15 December 2009

Navy as a Learning Organization


A Learning Organization is one that cultivates change through its people. It adapts by encouraging them to be creative and share ideas. I believe our Navy is a Learning Organization. That is one of the reasons I maintain this blog - to learn from you.

As part of my recent trip to the CENTCOM AOR, I was struck by the vast array of experience and skills our Sailors are acquiring executing their missions. As a Learning Organization we must institutionalize this knowledge along with the other critical lessons our Sailors are learning every day while executing our more traditional missions. To accomplish the required learning, and to ensure we begin evolving, we must first ensure we have a healthy learning environment underpinned by concrete practices and supportive leadership.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel Navy is an effective learning organization today? If not, how do we take the next step from learning as individuals to learning as an organization? What must Navy do to improve how Sailors and Civilians create, acquire, and - most importantly - transfer their knowledge? Finally, how do we evaluate progress in this area? All the best, JCHjr


retired o-6 said...

Admiral, with a son-in-law who went blue-green 5 years ago,the feedback I receive is the Navy does a head and shoulders better job of training and care for their personnel. His quote, "An Army of one...yeah, every man for themself...they don't have the leadership care and pushing advancement and education that the Navy always did for us."
But we've lost one of the best training grounds, that answers part of your question, for the Fleet by denuding the SIMAs of uniformed personnel. That was one of the best means of keeping at least a core cadre of trained technicians that could cycle back to the ships and help with the OJT in their respective areas. The current GS techs (old CENLANT) will tell you the level of technical maintenance knowledge is at it's lowest point on the ships today.

Chief E said...

I have had really good mentors/instructors in my career. The mentors provided me with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to do my job well. The mentors ranged in rank from E-6 when I was an E-1, to a 0-5 when I was E-6. People make the difference when conducting quality training. As you said, concrete practices and supportive leadership should be the foundation for quality training. Computer based training, tactical manuals, and self-study are basic tools used in training, but only quality instructors can make the connection between what is written in a book and how to finally accomplish the skill that is being trained. Instructors teach the "technique", something rarely captured in manuals or CBTs. The mantra, "train like you fight, and fight like you train" is real and should be followed as close as possible. A previous BLOG entry talked about Fleet Synthetic Training (FST). During these training events, qualified crews should be manned on each of the stations just like underway with an under-instruction sailor with them. Crew should be operating their own equipment and talking on their actual radios. Each station should have a mentor assigned providing feedback. Too often FST events are competing with ship/squadron school availability and leave periods. Actual flight time and underway time can never be replaced. Simulations is part of the answer but not the end all be all.
Being involved in aviation, NATOPS and the NAMP always provided the basis on how to operate. Every year I received a NATOPS evaluation that ensured I was following standard procedures. Each year the squadron received a NATOPS and SAR inspection. I always tried to live by the value that we operated "inspection ready" everyday; never would we have to "get ready" for an inspection. We trained daily, it was what we did. Of course you would groom the records and fine tune some things before inspections but the major items were ready. Are surprise inspections the answer...no. There is already volumes of T&R matrixes, readiness manuals, required training, reading logs, PQS, inspections, etc… that detail how and when to train. Are the current standards in training being enforced? Commands that train and train like they fight are effective. Back to the basics is the answer. The small details are what matter. On paper I am sure many commands are up to date on training, but how effective is that training. Leadership is key to ensuring quality training. I was thinking about saying, give tests but that usually results in training to the test, which sometimes can be effective.
So much for being pithy, in summary I think the Navy has the tools and the standards in place to effectively train. As far as evaluating training, we need to have thicker skin and understand we cannot be perfect in every area. Grades of “need improvement “ or “progressing” should not be a career killer because that is why we are training. Every unit understands it needs to train to remain proficient. Direct, honest, and constructive debriefs are required after every exercise or training event. I have seen debriefs go from, “Good”, “Bads” and “Others” to just “Goods” and “others”. Guess what, we sometimes do things bad and we should honestly say you did that “bad”.

NVYGUNZ said...

Adm, As the previous post suggested, we have vast levels or types of "training" available, from instructors thru to mentors and coaches. However, we are weak in a couple areas, one being the actual transfer of knowledge from "training" to practical everyday use and the use of the 'Kirkpatrick Model' to evaluate and measure said training. The Kirkpatrick Model uses levels 1-4 for evaluation. Level 1 being: reaction, what did the student think of the training (usually completed via a survey). Level 2: learning, the resulting increase in knowledge or capability (usually done by a test). Level 3, the extent of behavior and capability improvement and implementation once back on the job. Level 4, the effect or targeted outcome on the command, program, or Navy resulting from change in students learning event and subsequent reinforcement. Most of the time we train and forget. After training, a test/quiz and a survey are performed and the student is cut loose. The next evaluation may or may not be at the inspection (ATG/TYCOM) levels. This follow-up or evaluation could take months, by then the student may not remember all the units taught. Further, they could have had a long leave period, went on FSA duty, etc. Therefore, making knowledge recall and transfer even harder. I feel we need use more of the level 3 & 4 tools to follow-up on our Sailors and students (or protégés) at all levels of the Navy from instructors across the CPO Mess and Wardrooms. We must follow-up to ensure our ROI, otherwise training really isn't worth it. Relying on inspection teams is sound, but not the only answer. NETC, under the charge or ADM's Kilkenny and Lotring have been implementing more of these practices on their A, C & F schools, but it takes time and money. Level 4 itself can take months or years to evaluate a targeted outcome. We need to become creative on more ways to evaluate these results. Therefore, ensuring the transfer of knowledge. Perhaps like corporate america, we could employ Chief Learning Officers (CLO). Maybe inject CLOs into the Fleet Commands or reinvigorate the Human Performance Centers (HPC), or a combination of the two. This way, there may a more tangible link from training to transfer or practical everyday use. You'll be able to measure training, levels 1 & 2 in the schools, and levels 3 & 4 in the Fleet. Ultimately measuring your ROI. Just food for thought and a suggestion. Thank you for your time.


