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News | Aug. 28, 2017

New process sharpens Dayton’s EDGE

By Lt. Col. Steve Adcock and Bill Williams DCMA Dayton

Editor’s Note: This article does not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense or the Defense Contract Management Agency and should not be construed as official Department of Defense policy. They are the views of the authors. Read more about Dayton's efficiency efforts here.

DAYTON, Ohio, Aug. 28, 2017 — As a Department of Defense combat support agency, the Defense Contract Management Agency ensures the integrity of the contracting process and provides a broad range of contract and procurement management services for America’s warfighters.

The agency’s mission is to ensure only the best products are delivered to the best fighting force in the world — the U.S. military.

Helping America maintain a battlefield EDGE
For DCMA Dayton, the path to excellence in its warfighter support mission is through an engaged workforce, armed with the tools and mindset to solve complex problems. To build that culture, the Dayton team designed a process called Efficiency-Driven Growth and Excellence, known as EDGE.

“The EDGE process serves three functions: improve service and weapon system delivery, increase operational efficiency, and maintain Daytons’ culture of engagement using continuous process improvement,” said Air Force Col. Eric Obergfell, DCMA Dayton’s commander. “Through EDGE, Dayton identifies the most important performance gaps and creates the opportunity for anyone in the contract management office to voluntarily lead a team in developing solutions.

“EDGE enables annual selection of CMO focus areas that align with agency capabilities and strategic plan objectives. The built-in mentorship opportunities also serve as a powerful leadership development platform. Volunteers interact directly with CMO and agency senior leaders to develop career enhancing team building and problem solving skills.”

Vice Adm. David Lewis, who became the agency’s director in May after leading the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, is excited about EDGE’s double role in service and employee development.

“This process provides DCMA team members an opportunity to thrive and develop professionally while providing unparalleled warfighter support,” said Lewis. “Our job is to deliver products to service members across the globe. Anything that can improve that support is an important tool. EDGE can be one of those tools.”

How EDGE links to business
DCMA engages globally with 50 main offices overseeing 1000 locations. With such a footprint, Lewis exercises authority and direction through regional commands, CMOs and directorates. Senior leaders receive a significant amount of autonomy to execute the mission within the director’s intent:
We Deliver: We must always perform as an integrated team; a team focused on the singular, common goal of product delivery.
We Must Always Provide “Best Value” to the Nation: DCMA was built to be the most efficient, effective, and affordable way to deliver Department of Defense warfighting equipment manufactured by our industry counterparts.
Work Smarter Not Harder: We must not only keep up, we must be the department’s leaders and innovators in performing our work, adapting to and leveraging these changes in order to better deliver products at ever lower costs.

As an example of how the process links to agency initiatives, Dayton recently completed a project to establish a predictive analytics model to improve on-time delivery through focusing industrial specialist efforts on the contract schedules most likely to be delinquent based on historical data.

In addition to focusing the industrial specialist efforts the on the highest risk schedules the team designed a manufacturing playbook, a series of documented strategies to improve on-time delivery. The predictive model has been selected as an agency-wide detection to prevention initiative due to the project's success.

Focus area development
The office follows an inclusive process to develop focus areas each year. In addition to capturing top-down driven requirements, the leadership team encourages employees to submit ideas through an online suggestion box. The leadership team promotes the suggestion box at every staff meeting and various gatherings throughout the year to maintain visibility.

Several office-wide focus areas have initiated from the suggestion box. As an example, a project chartered to address non-conforming materiel originated from multiple suggestion box recommendations on process standardization, with non-conforming material being the highest-risk rated opportunity.

With the voice of the employees captured, the leadership team gathers updates to current agency initiatives, reviews strategic guidance, includes feedback from surveys and conducts assessments to fuel the project selection engine. Each fall, the team hosts an offsite to organize and prioritize the project engine inputs, resulting in clear focus areas for the upcoming year.

Additionally, Obergfell assigns a senior leader champion and process owner for each focus area. He charges them with scoping the effort, selecting the team, and achieving the desired outcomes. Immediately following the offsite, Obergfell briefs the workforce on the development of the focus areas and solicits volunteers to lead and participate on the project teams.

