SLC focuses on innovation, resiliency, culture

By Bonnie Koenig DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day hosted the Senior Leadership Conference, themed “Building a Culture of Innovation and Resiliency,” March 1-3 on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia.

This year’s SLC brought leadership together to refine and refresh goals, and to develop a collaborated vision for effective leadership strategies, integrity, innovative thinking, accountability, removing barriers and resiliency. (Note: resiliency briefings and keynote speakers that took place during the SLC will be covered in an upcoming four-part series over the next three weeks)

Day 1: Perspectives, expectations reviewed on the road to excellence

Day opened the event explaining to attendees the intent of bringing leadership together is to refine the dialogue for Aviation leadership by enhancing the concept of building a team of teams, becoming more resilient, and developing trust in leadership, each other, and in employees.

Day said we all have our own resiliency stories. The DLA Aviation environment has shifted over the last decade and we need to practice resiliency in working through these changes. Regarding the need for innovative thinking, he said we have brand new aircraft with brand new cutting edge technology such as the F-35 Lightening II fighter jet and the KC-46 Pegasus refueling aircraft.

“It still hasn’t been determined what our role is in support of these aircraft and in comparison we still support the B-52, which first flew in 1952 and will fly until 2040 … that’s one example of the other side of the spectrum,” said Day.

On the first day of the conference Day recognized the Marines working on center and welcomed guest speaker Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis who spoke from the voice of the customer perspective on readiness, process excellence, resiliency on DLA Aviation’s support to the nation’s readiness and in getting maximum range out of all of their aircraft.

Davis said readiness is when the average airman is ready to go and execute 70 percent of the mission assigned, and being ready every single day of the year. He said a big part of their current readiness is to take good care of what they have and attack the issues that come up daily because it is debilitating if they don’t have the aircraft ready to go when they need it.

“The Marine Corps owns 1,400 aircraft and 952 of those are on the flight line every day and readiness is taking good care of what they have,” said Davis. He added the reason this is significant is they have to meet flight hours to be mission ready and if they don’t fly, they don’t get the funding allocated for training, fuel or parts.

Davis also spoke on removing barriers that impede success in getting parts faster from manufacturers. He said removing barriers makes a big impact in getting aircraft up on the flight line, meeting mission ready criteria, and being good stewards of tax-payers money.

Davis concluded by saying a high state of readiness is the target, and he thanked DLA Aviaiton for having ‘tactical hunger’ by always trying to be better at what they do to support the warfighter.

In the afternoon of conference Day 1, senior leaders from each of DLA Aviation’s directorates and forward sites gave an overview of missed opportunities, identifying ways to improve processes and solutions to improve warfighter support, process excellence, strategic engagements, and financial stewardship.

Day also went over his leadership model which focuses on people, processes, and resources centered on common goals. “You have to have these three things to help you get to your common goals,” Day said.  “People are the heartbeat of our organization. Resources include information technology, office space, furniture, and tools to do the job.”

“In order to have a good leadership culture, you need integrity, resiliency, diversity, innovation, accountably and excellence.”

Processes are the organization achieving its goals. Day said continuous process improvement is the force multiplier that will increase our abilities to meet our mission requirements, and includes end-to-end evaluations of our processes, key performance metrics, identifying gaps, and areas for improvements.

Day then introduced Rich Schwing, chief, Material Management Division, DLA Aviation at Oklahoma City, who lead a discussion on process excellence, which is Goal Area 5 of the DLA Strategic Plan.

Schwing went over the DLA Aviation Process Excellence Maturity Model, and discussed the way ahead with process excellence.

“Some challenges we have is we don’t have standards at the industrial support activities and within the enterprise,” said Schwing. “Teams are creating guidelines to implement process excellence and will publish a process excellence toolkit. Process excellence will help us to more effectively and efficiently support our warfighters.”

Day 2: Emotional Intelligence leads to a culture of trust

Day 2 of the SLC began with DLA Aviation’s Deputy Commander Charlie Lilli giving an overview of fiscal 2015 successes. He said this year, DLA Aviation is dedicated to leadership development, building trust and resiliency.

“When everyone in this room thinks about a line stop (work stoppage) in Oklahoma City, and we each perceive it as our personal responsibility, that is when we will be an effective leadership team,” said Lilli.

He said our ability to go beyond where we are today depends largely on crossing our own personal lanes, helping other people do the work they do and getting better at leadership.

Lilli added that he realized everyone has their personal perspective, and asked leaders to reflect on what is holding them back from seeing outside their own perspectives and from developing the traits of an emotionally intelligent leader.

