By SEC IEWSD StaffNovember 14, 2018
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD:As part of their ongoing Senior Leadership Training Program (SLTP), leaders from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command Software Engineering Center (SEC) Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors Directorate (IEWSD) visited the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations Facility in York, Pennsylvania, on October 17, 2018. The intent of this visit was to learn various aspects of leadership, process improvement, innovation, and quality from the company that has been one of America's premier motorcycle manufacturers since 1903.
The Vehicle Operations Facility hosted the SLTP visitors as part of their Military Appreciation Program. The visit included an introductory video, a two-hour "Steel Toe" tour of the plant floor, and a group discussion with the facility's general manager and other members of their top management staff.
At first glance, one might not see what a software engineering organization can learn from manufacturers of motorcycles, but after the facility tour and an almost two-hour discussion with senior plant management, the SEC IEWSD leadership realized there are many similarities between the two organizations. The foremost observation was that people are the key element of any successful organization. Regardless of the tools and processes used during daily operations, without good people who are vested in their work, trained on how to do the job right, and empowered to drive change, an organization cannot flourish to its fullest potential.
Another key observation was that no matter how good an organization is, or thinks it is, it can never rest on its laurels. Continuous Process Improvement (CPI), focused on meeting strategic objectives, is critical to growth in an ever-changing business setting. Both the SEC IEWSD and Harley-Davidson travel similar paths which focus on a variety of both complex and simple actions such as: a) changing from a parochial to a functional domain based construct, b) communicating strategic plans to the staff as a catalyst for driving change, and c) maintaining an organized work area to enable efficiency, support property accountability, and ensure safety. These actions, some of which have no associated costs, can all yield big returns on the investment. Whether it is a competitive motorcycle market or a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous operational environment, an organization must continually evolve to meet short-term and long-term challenges.
With CPI comes the need for innovation, as the leaders observed. The SEC IEWSD is currently placing much emphasis on growing its capacity through internally-developed advancements in software engineering tools and the visit lent credence to this effort. It reinforced that the Directorate's ground-up approach to improving both efficiency and effectiveness will be time and effort well spent.
Finally, the SEC IEWSD Leadership reaffirmed their long-standing beliefs about the value of quality and customer satisfaction. Regardless of the types of product an organization develops, an unwavering commitment to quality and delivering the highest level of quality are paramount. These factors drive customer satisfaction and customer confidence in the organization. In the life-and-death world of producing and delivering mission software for commanders and Soldiers around the world, the importance of this within the SEC IEWSD could not be more apparent.
At the conclusion of the visit, the Vehicle Operations Facility staff provided the SEC IEWSD one of its conference rooms for a group discussion on key observations and lessons from the day. Equally important, the group used those observations and lessons to continue planning towards the strategy and objectives detailed in the SEC IEWSD FY 19-23 Strategic Plan.
The visit to Harley-Davidson in York was the third off-site event for the Directorate's leadership in the past three years. In 2015, the group held a two-day staff-ride at the Gettysburg National Military Park, and conducted a similar day trip to the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in May of this year. The SEC IEWSD will continue to press on with its SLTP by focusing on issues of immediate importance affecting the Directorate's mission of delivering software products and services for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare/Cyber & Sensor Systems in support of a globally responsive, regionally engaged Army.