Implementing a continuous process improvement culture
The continuous process improvement project is “where the rubber meets the road.” Supported by a considerable investment in Lean Six Sigma certified practitioners, the project leader starts the effort by developing a charter which states the problem, goals, customer specifications and scope of the effort. The champion and process owner empower the project team to achieve success and clear obstacles as the team progresses.

The target length for a project is 90-120 days. Obergfell reserves a tollgate briefing time slot as part of the command’s battle rhythm, with all leaders encouraged to participate. Leader involvement in all phases of the project ensures success. The command institutes control plans following project completion to ensure the gains are sustained.

The control plans allow senior leaders to monitor and adjust as conditions on the ground evolve to sustain and maximize operational excellence. A dashboard links success metrics to each focus area and allows for effective decision-making and resource allocation.

The command socializes project solutions to other contract management offices and up the chain of command for possible implementation across the agency. The command also submits projects to the Office of the Secretary of Defense archive for potential replication across DoD.

From November 2015 through July 2017, the cadre of nine certified Green Belts and one Black Belt successfully completed 11 projects and are working steadily toward the completion of 10 more.

Professional development
Dayton deliberately designed the EDGE structure to execute the commitment from the CMO commander that volunteers would be mentored to get through their projects. The CMO is seeking both operational results and developing bench strength. The volunteers are hungry for opportunities to add value and stretch themselves. This mutually beneficial arrangement creates a safe environment to learn how to lead as well as solve complex problems that are critical to organizational success.

A culture of continuous learning ensures employees flourish in their current role while growing for future leadership opportunities. Leaders at every level understand individual development has many forms. For some it means greater responsibility in pursuit of upward mobility and for others it is about building breadth and depth of knowledge in their current or similar roles. Dayton’s leaders actively encourage employees to participate in the wide range of learning opportunities available inside and outside the agency.

Dayton’s leader development program offers an opportunity to gain experience that supports both career aspirations and the agency’s ability to deliver products for the warfighter. The program incorporates concepts, competencies and best practices used in DoD, the Center for Creative Leadership and Coca-Cola Refreshments.

The desired competencies were informed by the leadership requirements of multiple DoD organizations. The 70-20-10 learning philosophy, developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo, established the learning targets of 70 percent through on-the-job training, 20 percent learning through others and 10 percent in formal training. The emphasis on employees driving their development with support from their leadership team was adopted from the Coca-Cola Refreshments career development model utilized during a training with industry experience in 2012-2013.

The Dayton leader development program starts with a volunteer who demonstrates strong performance in their current role. Employees must understand and communicate their career aspirations, actively seek out opportunities to learn, and build a development plan that includes specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals. Employees engage frequently with leaders and coworkers to gauge success in their developmental efforts.

Leaders enable the development journey by understanding what the employee wants to achieve through the program and offering their institutional knowledge as active coaches, teachers and mentors. Leaders help shape opportunities for employees to gain exposure to people and processes outside their assigned role.

They also regularly assess progress toward the development plan and work with the employee to modify their plan as necessary, keeping the needs of the employee and the organization in mind. Leaders help employees navigate the resourcing process to ensure the required learning opportunities are properly coordinated, approved, and consistent with organizational priorities.

Return on investment
The Dayton team continues to invest heavily in employee development and process improvement capability. At any given time, 25 to 35 percent of the command is engaged in process improvement projects. Direct impacts to the customer include improved on-time delivery, cash flow, customer satisfaction, ability to achieve a clean financial audit, and reduced nonconforming material escapes and requests for variance by the contractors.

The impact to the command is also significant and includes:
—Greater employee engagement leading to a winning culture;
—A ready pool of trained problem solvers who know the business and have an eye for improvement opportunities;
—The opportunity to export good ideas that drive change, influence the system; and
—The ability to communicate effectively through common language, tools and methods.

The EDGE process shows how employee development combined with continuous process improvement is a powerful combination. Investments in personnel help ensures a winning culture of skilled and engaged employees with standard tools and processes to solve complex problems. A culture that will consistently deliver products on time, on cost and meet warfighter requirements.

Source material for this article included:
1. Development in place concepts used in the program were developed by McCauley, Cynthia D. Developmental Assignments: Creating Learning Experiences Without Changing Jobs. Greensboro, N.C: Center for Creative Leadership Press, 2006.
2. The 70-20-10 learning model was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership.