Friday, February 5, 2010

"Big Team, Little Me"

We can accomplish anything provided no one cares who gets the credit
- (then) CDR Joseph Rochefort


In my current job as Information Dominance Corps and Information Warfare Officer Community Manager (OCM), I serve on a team of four uniformed peers and one civilian assistant. Our charter is to collectively manage the health and welfare of the four officer communities (Information Professional, Information Warfare, Intelligence and Oceanography) that comprise the officer portion of the Information Dominance Corps (IDC). As a "plank owner" of the organization to which I am assigned (BUPERS-3), I was afforded the opportunity to serve as the "leader amongst peers" and made it our quest to migrate the model of individual community lobbyists to that of a unified team of strategic readiness advocates for "The Corps." Many of our fellow OCMs outside the "IDC Alliance" have equated our model to that of a strategic move you might see on the television show Survivor and they are not far off. In hindsight, it was as brilliant as it was promising when WE started down this path.

Serving as the "leader amongst peers" is not a role new to me, as during my athletic glory days I often times was thrust into the "Team Captain" role. In the past, there have been mistakes, bruised egos and less than optimal results. For that reason, I have moved forward with cautious optimism and thoughtful reflection. Anyone who has either found themselves in a similar position or created such a model, can attest that the only way for a team of peers to work effectively is by creating a team that wants it to work...A team focused on mission accomplishment...A team that sees life through a corporate lens...A team made up of members without big egos...A team that is committed to continual improvement. We see this time and time again, both on and off the athletic field, and to quote my high school football coach, a team must adopt a philosophy of "Big Team, Little Me."

Last week, as part of my exit strategy (I leave in early May for the next growth opportunity the Navy has provided), I turned over the role of "leader amongst peers" to one of my teammates and assumed the role of supporting cast. Under her leadership, the pace of our progress will not slow, the situational awareness we share will not diminish and the value of our contributions will not decrease. The military is founded upon a hierarchical organizational structure that underpins a "lead, follow" relationship amongst co-workers and leaves few wondering who is in charge. This is a wonderful model and streamlines both decision making and execution (especially in a tactical environment). However in today's military of rank inflation that suffers from a promotion model overly focused on delivering "desired" collar devices in favor of "required" competence, such a structure is all too often detrimental to mission accomplishment. The Navy continues to see instances of hierarchical organizations failing because of WHO is at the helm, likewise, we see flat organizations fail because too many people are (or no one is) in charge. In our current "center of the universe" (Information Dominance Corps Officer Community Management Team), we continue to be very fortunate because WE choose to leverage each other's strengths and WE choose to work together. Our mantra continues to be that "Though we all have a voice, we speak with but one voice and regardless of who does the speaking, that voice is OUR voice" (note: nowhere else is one community empowered to speak on behalf of another). This only works because WE take CDR Joseph Rochefort's words to heart and WE ensure that there are no weak links in our cable (peer mentorship is a constant and is welcomed and encouraged from/by all members). It is with great pride, that I am no longer the lead link, but like the rest of the team, I remain equally important and equally strong...

5th Law of the Navy
On the strength of one link in the cable,
Dependeth the might of the chain.
Who knows when thou may'st be tested?
So live that thou bearest the strain!


My next position will be as a Commanding Officer and though that title leaves no question as to whom has the ultimate authority and responsibility, the same collaborative approach is paramount. Every team member plays a vital role and none is more important than the next. Though it's not a philosophy widely adopted in military culture, my belief is no one works FOR anyone, we all work WITH each other.

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