From the same vein of ‘Barkhimer’s Friday Night Lites’……

“What does it mean when a 3 star Flag Officer says, ‘You need to be more disruptive.’?

Good question – one that came from a DoD Program Management Acquisition officer that I currently mentor.

It’s seems to be one of those current buzz words that leadership, management, start ups, silicon valley and innovative thinkers, etc. are using. And they are using in a variety of ways. Webster will tell you that it’s a transitive verb meaning ‘to break apart: rupture’ or ‘to throw into disorder’.

What does it mean though for a rising acquisition officer within the DoD? Within the Navy. There are already a plethora of books and even courses on how to be disruptive. I contend that uniformed officers (or anyone in leadership roles at any level) do not need courses on how to be disruptive.

My answer to this rising Navy program management/acquisition professional, started with ‘I think the Admiral means “Challenge every dollar of cost and every day of schedule.” Challenge interpretations. Challenge technical authority when it makes sense and doesn’t introduce safety issues. Act as if the money you’re expending belongs to you personally. (As a taxpayer it really does….)

As a Program Manager, you are supposed to ‘manage’ the program. You are responsible for cost, schedule and performance. If you are in a matrix organization with competencies supporting your program, hold those team members supporting you accountable. Question everything. Ask WHY? How? What about? Don’t worry about grammar in a document, (even Word gets it wrong once in a while) worry about the content. Is the content right?

Don’t just go with the status quo. Don’t take ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’ as a satisfactory answer. When someone says NO, or WE CAN’T ask WHY NOT? Then ask, HOW CAN we get to a YES? Is there a different path to get to YES? Eliminate NO and WE CAN’T from your vocabulary.

Is there a better way? Can we do it faster? TAILOR (we’re encouraged to do it!) the processes – written mostly by policy…..

When someone says ‘it’s policy’ – question the policy. Again, Webster will tell you that policy is a noun meaning 1) a course of principle adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual. Also in Webster, its states that policy is a prudent or expedient conduct or action.

I would assert that policy is not statutory, not law and can be waived or considered and not acted upon etc. As a Program Manager you can set your own policies too. (I would hope they would make sense and be complimentary in nature.) I would also say that in DoD Acquisition, if policy is not expedient, then change it…the warfighter needs product faster. The warfighter needs and deserves BETTER.

Navy Major Program Manager peers are commanding aircraft carriers, directing nuclear submarine squadrons sand taking air wings into war. They do so with a crew and a staff to advise them. A PMs crew is the program office, competencies are staff and advise PMs.  Even legal. (Contracts has an important role unto itself and they are accountable to the DFARS but they work hand in hand with the PM.  This does not mean to negate their roles and responsibilities.)  Take the advisement and act under your own command. If it gets questionable, put an email out with a “For the Record” in the subject line. Then carry on the Plan of the Day. You can be disruptive without ‘breaking apart: rupturing or throwing into disorder’.

Being disruptive sometimes takes confidence and courage.  Be confident, be brave.  It’s what we officers do in uniform.

I speak soley and provide these opinions/interpretations from a mentoring perspective on behalf of myself and not my employer.  This is my interpretation on what the Admiral meant. I welcome honest and open discussion.  But take command of your ship.

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