“Let's do a deep dive to think outside the box and move the needle!" Cringing yet? These are examples of common buzzwords that we hear bandied around meetings, in office common areas, and on social media. Are the phrases mental crutches leaders use to communicate or are they powerful tools used to convey a consistent message? In my opinion, buzzwords can be powerful tools leaders use to support their strategic messages.
In November 2019, I attended the Garrison Commander’s Conference hosted by U.S. Army Installation Management Command. The day before the GCC, Gen. Gustave Perna, Army Materiel Command commanding general, visited IMCOM to host his quarterly major subordinate command update. At one of our prep sessions with Maj. Gen. Timothy McGuire, IMCOM’s deputy commanding general, I realized several buzzwords kept popping into his and others’ vernacular. These buzzwords, often stated by Perna, focused me on strategic messaging and ways to measure its success. The more that I listened to the brief, the more I recognized that Perna’s messages were sticking with our IMCOM staff members and leaders.
The GCC opened with Perna’s comments. I grabbed my pen and notebook to capture key strategic focus area highlights and scribble down the buzzwords that Perna likes to use when talking to his AMC workforce. After his comments, I looked down and noted what I had written. In my notebook, I had close to 30 buzzwords with multiple tick marks next to them, many in triple digits, and I pondered what these buzzwords actually mean and how they support a commander’s strategic message.
To begin, we must first understand the importance of strategic messaging; a clear, dynamic framework that supports themes an enterprise uses to communicate with its internal workforce and external partners. The more dynamic the message, the more agility leaders have to communicate within and outside of their organizations, according to Joint Publication 3-61: Public Affairs. With this in mind, it is time to delve into our top three buzzwords to discuss what each one means, how they integrate with each other, and how each supports strategic messaging: power of the patch, see ourselves, and getting after it.
Power of the patch (AMC)
IMCOM is one of 11 MSCs under Army Materiel Command that drive toward meeting General Perna’s mission statement, “deliver logistics, sustainment, and materiel readiness from the installation to the forward tactical edge to ensure globally dominant land force capabilities.” To ensure the AMC teams drive toward the CG’s end-state, all of us wear the AMC patch, which enables us to identify each other when moving about the strategic support area. Additionally, the patch links all of our tribes into the larger whole allowing us to build stronger professional and social networks within the greater AMC organization. Using the power of the patch, we collectively and effectively support our warfighters with global sustainment such as Army prepositioned stocks, medical materiel, installation support, contracting, and munitions support.
See ourselves, Know your jersey number
Every AMC subordinate command has specified tasks within General Perna’s seven strategic focus areas: Soldier, civilian and family readiness, installation readiness, industrial base readiness, munitions readiness, strategic power projection, supply availability and equipment readiness, and logistics information readiness. For IMCOM to accomplish its mission, we have to see ourselves clearly to ensure we synchronize our efforts within AMC’s seven strategic focus areas, of which IMCOM has primary responsibility for two and supports a third: Soldier, Civilian, and Family readiness, installation readiness, and supporting strategic power projection. So, who are we and what is our jersey number?
IMCOM is a global supporting command, responsible for 75 installations, 58 services, and more than 14 million acres across 17 time zones. We execute our mission with more than 55,000 Department of the Army civilian professionals, 1,600 active-duty military personnel, and contractors. As the installation integrators, IMCOM synchronizes the efforts to support senior commanders’ missions within the SSA.
Now that we know our jersey number, we now have to see ourselves. We use a variety of methods to see ourselves such as metrics, common operating pictures, running estimates, and scorecards, to evaluate our operational performance. Through these methods, we inform decisions that optimize service delivery on our installations. Additionally, we continually refine our metrics and ask ourselves if we are looking at the correct data to meet the commander’s intent and does this data drive our situational awareness of current and future missions. In the end, this ongoing process allows us to meet AMC’s mission and the Chief of Staff of the Army’s priorities- readiness, modernization, and reform all while taking care of our people.
Getting after it, Call (Move) the ball
Now that we know our jersey number and see ourselves, we must drive toward IMCOM’s end-state, integrating and delivering base support to enable readiness for a globally responsive Army. To accomplish this feat, our leaders and staff sections develop plans using the military decision making process to meet our strategic focus areas lines of operations. From here, with specific tasks in hand, our teams move the ball to get after General Perna’s vision, to ensure army materiel readiness for a globally dominant land force.
Strong strategic messages support a commander’s strategic theme. In this case, AMC’s seven strategic focus areas and using buzzwords is one of the many powerful tools we have to communicate a commander’s message. I have been holding these thoughts for six months because I needed to know if these buzzwords had the power of persistence or were they just fresh on our minds during the Garrison Commander’s Conference. Over the last several months, and after playing a few rounds of buzzword bingo, I am still filling up my card. A few notables include skin in the game, drive change, game changer, press, and stay nested. Through a variety of buzzwords, General Perna’s message continues to resonate with our AMC team as we “Press!” to meet his intent and vision. As I close out this article, I ask that you help me spread a recent catch phrase I heard in reference to the immense amount of data needed to meet mission requirements; “Data is the new bacon,” coined by Mr. Vince Grewatz, IMCOM Director-Training.