Monday, August 23, 2010

The "C" Word

Just like every other Weekly Operations Brief at NIOC Pensacola, I witnessed something new.  The difference last week was that my observations had little to do with the subject matter and everything to do with the words chosen to communicate the progress since our last brief.  For the first time in maybe forever, I was in a room with fellow Sailors and though I was repeatedly hearing the "C" word, it was coming from someone's mouth other than my own.  Usually, I am guilty of overusing various forms of the word "collaborate" as I espouse the merits of working beyond our individual "cylinder of excellence".  Instead, I listened with great pride as Sailors repeatedly boasted of the collaborative approach they employed to achieve rather substantive analytical progress.  I was prideful not because I believed I had anything to do with the team seeing the value of collaboration, but because I knew I was amongst true team players.

My parents taught me the value of teamwork early on and it was reenforced throughout my childhood by way of constant participation in team sports.  Life at the Naval Academy took the concept of teamwork to another level and I have never felt completely comfortable about working in isolation since then.  That is not to say that I am not capable of working by myself, but I am wired to create opportunities to work with others and have evolved to one who thoroughly enjoys helping others to leverage their own personal network to get the job done.
I have recently done some reading on learning curves, collaboration curves and institutional innovation, which has helped to put words and arguably, some "science" behind what has always been just plain common sense to many.

Learning Curve -  Rate of improvement in performing a task as a function of time, or the rate of change in average cost (in hours or dollars) as a function of cumulative output.

Collaboration Curve -  The more participants--and interactions between those participants--you add to a carefully designed and nurtured environment, the more the rate of performance improvement goes up.

Most of us are familiar with the term "Learning Curve" and we do our part to drive that curve closer to zero.  We may even apply the learning curve model across a small team to achieve the same objective.  The real power is in aggregating the learning curves across disparate members multiple teams.  Navy Leadership was attempting to do just that when we created the Information Dominance Corps.  And though we have begun to leverage that model, we still seem to stay in our comfort zones and focus on individual learning curves vice a singular collaboration curve.  I could not be more proud to be a part of the NIOC Pensacola Team.  A small command who continually finds ways to not only drive our learning curve towards zero, but to create ways to help the larger team enhance our collective collaboration curve.

Locally, we talk of "Teamwork, Effective Communication, Continual Improvement and Entrepreneurship." None of which are achieved without a deliberate demonstration of COLLABORATION.     

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