TMI has contributed to numerous Opportunity Creation efforts that span the life cycle from pre-acquisition through the operations and support phase in collaboration with both system primes and technology-based product companies. The insights presented in this “Opportunity Creation” post—the second of a two-part series—discusses the evolution of the Advanced Programs culture, the current acquisition environment’s need for speed, and specific strategies for effective Opportunity Creation.
In our last post, Opportunity Creation (OC) Part 1 discussed the increasing importance of OC as a source of new business across the spectrum, including—
– Helping to create and then win a major new start.
– Protecting and keeping a core program sold.
– Achieving an innovative take away of a competitor’s core program.
– Developing a capability to fill a decades old capability gap.
Current Environment. Today’s environment is characterized by fewer new starts, developments paced by fixed level of annual funding and protracted by the acquisition process, a DOD budget investing 25% less in R&D than in recent years, and an A&D industry investing much less in R&D while electing to use discretionary funds to buy back stock. All of this occurs in a world where historic United States’ technological leadership is being challenged by emerging threats. Dedicated to the defense business, the leading companies will allocate more resources to invest in their future including “decisive” future technologies. They will parlay their focused IRAD results into capturing CRAD to advance the Technology Readiness of their innovations with a focus on maturity level adequate to assure a low-risk EMD.
OSD’s Response to the Need for Speed. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terror, OSD has recognized the need for initiatives to bridge capability gaps and thus get critical end items to Commanders in historically short timeframes. Thus, Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) has been accommodated by tailored and streamlined acquisition strategies that essentially circumvent elements of the classic DOD 5000.2 Process. OSD has established a Rapid Technology Transition Office (RTTO) with the objective of developing and fielding advanced technologies in 12-18 months. USAF has a Rapid Capabilities Office headquartered in the Pentagon under SAF AQ. Similarly, the Army has a Rapid Equipping Force (REF.ARMY.Mil). SOCOM has its own accelerated version of its streamlined normal process. The Navy does not have a separate dedicated office, but grants each Program Executive Officer (PEO) the authority to utilize approaches listed in SECNAV Instruction 5000. Many other acquisition initiatives exist that are unique to products acquired by specific acquisition agencies. Each Service has processes that implement QRCs in similar but slightly different ways.
Major Opportunity Creation Examples. For reference, Opportunity Creation Part I described a select sample of major OCs from the dozens created since WWII.
Where You Make It. Part I presented a holistic and comprehensive look at the scope of OC, particularly in terms of the necessary conditions for success. The specific conditions, beyond the necessary, are opportunity unique and more difficult because they require an active role by the customer set (user, tester, and acquirer). Listed below are select key elements that have had significant impact on success and thus, by definition require management attention in crafting the culture and organizational construct for success.
Advanced Programs State of Mind. In the Post WWII cold war where technical advances were threat driven, technology was king and government acquisition agencies had the flexibility and authority to invest in prototypes to validate a capability. Advanced Programs Departments across the industry created the products needed to stay ahead of the enemy, many of which came from Advanced Programs groups where a culture existed to match perceived and emerging need with new enabling technology. There was a willingness to invest and the patience to tolerate failures (all of which resulted in technology advances despite not realizing the ultimate objective). Since the Post Viet Nam downturn (late 1960s) and the post “threat meltdown” (collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989) the industry has evolved from being focused and dedicated to the national effort. In the past three decades industry has become more beholden to shareholders and Wall Street. And with this came decentralized P&L accountability and more attention to making the numbers. This focus is not bad per se, but it has eroded the Advanced Programs culture. Thus, Business Unit General Management must free the Advanced Programs technical entrepreneurs from much of the burdensome process of capturing new business, which companies tend to impose on all new pursuits.
Additionally, they must provide an independent Advanced Programs budget and ensure that the department leader has the capability and bandwidth to manage the function. Also, across the business unit a critical mass of the capabilities (operational visions of warfighter needs for your products, CONOPS and mission analysis, etc.) are necessary to create and sell the mission capability being created. Likewise, general management must step up to the most difficult of organizational and staffing problems: balancing the functions and responsibilities between product line management, engineering management and Advanced Programs management as they contribute to Opportunity Creation. This balance doesn’t require a Jack Welsh cultural shift like GE experienced in the early 1990s with his initiative to win with ideas by empowered employees. Nor does it require the contrarian Google-X culture of incentivizing engineers to kill new ideas to enable more focus on the good ones and/or at least point out the hurdles the idea has to overcome to make it to graduation as a product.
In addition to the Advanced Programs mind set and construct, other key elements of ‘where you make it’ are listed below:
Collaboration. Continuous collaboration with user, tester, and developer must be part of an orchestrated plan where timing is critical.
QRCs Start as Orphans. No QRC starts with organic personnel or program of record funding. Thus, in true entrepreneurial fashion, the company OC leader must scrounge for company support and work to get supplemental funds to support the effort. Supplemental appropriations bridge the two-year gap between the POM and allocated resources to a program of record.
Study QRC Acquisition History. Given the product and the applicable acquisition command, chances are there is a history of precedents to learn from as you attempt to craft and sell your acquisition and contracting approach. Due diligence is in order here.
Cultivate Priority. Sooner rather than later, you need to engage in the customer campaign of creating recognition and definition of need and pre-selling your capability demos and existence proof for the OC. Also, use of the urgent needs process will enable development and procurement without the burden of going through the JCIDS process.
Simplify. Simplify the requirement (capability) you plan to prove such that the message “going in” is you are applying existing technology.
Incremental D&T. Your development and test plan must be incremental and not relegated to one ”final exam” type test.
Actively Define. Be pro-active in comprehensively defining the Quick Reaction Assessment that COMOPTEVFOR will perform, which enables the decision to field.
Avoid Cost of Delay. Along the way the cost of a schedule delay will emerge. Be “spring loaded” and ready to trade away some other objective.
Support. TMI has the following expertise and best practices to support your efforts:
– Developing Opportunity Plans and Technology Readiness Maturation Plans.
– Customized Training on Capturing Critical Enabling 6.2 and 6.3 CRAD.
– Customized Opportunity Creation Training.
– Enhancing Business Unit’s Opportunity Creation Efforts.