Day said leveraging diversity and having different opinions drive the best solutions.

He shared personal perspectives from his life experiences and ideas on artificial harmony verses honest professional discussions in making the right decisions for the warfighter.

DLA Human Resources Services Leadership Management Development Team member Bill Velbeck gave a presentation on emotional intelligence, or EI, and leadership strategies. “EI is a powerful tool for leaders because it helps them become successful in all relationships in life, better awareness, and studies show they consistently outperform those with lower EI,” he said.

Velbeck outlined the five operational traits of emotionally intelligent leaders: self-awareness (how your emotions affect your performance); self-regulation (having control, walking the walk); self-motivation; empathy (lead, teach); and effective relationships.

He said as an effective leader, you must build an environment of trust by hearing the bad news, as well as the good, because all information is important to success. He added, leaders must let employees know and understand expectations; lead by example; share enthusiasm; create common goals; set realistic expectations; be adaptable and manage change well; have self-control; be intuitive; recover from set-backs (resilient); have integrity; and be optimistic.

In the afternoon of Day 2, Velback went over the Myers Briggs Type Indicator which is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

Leaders took the MBTI prior to the SLC and after a brief review, discussed trust and the difference between being dependable and trustworthy. Day gave operational definitions of trust within organizations which included 5 types: no trust; very low trust; low trust; trust is not an issue here; or we have a world class trust here.

“As trust goes down, barriers go up,” Day said. “Why?  People are afraid to take chances and innovation suffers.  As leaders if we want people to trust, we must make them feel valued, that they are bigger than themselves and to believe what they do make a difference.” 

Day also went over trust barriers in an organization, 13 behaviors of high-trust leadership and how to build and restore trust. He ended Day 2 by asking everyone to write down how we can move forward with building an organization of trust based on a specific target of opportunity.
  

Day 3: Innovation, targets of opportunity, removing barriers

Lilli opened Day 3 stating from a performance perspective, it is clear the DLA leadership team is moving in the right direction because there was not a single challenge presented last year that hasn’t been resolved. He added our ability to go beyond where we are today is largely dependent upon reaching across our own personal lanes and helping others with their challenges.

Day told the group to make this the year of trust and to understand everyone is different and can offer insights. He added that the decisions you make today write the story you tell tomorrow and strong and intentional direction will make a difference in your success.

Guest speaker and industry partner Northrup Grumman’s Director of Business Development Jim Sutton spoke on innovative thinking and reaching tough goals.

Sutton said the DLA and Northrup Grumman partnership is a collaborative venture and it is important to be transparent and have willingness to share ideas on innovations. “Innovation and industry are customer driven,” he said. “Innovation is part of the process of delivering parts on time, but it is also part of all the other functions within our organizations.”

He said employee empowerment is one of the most important parts of leadership as is breaking down barriers that are preventing empowerment. He said you must find the right people and empower them to make decisions to keep tactical workflow moving and encourage them to bring new ideas to the table.

Following Sutton, leaders participated in group breakout sessions to discuss innovation, culture, contracting, planning, customer support, and retail excellence.

In the afternoon of Day 3, group leaders gave briefings on outcomes of the morning breakout sessions. One key barrier that came across was communication. The group discussed ways to better communicate from the top as leaders down to the lowest level employees, as well as with our customers and partners.

Day closed the final day expressing the importance of building a culture of innovation and resiliency. “The decisions we‘ve made March 1-3 will make a difference. Let’s make tomorrow better – that is my commitment to you. If you see us doing things we are not supposed to do, or know a way to do it better, tell us. Be straight up,” he said. “I am very proud to be on this team and to be your commander. My expectation – I want to take this ball as far as I can. I want us to have the best possible culture we can.”

This year’s SLC brought positive feedback from DLA Aviation at Huntsville’s Paul Jensen, supervisory contract specialist, Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate. Jensen said this was the best SLC he has attended in over 30 years of government service and from the initial kickoff it was obvious Day was on a mission and had a well-defined vision for what he wanted to accomplish.

Jensen added Day passionately led the charge by actively challenging leadership to identify and remove barriers to innovation with the ultimate objective of putting warfighters first.

“Clearly a great deal of very deliberate planning went not only into the choice of topics, but also in the selection and timing of an extraordinary and inspiring lineup of guest speakers. Equally impressive was observing [Brig. Gen.] Day, following the evening meal on the first day, subtly moving from table to table bringing cups and pouring coffee - a true demonstration of genuine servant leadership,” said Jensen.

(Editor’s note: Amy T. Clement, chief, Public Affairs, DLA Aviation, contributed to this article.)