Photo - Jeffrey Rodney webAgility plays a critical role among defence organizations. It’s defined as perpetual awareness and the ability to be decisive and take action in a practical, yet convenient manner. In our 2011 Agile Defence report, we offered insight into issues facing defence organizations and identified five key building blocks for an agile organization. Digging deeper, this piece will further examine these building blocks, while illustrating how the Department of National Defence (DND) is incorporating them into its everyday routine.

DND has initiated its three-year Defence Renewal mandate to review processes across the department for inefficiencies and look for ways to enhance how business is conducted without eroding operational capabilities. Within this mandate, several critical characteristics of the five building blocks are evident. They include:

Aligned strategy and leadership: Most defence leaders interviewed for the 2011 report cited the need for strong and committed management – helping leaders drive business strategies within their respective organizations. Effective leaders in the most agile organizations identified the need for a well-developed performance management system. Effective, “agile-minded” leaders establish performance management measures that are aligned, holistic, and reflect overall enterprise performance.

Adaptable platforms and people: With rising costs of complex, technology-centric systems, most defence organizations have realized that adaptability can contribute to both greater operational flexibility and cost containment. Efforts are being made to design adaptability into new weapons and back-office system platforms. The most agile private sector organizations recruit, reward and retain talent who can adjust and respond quickly to changes in the competitive market and are able to engage in cross-functional collaboration.

Smart and rapid acquisition of assets: The ability to quickly and cost effectively acquire defence systems that counter security threats is a critical attribute of an agile defence organization. Challenges to achieve this include lack of flexibility, poor risk-sharing, cost overruns, requirements not being met and length of time to procure. There’s a need for a clearly defined alternative process where urgent obligations can be met, while also balancing the public need for transparency and value of investment with the desire for speed and the potential to save lives.

Secure and shareable information: Organizations must improve sharing information internally and externally. This is especially challenging for defence organizations, given the importance of security, and especially in light of events like the WikiLeaks disclosures. Protecting this information, while not losing the value of sharing it, is a significant challenge that must be overcome through risk-management and well thought-out information and cyber security policies.

Transparent and accountable processes: Leadership alignment is easier to accomplish when organizations have a common understanding to support strategic and tactical decisions. This practice only works if the information is accurate and employees understand how they can make improvements through their actions. For defence organizations, achieving broad transparency and accountability continues to be a significant challenge. To address this issue, there must be continued investment in both process and systems improvements that ensure the veracity and timeliness of information.

Putting words into practice
The Defence Renewal mandate notes that with the current changing dynamics of national priorities and world events, it’s essential that the business of defence is highly flexible, adaptable and ready to meet Canadian Armed Forces’ requirements. Following the mandate, the business of defence should be aware and increase its preparedness to take action in a well-coordinated manner, while ensuring all relevant stakeholders are familiar with the decisions being made.

As a result, and part of a more practical example of putting the building blocks in place, the Defence Renewal mandate outlined an enterprise business management environment, one that unifies and integrates:

• Business: The “whole of defence” processes and standards by which the organization operates;
• Application: The interactions among the processes and standards used by Defence;
• Information: Defines and classifies the raw data (such as document files, databases, images, presentations, and spreadsheets) that Defence requires to operate efficiently; and
• Technology: The hardware, operating systems, programming, and networking solutions used by Defence.

Developing an enterprise wide business management capability will allow for the following benefits:

• Whole-of-defence visibility: Networked operational business model to see, manage, and collaborate on business activity and outcomes;
• Rapid access to information: Trusted information to support strategic decisions through enterprise business intelligence and analytics;
• Reduce business operation costs: Ongoing ability to monitor and harmonize functional and end-to-end business process performance; and
• Enterprise resource stewardship: Resource planning, allocation, and accountability relative to readiness requirements.

The goal of the Defence Renewal mandate is to achieve “agile business maturity” where Defence can accomplish its mission through “whole-of-defence” insight. In addition to having a vision for attaining agility, commitments to a continuous improvement culture and a focus to stay on course in its implementation are key factors that Defence plans to embrace. The most agile commercial organizations share these qualities because they recognize that agility is key to their survival in the hyper-complex and competitive markets of today. The emerging security environment is no less complex or competitive – and the consequences of failure are often even greater.


Jeffrey Rodney is director, Consulting & Deals, with PricewaterhouseCoopers.