By Karl Weisel (USAG Wiesbaden)March 28, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Not content to rest on their laurels after winning the Army Chief of Staff's Army Communities of Excellence Gold Award in 2011 and the "Sustained Excellence" Award in 2012, the command team of the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden took the next step to ensuring continued excellence in the future.
"We are a community that is expanding in terms of responsibility, but shrinking in terms of resources," said Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, in opening the garrison's two-day Strategic Planning Workshop and referring to the challenges faced by organizations worldwide. "As we expand by 3,200 people over the next few years, maintaining the same standards will be more and more difficult."
Praising past efforts by the garrison's staff to help create a climate worthy of recognition as the Army's best military community, Carstens stressed it's crucially important directors remain open to change -- that they be willing to seek ways to keep outstanding programs and services operating while looking at those that might need fine-tuning or even eliminating if no longer desired or needed.
"There's a lot of amazing work that is being done here. … This is not about fixing things -- it's about sustainment," he said. … "How can we operate within our means while still increasing the services to the community?"
"The bar is extremely high," said Arne Curtis, director of the garrison's Plans, Analysis and Integration Office. "The key to this effort is that when we leave here tomorrow afternoon we have a product that we can place into our 2013 strategic plan."
Describing the various lines of effort to be addressed during the planning session, Curtis said that meshing the garrison's efforts with the Installation Management Command's and U.S. Army Europe's strategic campaign plans was another important consideration in the process. "We're going to develop a vision, objectives, action plans, refine those action plans, communication, implement, measure and evaluate.
"We all know we are in a new fiscal reality," said Curtis. "Part of this effort shouldn't only be projects we want to take on but also, are their things we can do without? Do we need to look again at some of our services?"
"You've got to get outside the box to think differently," said Dr. Robert Kandler, deputy to the garrison commander. "How can I continue to deliver the same quality of services with a new population arriving? If we don't continue changing, we won't be proud of what we do. But we need to continue to deliver the kinds of services that we've become known for in the past."
Incorporating lessons learned and best practices from other garrisons and organizations are ways to capture successful programs and services, leaders said. Synchronizing communication venues is another element.
"This is becoming my number one focus," said Carstens. "How do we communicate with the community?
"There are all sorts of formal and informal feedback mechanisms. The speed of many of these feedback mechanisms is lightning quick," he said, adding that with social media, blogs and other online media, rapid responses to falsehoods are crucial -- before they are accepted as truth. … "We want to let people know that they can consistently get their voices heard."
With the impending influx of U.S. Army Europe Soldiers, civilians and families to the Wiesbaden military community, it is imperative leaders find ways to remain in good standing with the local populace.
"To have good neighbors, we have to be good neighbors," said Carstens, addressing issues such as recycling, resource conservation and the potential for more traffic and noise due to a larger population. "Saving energy and recycling are key components of being good neighbors."
As teams of garrison leaders and subject matter experts from support organizations brainstormed in small focus groups during the two-day workshop -- tackling housing, energy, customer service, communications, sustainment, German-American relations and other topics -- they were constantly challenged to look for ways to improve collaborative efforts inside and outside of the community.
By the end of the two-day planning session, the garrison's ongoing strategic planning effort, team members had streamlined their objectives, action plans and identified ways to measure and improve services and processes. The next step, organizers said, will be formalizing the garrison's strategic plan, communicating that plan to local leaders, and then putting it into practice.
"Everyone in here is rowing," the commander told the group at the session's end. "We just have to synchronize our rowing."