Reducing Administrative Distractions with the US Navy

photo curtesy of amit sharma via flickr

photo courtesy of amit sharma via flickr

With Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Greenert at the wheel, the United States Navy functions under the motto, “War fighting first.” The duty of these men and women lies in naval warfare. To better allow his sailors to dedicate themselves fully to this endeavor, the CNO tasked Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski and a select group of high ranking personnel with improving and streamlining the day-to-day operations of the Navy.

At the center of their strategy lies RAD (Reducing Administrative Distractions), an IdeaScale platform open to anyone with a Navy issued email. The community is private, but open to all levels of Navy personnel- from junior sailors, to Navy civilians, reserve sailors, and even commanding officers. The Navy  wanted this to be an opportunity for sailors of all designations to join the conversation. IdeaScale provided the opportunity for lower ranking sailors to make suggestions directly to decision makers, in a way where their idea doesn’t have to slowly climb up through the ranks. Speaking to the Federal Drive Show Blog, Rear Adm. Shelanski explained, “a good Commanding Officer does a lot of walking around, and he talks to a lot of the junior sailors.” He continued, “if you set the climate right,” this method can be one of the most effective ways to find out what happens on the ship, what doesn’t work, and how to make the system more efficient.

In RAD, authorized community members post their ideas, suggestions, and complaints under a variety of topics including: Navy Reserves, IT/Website, and training. Sailors may post anything they want under a more general category, but moderators have the option to take down off topic posts. A few tactics were utilized to improve participation. RAD was set up in waves, so that sailors could see the ideas of their peers being taken to heart, and implemented or given a reason why they could not be implemented at the time. Once authorized, community members have the choice of using their actual name and title as their username, a pseudonym, or post and comment anonymously. In this way, even lower ranking sailors have the opportunity to voice their concerns and suggestions without fear of repercussions.

The focus of the campaign was to find the inefficiencies of day-to-day operations, and streamline or “digitize” them, saving time for all levels of sailors. One problem RAD administrators found involved naval permissions, called designation letters. At the time of the campaign, each sailor required a unique designation letter for each permission, for example, parking their vehicle on base. Each designation letter must be issued by the Commanding Officer, totaling potentially thousands of individual letters. Thanks to RAD, a system is being implemented where sailors no longer need to hold on to these letters, and the CO can authorize and maintain certain permissions in bulk.

So far, RAD has gathered over 1,300 idea suggestions. Some they found were already in the works, others they were able to start on swiftly, but a lot of the ideas are worthwhile, but large scale, and will take time to implement.

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