Transformation took center stage at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Logistics and Industrial Operations competency (Air 6.0)’s “Hot Topics” forum Nov. 19 at the base theater.
Two experts in the field of organizational transformation and knowledge management spoke to the Air 6.0 workforce as part of the organization’s push to remake itself into a learning organization. A learning organization is one that acquires knowledge and innovates fast enough to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing environment and shares that knowledge throughout the organization for incorporation in day-to-day activities.
“Our environment is changing quite a bit, so we have to think about how to improve through knowledge,” said Todd Balazs, Air 6.0 deputy assistant commander, in his opening remarks. “We have a rock star senior cadre of folks who are getting ready to leave. And I have groups of interns coming in the door, and I can’t give them the same skill sets as quickly as I’d like to. So, we have to think about transferring knowledge, so we have an experience base.
“When it comes down to it, it’s about developing the workforce,” Balazs said.
Retired Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff, former commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) and author of “It’s Your Ship – A Legendary Tale of Organization Transformation” was a guest speaker who talked about a pivotal learning time in his career.
When Abrashoff, a transformation expert, took command of the Benfold in 1997, he said it was among the lowest performing ships in the Pacific Fleet and had one of the highest accident rates in the Navy.
“I decided I was going to create a new leadership model, one that treated our people with respect and give them the training to be successful,” he said.
Abrashoff said he started talking and listening to the crewmembers and acting upon good ideas from them. He said the crew changed because of his focus on attitude, training and mentoring junior leaders.
Fifteen months later, the crew earned the Spokane Trophy, awarded by U.S. Pacific Fleet to the surface combatant ship in the command considered to be the most proficient in overall combat systems readiness and warfare operations.
The event’s second speaker, Dr. Edward W. Rogers, chief knowledge officer at NASA, discussed the knowledge management system in use at the space agency. Knowledge management is the process of capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using corporate knowledge to achieve organizational objectives and goals.
“Your knowledge management program should be like a good pair of shoes,” Rogers said. “It should fit your organization well, and it should take you someplace interesting.”
NASA uses its program as part of the learning process and not to just capture information, Rogers said. The most important knowledge is retained in people. However, the most effective way to preserve it is to transfer it person to person, not just store it.
During the event, Mike Overs, Air 6.0 technical director, gave the audience a live demonstration of NAVAIR’s new Knowledge Management System, a secure website for collecting, categorizing and sharing acquisition and logistics information. The site, which went live Nov. 19, captures institutional knowledge from an experienced workforce to share business processes and lessons learned for those with a Common Access Card (CAC).
Remote NAVAIR sites in Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina and California joined the meeting by video teleconference. Hot Topic Forums are held regularly to inform the logistics workforce of current trends in improving support to the warfighter.