Army leaders must create a climate of sustainment innovation

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Army needs to "adapt, plan, execute and assess faster than the enemy" in order to win in a complex world, the commanding general of the Army’s 8th Theater Sustainment Command said in early June.

To accomplish this goal, the Army must develop "sound, competent and confident leaders who create an organizational climate of innovation," said Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman.

He said that if leaders foster a climate of innovation, peers and subordinates "are empowered to apply innovative thinking to solve problems, develop new methods, capabilities and, most importantly, valued outcomes."

Dorman chaired a panel titled "Developing Innovative Sustainment Leaders" during the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare Sustainment Hot Topic forum.

Leaders must have a grasp of the whole situation from the outset, not just relying on patterns of the past, but thinking differently about each problem set, Dorman said.

"This requires skills beyond the everyday analysis … sound leadership plus innovation," he said.

Adding, "We as senior leaders must begin to educate and emphasize the operational art of logistics, setting the theater, and understanding our capabilities."

He emphasized, "Logistics must happen first, or maneuver cannot occur."

Dorman said innovation, by nature, is "driven by improvising, adapting and overcoming challenges in a unique manner … making connections which may not come naturally to a strictly focused military mind."

He said the Army needs to foster a culture that rewards experimentation and does not punish failure.

The Army is currently stuck in a tactical model in which leaders are not incentivized to attend schools and pursue career education, Dorman said.

"We need to reward broadening assignments through promotions" to grow leaders who have a better understanding of the global and joint environment, he noted.

Also on the panel were Lt. Gen. William Faulkner, deputy commandant, installations and logistics, U.S. Marine Corps; John Hall, president of the Army Logistics University; and Dr. Elliot Minor, chairman, Department of Supply Chain Management and Analytics, Virginia Commonwealth University.

The panel was moderated by Brig. Gen. Thomas Goedkoop, USA, Ret., vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton.