FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (June 29, 2017) -- Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl recently broke bread with a group of Army service culture educators attending a two-week workshop to hone their delivery of IMCOM's Service Culture Initiative.
The U.S. Army Installation Management Command's Service Culture Initiative, or IMCOM SCI, is a commitment to delivering programs and services with a sense of pride, professionalism, and in keeping with Army values.
The IMCOM SCI was modeled after the longstanding Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Customer Service Program, which provides centrally-funded Service Culture Educators, or SCEs, who are strategically placed at garrisons around the world to assist directors in implementing, monitoring, and sustaining the enterprise.
As part of their annual training at IMCOM Headquarters, the SCEs took a two-day Influencer course that provided them with proven strategies to drive high-leverage, rapid, and sustainable behavior change for teams and organizations.
"I think we are influencing the Army's future," said Dahl, IMCOM's commanding general who regularly hosts workforce lunches with employees to assess the command climate and discuss challenges and ideas. "If it's going to change, then we have a huge responsibility to assist in that change because we touch the whole Army every single day. And if there are aspects of the Army culture that are critical to our success to sustain and maintain, we have the responsibility to protect those and to sustain and to nurture them, because, as you know, culture does not just take care of itself."
A passage from the course textbook, "Influencer," reads: "You become an effective influencer when, and only when, you learn to over-determine change by amassing sufficient sources of influence to make change inevitable."
Dahl fast-forwarded the lunchtime discussion to the recent launch of IMCOM's Service Culture Initiative and how the Army can return to a culture of selfless service from a culture of entitlement.
"It really is a big, big question," Dahl said. "Selfless service is really critical to the Army and what we have to do, and entitlement is anathema of who we are."
A portion of the IMCOM SCI operation order reads: "The Army is facing a changing environment, one that is characterized by reduced resources (funding and personnel), while readiness requirements remain constant. IMCOM can no longer deliver programs and services to the same level as we have the past decade and that those we support have come to expect. We must prioritize and deliver the right services, maximizing every dollar we spend. As we fine-tune programs, the manner in which we deliver our services becomes even more important. Additionally, we are asking more of our IMCOM professionals and it is critical that we recognize their contribution to supporting Army readiness. It is important that we return to the basics through engaged and caring leadership, commitment to service, self-reliance, and adherence to our core values. The IMCOM Service Culture Initiative provides the means to do this."
SCEs are responsible for training all FMWR employees in the Operation Excellence customer service training program, and providing coaching and consulting support to management in sustaining a best-in-class service culture. They told Dahl that a lofty bar of expectations was set 10 years ago by the Army Family Covenant, and that Soldiers and Families have since become accustomed to a high level of quality services. The money to fund programs then was plentiful.
Dahl said the Army Family Covenant promised too much assistance for Soldiers and Families and that today's Army must return to basics and become more austere. The service culture educators agreed that messaging must be delivered, received, and heeded before cultural change can occur.
"You take a look at our Soldiers and our Families that we serve now, 75 percent of them, this is all they know is post-Army Family Covenant with the heightened expectations," said Col. (Ret.) Matt Margotta, a former garrison commander who helped write the IMCOM SCI. "It's going to take time."
"I'm not sure that messaging has trickled down to the installations, to the user level," an SCE chimed in. During the non-attribution workforce lunches, employees are afforded anonymity while talking with the commander.
"I think our American society is so thankful and appreciative of our military that they've made such an effort to give things to all of our military members and organizations that that's just encouraged that mindset," another service culture educator said.
"I'm not wanting to reduce the quality of the work that we're doing," Dahl replied. "We have to be careful ... so we're not undermining readiness instead of building readiness."
Dahl realizes the task of changing the service culture is daunting, yet doable. "This is a huge organization, and it's hard to change the message, it's hard to change behavior, and it's hard to change the culture."
"But we've done it," the SCE replied. "It might have taken us seven years, but we've done it, and we can do it again."