DLA director checks in with Shadow Program alumni

By Chris Erbe

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Defense Logistics Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams met DLA Shadow Program alumni for breakfast and conversation Nov. 19 at DLA Headquarters. Williams established the program in September 2018 to offer high-performing employees the opportunity to follow and observe his activities over a three-day period.

“My purpose this morning is to check back in with you. What I’m interested in is how the experience of the Shadow Program affected you,” he said. “Did it change your perspective about the agency when you returned to doing your jobs? Did it broaden your perspective on the agency’s support to our warfighters and our nation? Was the experience valuable as a career development opportunity? Do you recommend I continue the program?”

Fifteen employees have participated in the program since its inception, and Williams thanked them for sharing their experience and viewpoints with him. 

“You may not realize that a lot of what we talked about during our time together made an impact on my perspective and decision making. You all have informed my thinking in some critical ways,” he said.

The director recalled discussing with participants about improving communication across the agency. 

“I thought about that constantly as we built the new Agency Synchronization Operations Center. In that center we have representatives from all over the enterprise, so if we have to communicate and coordinate across boundaries, we have the mechanism to do that,” he said, adding that the ASOC merges DLA’s mission and business operations in one place.

Williams shared his thoughts on “Leading Change,” a document developed by DLA leadership that outlines agency priorities for the coming year. He highlighted the agency’s focus areas, which are warfighter and federal support, defense reforms, financial health of the agency, enterprise risk management, audit advancement, and innovation. 

“You can let change happen to you, or you can lead change,” the director said. 

When invited to offer their thoughts on the Shadow Program, Matt Hutchens, DLA Information Operation’s program manager for research and development, said he appreciated the up-close view of the director and his staff. Kathy Dixon, deputy chief of privacy and Freedom of Information Act officer, said the experience broadened her view of the agency’s mission and helped her better understand DLA’s priorities. 

William Smith, DLA Acquisition procurement analyst, witnessed senior leaders preparing the director for the Pentagon’s Defense Wide Review, or “Night Court.” In that setting, nicknamed a “murder board,” questioners purposely asked pointed and uncomfortable questions of the director to prepare him for the tough scenarios he was likely to face. 

“They were playing devil’s advocate trying to get the director ready to represent the agency,” Smith said. “That was a unique experience.”

Following the discussion, Lt. Gen. Williams led the entire assembly to the ASOC for the morning update where the group received a first-hand look at how the new center enhances communications across DLA.