Nurturing an Empowered Decision Making Culture with Portfolio Management

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Cathy Liggett – Sales Director, PPM Solutions

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with Innovation Teams across the US, and this is the relationship that seems to be the least understood. Yes, we woman love to talk about relationships, and men seem to turn us off even before we get started, but this is one relationship we can’t afford to ignore.  More portfolio management initiatives fail because of this relationship, than for any other reason as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen it, and watched others live through it―failed empowerment can be devastating.

In the book titled, The Three Keys to Empowerment, the authors state that “involving employees in an empowered culture allows them to use their knowledge, experience, and internal motivation to accomplish tasks for the organization.” Most leaders believe this. The difficulty everyone experiences is that talking about empowerment is lots easier than creating a culture where the empowered decision making processes can prosper. Yes, empowerment is meaningless, unless it’s used in context of decision making… Ops, another relationship, like I said, it’s hard for us gals.

Portfolio Management is a decision making tool that can be used up and down the Innovation Value Chain. It’s a tool that nurtures the culture where “the empowered decision making processes can prosper.” Recently, I was at the Gartner PPM Summit 2013, and most of the people I spoke with stated that they enjoyed the Summit, but the most common critique was “Yes, we know what needs to be done, but how?” Let me share with you how portfolio management nurtures the decision making process.

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There are five conditions required for portfolio management:

  1. There must be a list or set of alternatives to choose from.
  2. There must be a prioritized list of selection criteria.
  3. There must be specified metrics to measure the quantities of alternatives matching the selection criteria.
  4. There must be a set of predetermined portfolio thresholds that constrain the portfolio and cause limitations. In a constraint free environment, you’d select everything, and there would be no need for decisions.
  5. Insight into resource availability or needs. Unless you have the power to make your decisions real, your portfolio decisions are in vain.

Each of these conditions helps empower the decision maker, and nurtures the innovation culture.

Decisions about the market evidence portfolio and balancing the sources of evidence are portfolio management activities within the Innovation Value Chain.

  • Determining what problem statements produce a balanced set of business opportunities, with the greatest reward potential, to the market and to the stakeholders, is a portfolio decision.
  • Identifying a set of product features in a roadmap that stay within business constraints is a portfolio management problem.
  • Determining what requirements should be placed in a product launch, to provide the greatest value to the market, within current resource availability, is a portfolio problem.

These are all examples of how portfolio management empowers the innovation team to make command level decisions.

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With choice, comes the ability to experience the consequences of our choices. If after the innovation team makes a choice, some “other agency” nullifies their decisions, did the team really have a choice? I think not. But how, how can that “other agency” trust the innovation team to make the decisions they would?

In portfolio management, formally stated selection criteria and thresholds are used to represent that “other agency”, and provide a method of delegating values and motives to the decision makers. They form a set of guidelines that empower the decision makers to make decisions which represent the values and motives of that “other agency.” It’s a mechanism used to transfer authority. I should now identify that “other agency,” as the stakeholders of the innovation initiative.

If the stakeholders of the innovation initiative desire an empowered culture that uses their knowledge, experience, and internal motivation to accomplish new innovative solutions which satisfy market needs then, they need to provide the selection criteria and performance thresholds required in portfolio management decision making. Too many times this isn’t provided, and portfolio management practices are abandoned.

If the stakeholders have a tool like ProModel’s EPS, and use it to establish meaningful selection criteria, profitable performance thresholds, and efficient resource utilization plans, the empowerment of the Innovation Team is simple. Portfolio management can truly nurture the innovation culture, and become the powerful decision making tool it should be, from strategy development, opportunity selection, roadmapping, and all the way down to the day-to-day decision points throughout the Innovation Value Chain.

For more from Cathy:  thesalesgal.com

ProModel Welcomes Col (Ret) Pat Sullivan

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Pat Sullivan – VP of Army Programs

Over the past 28 years, I have served our Nation as a member of the Armed Forces with great pride.  I enjoyed being a Soldier, and continually sought ways to grow as a Soldier and leader.  And now, I am honored to join the great team at ProModel!  I can think of no better professional fit for my background. I am convinced ProModel understands the challenges Army planners and logisticians face…and have an exceptional product and capable team at the ready to solve the toughest problem sets.

As a career logistician, I always sensed we could do just a little bit better with regard to how we supported customers and cared for the entrusted resources available.  The issue was often what we referred to as “brute-force” logistics.  We continually employed additive techniques to support a system that often prevented us from fully visualizing our process and anticipating the impacts of certain change.

Whether establishing logistics hubs during major exercises in Thailand or building based camps in Iraq during Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, I intuitively knew we could apply a more scientific approach.  We understood the tenants of supply chain management and even specified “anticipation” as a logistics imperative.  However, when I served as a National Guard Battle Command Training Program logistics trainer, I always struggled with how to answer the inevitable question of how do we know our log process works and how can we test the impacts of the anticipated change.  You see, we had developed a process for what to anticipate, but we had next to nothing to do figure out what the resulting change would mean to readiness.

