By Justin Zaun
DCMA Garden City
Michael Shields, executive director of Quality Assurance for the Defense Contract Management Agency, spoke to employees known as change agents in Orlando March 14. DCMA recently established a network of change agents at its field offices to facilitate communication about agency programs and provide the workforce with an outlet to voice feedback on implemented changes. (DCMA photo by Mark Jackson)
Michael Shields, executive director of Quality Assurance in the Technical Directorate at the Defense Contract Management Agency, spoke to employees about how to communicate change during a workshop in Orlando in March. (DCMA photo by Mark Jackson)
Defense Contract Management Agency employees who bristle at the thought of change now have a new group of allies to help guide them.
DCMA’s Enterprise Change Management division recently unveiled an initiative to appoint a “change agent” at each regional office, contract management office and operational center. They will facilitate communication about agency programs and provide the workforce with an outlet to voice feedback on planned or implemented changes. Change agents are selected from existing employees by their local leadership for the ancillary role.
According to Marie Greening, DCMA chief operations officer, the agency is currently in the midst of instituting several significant reforms to its business processes, and change agents were introduced to ensure efficient and successful implementation of these changes.
“These individuals serve as members of an agency-wide network that will ensure change initiatives are properly planned, communicated and executed, and that feedback from the field is collected and acted upon,” said Greening. “A critical part of this strategy requires support in the field to help prepare for, introduce and cement these changes.”
Upcoming changes include enhancements to the records management and workload distribution system, and an initiative called the Business Capabilities Framework, which is a set of contract management operations highlighting the agency’s effectiveness at serving its customers. The framework emphasizes a return on investment to the Department of Defense.
Leigh Key, an engineer from DCMA Huntsville, Alabama, participated in a detail assignment with the ECM division over the last year to help establish the change agent network. In March, she organized a workshop in Orlando that brought together approximately 50 change agents representing DCMA offices throughout the country. The primary focus of the workshop was to inform the inaugural class of change agents of their new roles and responsibilities, and to discuss upcoming changes within the agency.
“One important role for these change agents is to help their colleagues accept change and be a positive voice who discusses changes with them, and conveys their feedback to DCMA leadership,” said Key. “The agency is making so many changes that affect our employees, and we could do a better job of communicating those changes to the workforce.”
Having change agents in the field will amplify communications from DCMA headquarters where changes to policy and processes originate, she said.
“My goal is for the employees who are carrying out the mission of DCMA to understand why things are changing, how they are affected and the benefits they can expect,” said Key.
Erikka Veney was recently selected to lead the change agent network as a transformation and integration specialist, which is a new position created under the DCMA Chief of Staff office. Some of her duties will include coordinating with change agents and consulting with DCMA leadership on change management planning.
“Change agents will be employees’ eyes and ears to find out what’s new and a source for information on how changes will be implemented,” said Veney. “They will keep employees informed, be a local point of contact for questions and be a voice to send feedback up the chain.”
Veney acknowledges that change may be challenging for some, but she is hoping the change agent network will help ease workflow transitions and allay concerns.
“Change is inherently difficult for most of us as we are creatures of habit,” she said. “My goal is to help create a culture of change that will make it easier to roll with any new waves so the hard workers of DCMA can keep doing the great work they are already doing.”
Prior to Veney taking over, William Evans, DCMA Combat Support Center director, managed the emerging change agent network. He said the agency is sending a strong signal on the importance of the program by placing Veney’s position under the chief of staff.
“I think DCMA is showing its commitment to managing change by establishing Ms. Veney’s new position at its headquarters where she can work directly with groups responsible for devising and implementing programs and systems that affect DCMA employees.”
Maura Walsh, a team leader in the contracting group, is a change agent representing DCMA Springfield in Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. She said she was chosen for the role because of her contracting experience and ability to adapt to change with little to no guidance. The most appealing aspect of the role, she said, is helping colleagues understand and prepare for upcoming changes.
“Our mission should be focused on how we can make processes faster, more efficient and more reliable,” said Walsh. “I believe I can be a catalyst for what changes are coming, who they will affect and how effective we are implementing them. The thought of someone listening to the ‘small voice’ in the room may attract new ideas and motivate employees to speak out rather than sit quietly allowing new processes to be counterproductive or a waste of resources.”
Jason Clute, a contract administrator and change agent for DCMA Raytheon Tucson in Arizona, believes fluid communication between DCMA headquarters and CMOs via change agents could lead to more efficient agency processes and improved products.
“Our agency understands that it must be agile,” said Clute. “Part of being a change agent is leading the way with new concepts and enabling CMOs to have the tools for success.”
Tammy Oliver, a management analyst and change agent for DCMA Baltimore, said the presence of a change agent will be advantageous for CMO employees wishing to express ideas or concerns about proposed and existing agency processes.
“Change agents can offer employees access to information as it becomes available and serve as a liaison if they have questions or comments about new systems,” she said.
Many people are wary of change, said Key, but consulting with employees prior to implementing major changes oftentimes eases the transition.
“When people feel like they are involved in making the change, they are much more accepting of the output,” she said. “A change agent can relate to the culture of their people and work to build bridges to bring acceptance and understanding.”
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