Getting from 0 – Digital

negative-space-person-running-sun.jpgReal-time 2 Run-time

While there are significant advances in consumer grade technologies many commercial companies do not exceed the best practices of the defense industry. The engineering rigor, process and culture of the DoD create environmental conditions for long lasting operational success and solution iteration.

The speed in which commercial markets seek to move requires exercise, culture, training and conditioning. 

Imagine for a moment,  you are overweight, eat the wrong things, and seek to get healthy overnight.   You order the best running shoes you can find on Amazon,  you buy yourself the most expensive Fitbit you can get with all the features and functions,  you go to the grocery store and buy all the fresh fruits and vegetables you can carry and finally you get yourself the most high speed, low drag running outfit the top companies offer.    On Monday morning,  you go to the best gym you can find and find the top trainer and personal coach available.

You have everything you need to get healthy right? 

Could you run a marathon the next day?  Could you even run a 5K?  This is what companies are trying to do in moving to Digital.   At the same time, the defense industry is looking over to the commercial companies for insight/ lessons and what they see is the outside sales and marketing fluff but not the truth.

Simply put you can’t get fat or fit overnight.  It isn’t possible at this time.  Maybe there will be a magic pill in the future or at some point we can switch bodies or move our consciousness into an organic computer system but not today.

The Amazon Argument

Amazon is successful because they have a long term strategy with short term planning and a comprehensive process in which they operate.   Amazon has a strong practice and culture with a religious integration of the core culture.   Amazon was born with a digital mindset and that is why the organization can scale and flex with lighting speed.  Amazon essentially eats well and exercises everyday.  It isn’t a shock to the system for them to run a 5K or beyond.


Many companies in other industries don’t have the culture and leadership mindset for Digital.  They don’t practice behaviors conducive to being successful in a fast paced and hard core marathon running Eco-system.

Many companies still haven’t even defined what Digital means to them but they are charging ahead with mandates under the banner of digital something.

Modeling behaviors from successful companies is good but the expectations for success need to be aligned with the reality of measured and realistically achievable outcomes.  If companies try to run the Ultra before getting themselves prepared for the 5K it could mean organizational death. The Pheidippides Principle-

.  Phidippides



Back to the DoD.  The Navy teaches us that every person needs to know their purpose.  The words are backed by actions and we are all accountable and responsible for our actions.

Here is an example addressing the Enlisted Force


Provide leadership to the Enlisted Force and advice to Navy leadership to create combat-ready Naval Forces.


A senior enlisted force that serves first and foremost as Deck-plate Leaders committed to developing Sailors and enforcing standards;

remains responsive, aligned and well-connected to both Leadership and Sailors; and conducts itself in a consistently professional, ethical and traditional manner.

Guiding Principles

Deck-plate Leadership – Chiefs are visible leaders who set the tone. We will know the mission, know our Sailors, and develop them beyond their expectations as a team and as individuals.

Institutional and Technical Expertise Chiefs are the experts in their field. We will use experience and technical knowledge to produce a well trained enlisted and officer team.

Professionalism Chiefs will actively teach, uphold, and enforce standards.  We will measure ourselves by the success of our Sailors.  We will remain invested in the Navy through self-motivated military and academic education and training and will provide proactive solutions that are well founded, thoroughly considered, and linked to mission accomplishment.

Character – Chiefs abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, take full responsibility for their actions and keep their word.  This will set a positive tone for the command, unify the Mess, and create esprit de corps.

Loyalty – Chiefs remember that loyalty must be demonstrated to seniors, peers and subordinates alike, and that it must never be blind.  Few things are more important than people who have the moral courage to question the appropriate direction in which an organization is headed and then the strength to support whatever final decisions are made.

Active Communication – Chiefs encourage open and frank dialog, listen to Sailors and energize the communication flow up and down the chain of command.  This will increase unit efficiency, mission readiness, and mutual respect.

Sense of Heritage – Defines our past and guides our future.  Chiefs will use heritage to connect Sailors to their past, teach values and enhance pride in service to our country.

Leadership and Vision

The very basic foundation is to be honest about who you are, where you are and what you want to be.  I find it absolutely fascinating when companies buy other companies, change the culture dramatically, take the name and jam it into their voice track and make claims on it’s current heritage that track back many years before the acquisition.  It isn’t really who they are and it isn’t an honest representation to the work force.   It is actually harmful if you have a vision of the future.

Starting with the current mission, vision, scope of work and clear intent about who we are today and what we are working towards, creates the tone for the team.   Even if the goal is to eventually eliminate parts of the workforce, some studies show that telling people the truth up front actually increases performance.

Define the Eco-system   & The Connected User (person)

The basics ~

Excerpt from the links above:

The word ecosystem comes from biology wherein it describes a network of interacting organisms and their physical environment. From a technological standpoint, though, an ecosystem is better described as a network of people interacting with products or services. As Dave Jones defines them, ecosystems include:

  • users,
  • the practices they perform,
  • the information they use and share,
  • the people with whom they interact,
  • the services available to them,
  • the devices they use, and
  • the channels through which they communicate.

Ecosystem thinking, likewise, is the inquiry method used to analyze and understand ecosystems, both the problems they pose as well as the business opportunities they might present. Instead of focusing on a single product or service, however, designers who practice ecosystem thinking evaluate user behavior at the intersection of various inflection points. They ask:

  • Who are our users?
  • What practices do they perform?
  • What information do they need? (and where do they seek it?)
  • With whom do they interact?
  • What services are available to them?
  • What devices do they use?
  • Through what channels do they communicate?

Answers to these questions provide designers with all of the raw data they need in order to better understand the ecosystem in which they’re working. Turning that data into actionable information is the job of ecosystem maps.

An ecosystem map is simply a graphical representation of the relationships examined via ecosystem thinking. Ecosystem maps are closely related to other diagrams with which designers are likely familiar, including service blueprintsexperience maps, and concept maps. They differ from these diagrams, however, in that ecosystem maps are optimized to aid in the creation of digital strategies.

A concept model that explains concept models (© Dan Brown, 2010)

Service designers Polaine, Løvlie, and Reason have arguably presented one of the best examples of an ecosystem map, however, without sufficient contextual knowledge it is difficult to understand the relationships their map presents between the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how.”

Real Results

Let’s simplify.   

  • The DoD writes a term contract with employees (service members) 2/4/8 year contract.
  • Leadership chain is clear all the way up to the President.
  • Job, role and responsibilities are clear to the individual.
  • The level of commitment to the individual is clear.
  • The level of commitment to the organization is clear.
  • Leaders come in many forms based on title, rank, context of work or responsibilities.
  • The importance of communication is clear.
  • The importance of governance is clear.
  • The importance of knowledge and knowledge transfer is clear and part of the organizational mandate.
  • Some aspects move fast and some move slow.  You wouldn’t want a doctor to Scrum your heart surgery but you certainly would appreciate in field wound dressings and life saving treatment with speed and accuracy.
  • Finally, the DoD believes in tools digital or other.  It is all about person, material, machine, performance.

While great thought goes into the strategic aspects of the work, there are many aspects of the work that is speed, practical and tactical.   The best part about this is the lessons learned and best practices are knowledge freely available to leverage.   The sophisticated slideshows and books on “how to” are all driven from the same core competencies.

What do you think?


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