The US Navy is larger than the next 13 largest navies in the world combined, and also boasts the world's largest carrier fleet. It has more than 315,000 active duty personnel and approx 110,000 in the reserve component, and operates 285 ships and more than 3,700 aircraft.
As judged by the skill sets and competencies that Navy personnel hone while in uniform, the average member of the Navy may very well be more technically sophisticated than the average member of any other DoD branch. It's an academic truth.
Why, then, do Navy personnel so often fail at these 3 best practices of professional development and organizational management?
The technology shown below is currently solving these similar challenges in the Navy's sister branches, like the US Army (for example). Now let me dive deeper into the problems and solutions we're seeing, and highlight which solutions could work for Navy personnel, and perhaps for the larger institution from the bottom up.
1. Network inside the Navy -- you actually can influence your assignments
PROBLEM: "But I can't get the assignment I want...I'm [insert excuse]." This statement is false. Although BUPERS cuts orders, etc. as we all know, you are cheating yourself if you think there's nothing you can do to influence your next assignment. The solution is called NETWORKING, which is often a misunderstood idea. Networking means leveraging who you know across the Fleet, who those people know across the Fleet, and what units they're all assigned to. Doing this has always been tedious and time-consuming. Then technology solved it.
SOLUTION: Look, for example, at how members of the Army are using technology to network for the purpose of pursing the assignments they want. Watch this demo below.
Navy personnel have the same assignment selection challenges as the Army (for example), yet members of the Army are far ahead of their peers in the Navy at using technology to solve this for themselves. They are using a website (view the demo below) to do this.
2. Share knowledge better across the Fleet -- streamlined best practices from sister branches and Navy peers will save you a lot of pain
PROBLEM: Navy personnel rotate every few years. We already know this. It's no different from the majority of roles across the entire DoD. Unfortunately, when Navy personnel rotate out of their current positions, much of the nuanced knowledge they've developed -- for that specific job, unit, location, and team -- is at best filed away in a digital filing cabinet, and at worst lost altogether. Too often it's the latter. This has been a huge organizational problem for decades. Then technology solved it.
SOLUTION: At first glance, internet-based applications like Quora.com offer powerful, elegant knowledge management solutions, yet they present challenges for adoption across the Fleet due to their fully public nature. If a gated-access application similar to Quora existed but was confined to the Navy's internal systems, this would result in accessibility problems and a very negative user experience. Tucking this solution away inside the Navy's internal systems would not be "gated-access" as much as it would be "excessively restrictive access" that leads to low engagement and low effectiveness.
For the past month, military personnel have been utilizing a new joint collaboration system to exchange best practices, share insights, and retain the best knowledge. This site has security systems on par with those of the DoD institution itself. Increasingly, Navy personnel are starting to engage with this same platform. Click the image below to see one example of how this is working.
3. Network outside the Navy and your current duty location -- joint interactions are your best resource
PROBLEM: Our Navy has been engaged in a joint fight for more than a decade, and depending on how you define "fight," you could extend this back several decades. Each branch is siloed away in its own respective .mil vault, and individual bases typically silo themselves further by creating intranets that, despite what you may believe, use the same level of encryption as Google applications. It's true. With the US military located in some 160 countries globally, Navy personnel not having instant connectivity with their joint peers is hurting their own professional development, and the productivity of Navy organizations.
SOLUTION: Navy personnel actually do have the members and units of all the other military branches at their fingertips, but not through an internal Navy system, since the Navy's internal system does not integrate directly with those of its sister branches. Increasingly, Navy personnel are utilizing this advanced networking tool to explore every US military duty location in the world, and connect with Past/Present/Future military personnel at those locations.
The image below shows just a small sample (less than 10%) of the duty locations where Navy personnel are currently building joint networks of relationships. Check Naval Station Norfolk, VA's page to see how this works.
Navy personnel are among the most technically sophisticated members of the entire DoD, yet are lagging behind their sister branches who are already utilizing market-leading technology to solve the longest-standing personal and institutional challenges they face. We expect this to increasingly change as this technology penetrates deeper and deeper into the DoD institution and achieves even larger critical mass than it already has.
What would you add to this list? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org