How Teamwork Has Kept DoD’s Workforce Planning Efforts on Track

Every two years, the Department of Defense (DoD) is required to deliver a strategic workforce plan (SWP) to Congress, outlining workforce challenges, opportunities, and strategies to address gaps. Despite facing numerous challenges during the fiscal year (FY) 2015-2016 strategic workforce planning assessment process, the synergy and coordination exhibited by the COE project team (Team COE) has kept DoD on track to deliver the FY 2016-2021 SWP to Congress on September 30, 2016.

Project Challenges 

In the fall of 2015, Team COE was hit with a perfect storm that could have easily derailed the on-time delivery of the SWP to Congress. The division COE supports, the Strategic Human Capital Planning Program Office (Program Office), was asked to deliver the report two months ahead of the previously established schedule. At the same time, COE experienced an unexpected two-week contract gap during the height of a critical performance period, involving the coordination of numerous cross-component working groups within DoD. On top of that, the Program Office also went through a major leadership change, introducing a new Division Chief after many large-scale SWP efforts were already underway. While overcoming these challenges, Team COE team exhibited several common characteristics of high-performing teams.

Team COE Characteristics 

Working Towards the Same Goals – COE and our project partner, AE Strategies, came together during the gap in service to make sure everyone was on the same page and working towards a common goal. Team members understood what would be expected of them to overcome the two-week delay once they returned back to work. This shared understanding has continued – team members trust each other, know how to work together, and understand how to accomplish our tasks.

Shared Values – Together, team members agreed on a set of project values highlighting three main areas of focus – preparation, professionalism, and quality. COE’s team leader created laminated cards for all members to display on their desks. It may sound hokey, but everyone makes a genuine effort to keep these values at the forefront of everything we do to deliver the best products for our client. Formal and informal performance feedback is structured around these values and is reinforced during our bi-weekly staff meetings.

Openness to Feedback – As part of COE’s 4 Quadrants of Quality value, all team members agreed to give and receive feedback graciously, with graciously being the keyword. In practice, team members feel more comfortable providing feedback and recipients’ egos are less bruised. This openness has also resulted in members regularly engaging in healthy discussions where everyone gets a chance to share their opinions.

Conflict Management — Not to infer that we do not have our share of disagreements, arguments are fairly common when we are discussing the workforce planning process, internal deadlines, document content/format, and deciding on the best way to support our client. However, these disagreements are constructive (not personal) and oriented towards problem solving and removing obstacles. Most importantly, when the team leader makes a decision, members accept the decision as final with little-to-no second guessing.

Project Results 

Functioning as a high-performing team has allowed us to accomplish a great deal over the last seven months. Specifically, we facilitated over 70 meetings (approximately 300 hours) with our strategic workforce stakeholders from across the Department. In between these meetings, we spent countless hours analyzing the results and drafting corresponding sections. Furthermore, Team COE led the development of significant sections in the SWP – Set Direction, Analyze the Workforce, Implement Strategy, and Monitor Progress. This effort took approximately two months to complete and is in the final steps before entering the formal review stage.

As proud members of the Program Office Project Team, we can truly say that having a team that strives to be prepared and professional and deliver quality every day has allowed COE to be successful. Our team came together at a crucial time and it has paid dividends ever since. We are all working towards a common goal: to ensure DoD is able to deliver a top-notch, forward-focused Strategic Workforce Plan to Congress by the September 30th deadline.