The Future of Army Business Reform

By Ethan HayesFebruary 2, 2021

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In late 2019, stakeholders from across the Army met to discuss key business challenges and how to better address new and existing business reform initiatives. Led by Ms. Jennifer Mootz, Chief of Business Planning and Assessment in the Office of Business Transformation, a team embarked on a bold new project to capture these initiatives and develop a framework senior leaders could use to manage them.

At the outset, the team discovered that this project would be fraught with challenges. Even determining what constitutes a major reform initiative would not be straightforward. Additionally, the sheer scope and scale of Army reform activity would pose its own unique problems. According to Ms. Mootz, “you do not have to scratch the surface much to see that there is a lot of goodness going on in the Army.”

This goodness is being conducted by Soldiers and civilians who are working in programs that are tackling challenges that are hard to wrap your head around, and even harder to categorize. Some of these programs have small budgets, some large, and assessing the overall significance and impact of these programs often depends on whom you ask.

Another challenge is that people often confuse reform with a general improvement in an Army program. Reallocating resources to higher priority programs meets the definition of Army reform, but it is not the sole purpose of reform. Originally, the Reform Line of Effort was intended to generate the outcomes needed to build and sustain the Army of 2028, and additionally support the achievement of Multi Domain Dominance in 2035.

Freeing up time, money, and manpower sounds good, but it does not help a business manager understand what they should do next, the outcomes they should be generating, or how they should prioritize the management of their resources.

In order to confront each of these challenges, the Army Business Management Plan (ABMP) team has come to the conclusion that the Army needs: (1) a clear understanding of what the Army is doing today, and (2) an integrated management system that will guide the Army through business transformation and future business capability development.

When completed, the ABMP will tell the story of what the Army is doing, and what it will be doing in the future to support Reform. In its current form, the ABMP lays out over thirty-five major initiatives that are projected to be completed over the next five years. It is a snapshot that will allow senior leaders the opportunity to ask the question, “will this get us to where we need to be?”

When I asked the team what they want to achieve with the ABMP, they told me that generating awareness is at the top of their list. As Ms. Mootz puts it, “we do not do a very good job of communicating how much we are accomplishing with business reform.”

Second on their list is generating momentum. Their hope is that the plan will build support for the initiatives being executed and generate additional interest in continuing business transformation in a deliberate and systematic way.

Finally, they hope that incoming leaders will appreciate all of the great work being done across the Army and will find the document useful as they set out to define the direction the Army over the next four years.

One of the key action officers on the team, Mr. James Vizzard, puts it simply, “we are trying to prepare the work that puts our cards on the table.” It is up to our leadership to take a look at those cards and figure out what they want to do.

Even when the cards are on the table, finding a good solution to the wicked problems the Army faces is another challenge. According to Mr. Vizzard, even the simple task of figuring out what is better can be a real problem. "How do we know what is better without a profit motive and the competition needed to drive efficiency?"

While the Army has learned to adapt and overcome, it has also struggled to sustain a culture of continuous improvement and shift away from a centralized planning philosophy that big business abandoned decades ago.

MAJ Josh Hargarten, another member of the team, suggests that one of the ways that you can overcome these challenges is by creating transparency. It may be ugly, and it may not be what people want to hear, but you need to address the real problems that exist if you want to create a business culture and generate the results and efficiency the Army needs.

The new Army Business Management Plan will be a big step forward in addressing these concerns. It will capture the business transformation the Army is pursuing and offer senior leaders a way to track and measure performance. In short, it will be an accountability tool, and as Ms. Mootz says, “what gets measured, gets managed.”

Driving accountability will improve performance, but we need to ask ourselves, does business reform really matter? I think some people in the Army would like to think so, but the Director of the Office of Business Transformation, Mr. Robin Swan, has an answer to this question. "In a constrained fiscal environment, the only way the Army will be able to achieve its people, readiness, and modernizations goals will be through reform.”

If this turns out to be true, the Army Business Management Plan will play an important role in supporting the future success of the Army.

So, to Ms. Mootz, Mr. Vizzard, MAJ Hargarten, and the remarkable team of subject matter experts that continue this work on the Army Business Management Plan, thank you for your exceptional contribution. From those of us working with you to transform the business of the Army, your hard work and commitment to excellence are a welcome inspiration.

The Army Business Management Plan is currently being reviewed and is expected to be released in March, 2021.