I can provide countless examples of planning efforts that involved spreadsheets, Post-It notes, and Power Point charts that proved insufficient in supporting the execution.  The fog of war was only cleared through the extreme efforts of Soldier logisticians who facilitated our processes and closed the gaps of the unknown. It became second nature to augment our supply chain with additional resources to enhance efficiency. The Army is good at it…

However, as we move forward the technique may out run available resources. In other words, we won’t likely have Soldiers to support such facilitation.  Therefore, we have gone back to the drawing board to get smarter.  Over the past several years, we learned that if we have a model to track the flow of our supply chain, we can simulate the process and enhance effectiveness and efficiency.  The Responsible Retrograde from Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and the on-going efforts in retrograding supplies and equipment from Afghanistan are examples.  While the Army supply chain isn’t fully optimized…the visibility, tracking and understanding of the “why” behind condition changes is much more refined.

The next natural step was to leverage modeling and simulation, coupled with some big data analytic techniques, to vertically integrate the most complex tasks we perform.   In my role as Commander, US Army Materiel Command Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA), it was optimizing equipment supply against validated requirements.  This was no small feat…

The Army did have a jumpstart on the demand as US Forces Command, in conjunction with ProModel, developed the ARFORGEN Synchronization tool to tell us what units were deploying and when.  The next step was to extract a 1 to N demand signal by unique type of equipment.  That’s when the work really started.   When we applied available supply to prioritized demands and visualized over time the transactional volume was seemingly overwhelming…that is when you look at it in aggregate. When we looked at it in terms of execution, we found the efficiency gained would provide immediate value as it related to Army readiness…And that we could reduce the # of planners by nearly 100.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say the Army has been totally deficient in using modeling and simulation in support of our supply chain.  Rather, the beauty of this effort was to move from traditional methodology and look at the problem through a new lens.  We expanded the aperture…created a new playing field and entered the world of 21st Century supply chain management best business practices.

So, at the corporate level, the Army has developed capability that has value as it relates to facilitating unit readiness.  Some value exists at the tactical level, but at the lowest levels, executors don’t have the tools to exploit the real power of modeling and simulation.

That’s why I like ProModel.  Sorry for the cliché, but if we consider the possibilities…if we put usable tools…advanced, tailor-able, flexible modeling and simulation capabilities in the hands of those who must make decisions rapidly, then we are clearing their schedule for other more critical tasks.  Whether a forward support battalion planner, Lean Six Sigma Black belt or Department of the Army resource analyst, immediately accessible and easily usable modeling and simulation capacity will ensure we make better decisions.  Collectively, we need to spend more time analyzing answers and visualizing the opportunities, and less time compiling data into Power Point charts that rarely answer “what happened” much less “why it happened.”  I’m convinced ProModel can help Defense customers understand the possibilities in enhancing readiness and inject greater efficiency into our decision cycle.

More with Less and the Value of “Simulation”

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Robert Wedertz – NST Program Manager, SME

A close friend of mine recently sent to me our Chief of Naval Operations’ “Navigation Plan – 2014-2018”.  It is a vehicle for our Navy to provide “a vision, tenets, and principles to guide our Navy as we chart a course to remain ready to meet current challenges, build a relevant and capable future force, and enable and support our Sailors, Civilians, and their families”.

Not surprisingly, the key constraints in implementing the navigation plan are challenges associated with a Continuing Resolution and the onset of Sequestration.  Warfighting, forward presence, and readiness cost money.  Our military is the better part of 11 years “boots on the deck” in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are redirecting our focus to the Asia-Pacific region, and other parts of the Middle East (Egypt and Syria) are embroiled in pseudo civil wars which may or may not bring about our involvement.  Confronting our nation’s challenges on a shoestring budget, coupled with future uncertainty with respect to out-year budget allocations, has confronted our Department of Defense leadership with a conundrum likely unprecedented.

In order to confront the realities of that uncertainty, the DoD has more and more turned to simulation, but not the traditional kind – like battlefield mock-ups, operational flight trainers, etc.  I am referring to what I call “Course of Action” simulation.  Leveraging software-enabled predictive analytics, advanced modeling algorithms, and customizable simulation programming, the DoD is taking advantage of “sandbox” decision support tools which provide users the ability to run multiple COAs in a zero-risk environment.  For example:

“What if the Operations and Maintenance budget is cut by 5%, 6%, 10%?  How does that affect our warfighting ability?  How does it affect readiness?”

In the simulated environment, users have the ability to “turn the dials” and measure and present the outcomes to those that have the ultimate obligation to make decisions.  In an environment where the only certainty is uncertainty, decision makers are afforded opportunities to investigate distinct outcomes based upon methodical manipulation of inputs, constraints, and scenarios.

This is precisely the type of environment ProModel has created with the Naval Synchronization Toolset.  Our software development team has designed and implemented a customized web-enabled tool which allows its users to build, test, and present courses of action which source Navy Squadrons to Air Wings, and Air Wings to Aircraft Carriers.  The result is a Master Aviation Plan (MAP) which bridges 30 years of sourcing decisions and is “THE” plan for Naval Aviation to support the CNO’s Navigation Plan.  Additionally, we have provided an integrated decision support tool to the FA-18 Class Desk for effectively managing the aircraft inventory well into the future.

