Battle Creek, Mich. –
Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services leaders presented their command’s Dynamic Operating Plan to DLA Director Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams during his visit to Battle Creek, Michigan, Feb. 11.
Williams said that as he travels the world to gather feedback from military leaders, he makes a point of trying to visit the nearest property disposal office.
“Everywhere I go, your customers are very happy with your performance. Just extremely well done,” Williams said. He cited the ongoing special effort with the U.S. Navy to help its commands clear out obsolete equipment to achieve audit readiness. “Kudos to the way in which you’ve grown that connection and educated [the Navy]. Now, they love Disposition Services and love the work you do.”
The DOP lays out a command’s planned strategy and proposed actions in support of the larger agency mission and central lines of effort articulated by the director and highlights notable achievements from the previous year. Right off the bat, Williams congratulated the command for its usage of a virtual customizable dashboard that displays a wide variety of performance metrics in one spot for convenient assessment.
“You have perhaps the best dashboard in the agency,” Williams said. “Your development of the dashboard and the way you have designed it is phenomenal.”
“Warfighter First” remains the primary line of effort throughout DLA, helping its workforce remain focused on the uniformed customer. Disposition Services objectives for increasing warfighter readiness and lethality include increasing capability and compliance of nuclear enterprise materials receipt and working to reduce local and commercial customer wait time by 10% in 2020. Other notable efforts include preparations for increased F-35 Joint Strike Fighter disposal needs, finding efficiencies through Robotic Process Automation and performing a thorough reassessment of the agency’s current disposal network positioning.
The command embarked on an initial network optimization project in 2016 to ensure sites and manpower were properly matched up with current and projected customer demand. The effort resulted in the shuttering of some facilities, the growth of others and the transfer of some field personnel between sites. DLA Disposition Services Director Mike Cannon briefed network reassessment to Williams and explained how current metrics and comparisons of field office and field activity productivity could drive any additional changes to workforce alignment in the coming year. Williams praised the command for its proactive posture.
“I appreciate the innovative thought and the reflection on what has already happened and what might come next,” he said.
In support of multiple lines of effort, Disposition Services will focus heavily in 2020 on training and education – of both its customers and its workforce. Notable goals include hosting two sessions of DSR University for its frontline disposition support representatives, collaboration with Defense Acquisition University on curriculum improvements and maintaining steady engagement at military conferences and symposiums. The goal is to help service members understand the breadth of reverse logistics support available through DLA via direct outreach, online information and standardized toolkits.
“This is critical,” Williams said about the training of customer-facing representatives and the importance of growing the competencies of the agency’s employees. “This is about people’s perception of DLA.”
A focus on workforce core competencies will include updated job ready checklists, curriculum improvements and the start of a new mentorship effort that already has more than 50 mentor/mentee participants. Others will take part in a rotational assignment partnership with the General Services Administration, and a there’s a set goal of increasing overall participation in leadership development programs by 5%.
Williams said that he personally had taken part in more than a dozen job shadowing iterations where employees followed and observed him through the workday, and he strongly believed in the value of professional development programming. He said the feedback he has received from participants “universally call it a very popular, broadening experience.” He said people tell him how it made them a better employee, exposed them to a broader perspective and makes them want to do more to support the mission.
As always, safety remains a primary driver of organizational goals. Cannon said he wants to reduce Material Handling Equipment mishaps by 10% over 2019 and limit injuries. Other goals include improving the coordination with DLA Installation Management safety representatives and improving current processes through Hazard Assessments and Workload Analysis.
“We want to learn from each other’s mistakes,” Cannon said, citing a post-mishap reporting process he instituted at the start of the fiscal year. “It’s not about people getting in trouble. It’s about preventing the next mishap. We want to do that with every single mishap and share it across Disposition Services. Because our focus is that we’ve got to keep our people safe.”
Cannon also shared some current workforce demographic information of note, briefing that there are currently more than 1,500 Disposition Services employees, of which 63% have previous military service and average 12 years of government service between them. They are spread across more than 100 locations in 40 states and 15 countries and include salaried and wage grade civil servants, foreign local nationals and about a dozen uniformed service members.
Williams said he was impressed that Disposition Services had such a high level of former military employees – well above the average for federal organizations.
“It gives us a really good empathy with our customers,” Cannon said. “People who work with us as military say ‘that’s an interesting mission. I’d like to be part of that.’”
Before concluding, Williams praised the command for that unique role and mission in national defense.
“There really is no one else who does disposition like you do,” he said. “You really are a DOD-wide activity … thanks for what you all do.”