By Kari HawkinsOctober 18, 2018
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- As the Army reforms and modernizes, the Army Materiel Command's senior civilian is leading an initiative to ensure civilian employees are prepared to serve at the highest potential possible in support of the readiness mission.
"We must focus on the skills we are going to need moving forward," said Lisha Adams, the executive deputy to the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, and one of the top ranking Army civilians at Redstone Arsenal.
"Our history shows us how over time we have moved from blue collar to white collar in the majority of our jobs. As we modernize, we are going to require civilians who are ready and able to take on the challenges of things like artificial intelligence, data analytics, novel and adaptive thinking, and virtual collaborations."
Equipping civilian employees with the tools they need to excel in the workplace - including education, experience and leadership opportunities - and setting standards for performance are essential to ensuring civilian employees are prepared to support Army readiness, she said.
"There are several tenets of military readiness - manning, training, capacities and capabilities, equipping, sustaining and installations - and there are various levels of readiness for our Army and our Soldiers," Adams said.
"But, those readiness standards aren't officially in policy for civilians. Nevertheless, civilians play a major role in the readiness of our Army. They are dedicated, competent, experienced professionals that maintain the balance and provide the continuity our Army needs."
At a recent AMC town hall, Adams introduced civilian employees to the definition of Ready Army Civilian: a high-caliber employee who is educated and trained to address vastly complex and strategic situations, and who possesses the job-related skills and experiences to manage and lead in a multifaceted, readiness-based atmosphere. Ready Army Civilians have the soft skills - character and attributes - as well as the hard skills - education and training, job-related skills and experience - to be an effective team player and contributor to readiness.
"Just as our Soldiers must be ready to fight tonight, our civilian employees must be ready at all times to support the fight," Adams said. "As we move into the future, we need to maintain a high level of readiness through providing the best technology, equipment, acquisition, logistics and sustainment support. As civilians we are at the tip of the spear to ensure readiness for our Soldiers."
While Soldiers have leading indicators of their readiness, Adams would like to see similar indicators implemented for ready civilians, including training and education and experience as well as job-related hard and soft skills of team building, communication, critical thinking, time management, and attitude.
The concept of Army civilian readiness was introduced at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in October 2017. Since then, Adams has worked toward implementing what has become known as the Ready Army Civilian initiative at AMC, a move that is important to the Army because AMC is its largest civilian employee population.
"The civilian workforce has served in support of our Army since 1776. It was our founding fathers who saw the importance of the civilian when they ensured that a civilian would lead the Army," Adams said. "Competent, committed and highly skilled civilians are at the helm to maintain the balance between a supportive, independent and free nation and its military. Our civilian workforce has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it has been the constant driving force behind the strength of our Army."
To develop the Ready Army Civilian framework, Adams established an employee team representing each principle staff to assist with defining the initiative as it relates to every staff section. The Ready Army Civilian Initiative Team included Tara Ackeret, G-1; Shirlene Chowyuk, G-2; Eric Cowan, G-3; Demetra Gilmore, G-6; and Brian Dempsey, G-8. The group presented the Ready Army Civilian framework to Army Materiel Command's Gen. Gus Perna and senior executive service leaders.
"We need 100 percent of our employees doing 100 percent of the right work. Our civilian workforce is vital to ensuring we succeed in our readiness mission," Perna said. "We need a civilian workforce that is trained and experienced, competent and committed to the mission, and understands the vision of synchronizing and integrating capabilities and resources to ensure materiel readiness."
In January, a second team will be established to develop the implementation plan of the initiative. The third step, Adams said, will be to push the initiative out to AMC's major subordinate commands.
Adams outlined principles from Mark Sanborn's book The Six Principles of Leadership: The Power of Focus that enable being a Ready Army Civilian:
• Leading Self - You can't lead others if they don't first lead yourself;
• Focus - Prioritize and focus on the mission;
• Getting Results from Others - Work with others to accomplish the mission;
• Communicating for Understanding - Listen and communicates in a way so you are understood and they understand;
• Execute and Follow Through - Take action based on the mission; and
• Serve, Give Back, Make a Difference for Others - Make a difference at work, at home and in the community.
"Ready Army Civilians should be skilled and have the ability to learn and keep re-learning as the environment changes. This is key to any job of the future," Adams said.
A recent Pew survey of education and workforce experts revealed that highest value capabilities for the future worker are the ability to adapt -- or pivot -- and the ability to be self-motivated to keep learning.
Being adaptable, accountable, competent, mentally ready, disciplined, committed to Army values, technologically proficient and resourceful are all valued aspects of Ready Army Civilian, Adams said. Civilians who embrace life-long learning and change, are committed to their profession, have a positive attitude and are willing to work hard in support of Soldiers will ensure mission success for AMC and the Army, she said.
"From Ready Army Civilian, our goal is civilians who are always prepared to accomplish the mission and who have a better understanding of how they impact the mission," Adams said.