for change, you will lose the people who have a passion for change. It just fades away."

Transformation is one of the pillars of the U.S. Army's four imperatives, but many mid-level Army civilians find barriers to change at every turn. Kirkpatrick said there are entrenched employees who are comfortable with "the way it's always been," providing a challenge for transformation.

"It really forces you to get into discovering the reasons behind resistance to change," he said. "Invariably what you're going to find is the profound changes in your personal life are bound to have a profound impact on your professional life."

Kirkpatrick has been the driving force behind the RDECOM executive coaching sessions. This is the third session in a series designed to provide tools to up and coming managers. As a management analyst with the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J., Kirkpatrick has been offering the training opportunity to many offices and directorates.

"It's amazing to see the varied reactions to the availability of the training," he said. "Some people are enthusiastic, but some claim there is no need for it. To me, if you can say with a straight face that your organization doesn't have any problems, or have a need for professional development, you're kidding yourself."

Kirkpatrick said he has received positive feedback from attendees on the value of the training.

The book's framework used a metaphor of a rider, an elephant and a path.

"Direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path," he said. "Yes, it is a simplistic metaphor, but it is an effective way to break things down."

"I equated it with the mind, the heart and the environment," said Dick Belmonte, RDECOM deputy chief of staff and class participant. "I'm kind of obsessed in getting people to think the same way. Unless you're not all talking the same language, nothing happens. We're all very good at what we do, but we haven't learned how to play the game together."

Belmonte said the challenge is coming up with the methodology to effect the change.

"We've defined the goal posts, but do we have the playbook to get down the field'" he asked.

The group took sample problems and brainstormed possible avenues for making changes.

"You have a choice, you can be influenced by change, or you can influence change," Kirkpatrick said.

The next RDECOM executive coaching session will be June 9 and focus on crucial confrontations. The class will be for supervisors and staff leads.

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Page last updated Thu May 13th, 2010 at 15:15