I recently read a book by Bob Lutz, the Vice Chairman for Product Development at General Motors (GM) from 2001 to 2010, called “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business.” In his book, Lutz describes the state of affairs he found when he arrived at GM in 2001. At that point, he was a veteran of the car business, having worked in the industry for nearly 40 years and experiencing firsthand GM’s domination of the market during the 60’s and 70’s.
But upon his return to GM, Lutz found that the design teams had moved away from an organization focused on product excellence and the end user – the customer – and instead transformed into a company driven by complex business processes, executive boards and working groups focused on eliminating “waste,” “streamlining” operations, and achieving “efficiencies.” As a result, GM produced generations of automobiles that met all the technical and fiscal internal targets yet fell far short of the mark in sales – what really counted.
I believe many of the lessons Lutz discusses in his book are very applicable to those we have experienced in the Fleet in recent years. When I look at some of the big issues we’ve encountered over the past three years with programs such as LPD-17, Aegis 7.1.2, VTUAV (Fire Scout), and the many software programs (e.g. R-Admin) installed on our ships, it is apparent to me that we were not doing our jobs with a focus on the end user, our Sailors. In these instances, the desire/need to deliver the program or system became paramount; we did not adhere to our acquisition standards and failed to deliver whole programs built on foundations of technical excellence. Then we accepted these flawed programs into the Fleet without regard to the impact on our Sailors.
One reason I established the Fleet Integration Program (FIP) (as I discussed here) was to prevent this behavior and ensure we deliver platforms and systems that meet our standards, the standards our Sailors need (and expect) us to meet so that they can accomplish their missions.
As I wrote in my post last week, we have entered a period in which the resources we have now and can expect in the future will no longer support the behaviors of the past. The likelihood of decreasing budgets and increasing demand for Naval forces leave us with no margin for delivering poorly designed, poorly delivered or unnecessarily burdensome programs to the Fleet. We must keep the Fleet and our Sailors at the center of the programs, systems and platforms we deliver and ensure operational effectiveness is the bottom line of our efforts, not simply increased efficiencies. All the best, JCHjr