The Aircraft Inventory Management (AIM) tool provides the users with the forward-leaning ability to move individual aircraft between squadrons in order to extend the life of legacy FA-18 aircraft (A-D) and proactively manage the current and future compliment of FA-18 E/F aircraft 30 years into the future.

NST is a “sandbox” which allows users to continually refine COA’s in order to support the strategic needs of the Navy while considering constraints imposed by budget uncertainty, unplanned contingency operation demands, and the “rudder” of our Navy’s key stakeholders.  Through harnessing the power of simulation we have provided a decision support tool that is proactive, not reactive, is risk-free, and ultimately provides decision makers a tool to
“navigate by”.

Myself and Mitch Todd (Sr. Software Architect for NST) touring aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in Norfolk VA.

Myself and Mitch Todd (Sr. Software Architect for NST) touring aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in Norfolk VA.

Software User Feedback: Seeing outside of the technical writer’s cube

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Jay Wisnosky – Technical Writer

Rock Island Arsenal is on the Mississippi River between the cities of Rock Island, IL and Davenport, IA.  It was first established as a government site in 1816, served as a Civil War prison camp to over 12,000 Confederate prisoners, and now provides manufacturing, logistics and base support for the Armed Forces.

From 15 January through 18 January 2013, Rock Island Arsenal was the training location for ProModel’s Decision Support Tool – Sourcing Module (DST-SM), with the focus trainees being a group from the United States Army Materiel Command (AMC). AMC is the primary provider of materiel to the United States Army. DST-SM is a web-based software application developed by ProModel and designed to assist AMC and other logisticians in the Army to plan the best possible decisions for materiel distribution across the world. As the technical documentation specialist for DST-SM, it is a collaboration with which I am very proud to be associated, so I welcomed the opportunity to attend these training sessions.

It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to interact with the customers of one of our products. If you are a technical writer, you know that much of the interaction and feedback from customers comes filtered through your company’s support team, consultants or other subject matter experts. It sometimes takes a journalist’s tenacity, a quality assurance analyst’s patience, and a politician’s handshake to get information about the technical details of your product. The end result is typically a user manual, which if done well, is quietly referenced and met with very little acclaim.

So on the first day of training at Rock Island Arsenal, I sat as a quiet observer in the back of the training room with notepad in hand, ready for class to begin. By 8:30 a.m., a blend of enlisted soldier and civilian trainees had taken their places behind secure computer monitors. The DST-SM trainer introduced the guests, a mixture of contractors and ProModel employees, to the classroom.

When he introduced me, I felt a rush of fear and pride swell in my chest. He stated my name and title and then added a note, informing the class that I was the author of the previous bound copy of the user manual that was distributed to many of them with the summer release of DST-SM. He added that with this new release the user manual was now online as a new feature and view-able at any given moment from the Help option in the main menu. I felt their staring eyes turn in my direction for a moment, before the trainer continued to his first segment of the session.

Whatever fear of scrutiny I had slowly disappeared as I watched several students reference the online help throughout the course of the training session.  In addition, the trainees regularly turned to me to ask questions about a certain function or screen. Their questions ranged from process-related questions to inquiries about the tool’s usability and performance. Though I couldn’t explain to them how to perform their job, I felt confident helping the trainees navigate the application.  I saw new users of the tool gain confidence and experienced users pick up on the new features with relative ease.

Perhaps one the most beneficial aspects to being a technical writer in the presence of users during a training session was hearing their suggestions, concerns and obstacles. I took this unique chance to interact with the AMC trainees as a golden opportunity to absorb as much as I possibly could about the usability of DST-SM, as well as the effectiveness of my help documentation. Often, a major oversight in developing, testing, and documenting any application is how close we grow to our own process and application. However, through the fresh eyes of a new user, using the tool in a manner familiar to their specific job, you get to see where gaps in the documentation exist and where room for usability can improve. So as we were helping them do their jobs, they were helping us do ours. As the morning progressed, I saw the many hours of hard work by DST-SM developers, product managers, program directors, and testers, finally coming to fruition.

I considered the experience both gratifying and inspiring. The AMC trainees used the help in accordance with the trainer’s instructions and in conjunction with the practical exercises at the end of each session.

The inspiring part is about moving forward with an added perspective and incentive. There’s no doubt having that kind of experience will lend to a stronger, more useful product on the page and in the application. Observing how investments in money, time, and effort are manifest in real world scenarios outside the walls of my cubicle is something that every technical writer imagines, but rarely gets a chance to witness.

ProModel Services

Improving enterprise performance with a ProModel Solution is a multifaceted experience.  Whether you’re using our award winning simulation products on your own or working with some of our talented professionals in consulting, technical support, and training, ProModel’s goal is to help you make better decisions faster!  Take a look at this video to get a better idea of what ProModel Services mean to our customers.

For more information please visit our service page:

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