ADM J.C. Harvey, Jr. said...

Retired O-6, Chief E, and NVYGUNZ,

Thank you very much for putting the time and thought into your responses. Retired O-6, I very much agree with your assessment. The SIMAs were a very effective means of giving our Sailors an opportunity to further develop their skills and maintain their expertise ashore while also performing maintenance on our ships - essentially a win-win for Navy. Providing our Sailors more training and maintenance experience while ashore is one of the things I am very focused on right now.

Fleet Synthetic Training and Computer Based Training are great tools that give the Navy an opportunity to build critical skills in a controlled environment. That said, at some point, we must step away from the computer and out of controlled simulations and be able to demonstrate our skills in realistic situations. Chief E, your comments reminded me of a quote by Admiral Arleigh Burke, "In the heat of battle you don't remember very much. You don't think very fast. You act by instinct, which is really training. So you've got to train for battle so that you will react exactly the way you did in training." I think that says it all.

Again, thank you for your comments and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! All the best, JCHjr

shipmate said...


Just getting back to the office today after a TAD assignment and I was pleased to see a topic of particular interest to me - learning organizations (The Fifth Discipline). I am always amazed at the way people want to assume it is the individual and not the process that is at fault. I believe that THE worst lie is the lie you tell yourself. With that as background, here are my suggestions:

I think that our balance with synthetic training and live training needs to include a transition where immersion training is completed between the two. For example, the combat and engineering teams train separately - even in synthetic environments - for days on end, but they need to train together. The routine things need to happen routinely along with the battle scenario. I think that we need to have time to do multiple fast cruises (at anchor) where BFTT and Engineering drills are done together over a day or two of fast-cruise events. Yes, there is some artificiality which cannot be removed. However, when the routine of daily shipboard life is overlaid on complex scenarios the crew finds the weak spots and develops new processes which help them get better. Cost is minimal and the return on investment is significant. Additionally, a “typical” fast cruise or BFTT scenario is usually limited to normal work hours. Sailors can tell you that the scenario has to be finished in a given time and then debriefed so they artificially guess at events. An around-the-clock fast cruise eliminates that problem and forces Sailors into a different mind set.

With respect to the learning culture you have to go back to the ability to honestly self assess the situation and inculcate a culture of honest (and often brutal) feedback. During all of my command tuours I instituted critiques for my wardroom and CPO mess where we identified a problem then dissected it step by step to see where things fell apart. Often the problem was related to training, but many times the problem was related to a seemingly unrelated issue that just happened to unmask itself at the wrong time.

In one case I remember holding a critique on the bridge and EOOW decision to switch alignment of the ship's electrical system. This was happening at the exact moment the OPS types were doing a combat scenario. Although the OPS types attributed the problem they saw in combat to the electrical system ("an ABT rolled at the exact moment ...") the problem was really an issue of the operator in combat not following the CSOSS. Without an in-depth review of each step, we would not have discovered the flawed CSOSS but would have attributed it to the engineers. You have to be able to build a culture where processes are analyzed and step-by-step analysis is conducted in a way that allows for discovery of root cause vice mere symptom removal.

Once leadership knows how to guide honest process analysis they can make those processes better. Perhaps our PXO/PCO and Leadership schools could include process analysis in their curriculum? I know lots of people are going to say that this is time consuming and the approach is not practical. I submit that the nuclear Navy and the avaiation Navy do this routinely and that if the Navy (writ large) was able to do this we would be more effective and more efficient.

Very respectfully,


ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr said...

Battle Yeoman, terrific post - I'm very appreciative of the time you took to give me such a complete picture on several very important issues.

First, I'm very glad you confirmed my opinion of the effectiveness of the NAVCENT-FWD AFG that I observed on my recent trip to the CENTCOM AOR. These Sailors are doing great work for our GSAs/IAs who are forward deployed; as you articulated so well, they are simply getting it done for other Sailors in the finest tradition of the Navy.
I agree with you that an IA tour can be a very meaningful experience - a true learning experience that will enhance your overall professional education - but only if you're doing REAL work that makes a REAL difference. We have to do better at ensuring our IAs/GSAs are, in fact, doing work that makes a difference. It's a very dynamic situation, particularly now with the 30K surge underway, but I'm hopeful we're better positioned to be on top of events and able to ensure you're doing meaningful work. If, after another month, you still feel you're just "kinda here" please let me know and I'll go after the solution.
Thanks very much for letting me know how you see the Navy's strengths and what you feel we do right. Our traditions go back over 230 years and sometimes I worry about our ability to keep up with the times, but we do have enduring organizational strengths that you have spoken of quite well.
PEO Sailor is a GREAT idea - please keep feeding me more thoughts like that one. I started this blog to get exactly that kind of feedback.
I'm incredibly proud of what you and all our IAs are doing every day under very difficult conditions - you are showing us the Navy at its finest.
I hope I get a chance to meet you and discuss these ideas in more detail.
Pleae keep thinking, learning and writing. You are doing our Navy proud. All the best and happy new year, JCHjr

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr said...

Afghan Mentor, I remember our disussion in Kabul and I'm grateful for your follow-up. I'll work your proposal with my chain here in the States and with my contacts on LGEN Caldwell's staff. The AFPAK Hands program is a natural connection for this concept you propose.
Your idea is very sound and appears to be exactly what is needed to make long-term progress with our current efforts.
Thanks again and my best wishes to you, JCHjr