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NEWS | Feb. 4, 2014

Guard members from four states learn strategic planning

By Sgt. Edward Eagerton Alaska National Guard

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - As the adage goes, "you cannot teach an old dog new tricks," but that is exactly what the Army Communities of Excellence Strategic Execution Course is designed to do.

Last month, about 30 Guard members from Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho and Montana attended a five-day course to learn how to develop a strategic plan and communicate it to all levels of their organizations.

"They're training the next generation of leaders," said Maj. Chad Daniels, a performance assessment officer with the Business Transformation Office, National Guard Bureau. "It really is a culture change. With the fiscal environment being the way it is and money going away, we have to look at the way we're doing things; we have to look at how to do our processes more efficiently."

The senior and mid-level leaders who attended the Strategic Execution course used the case study of a private-sector company as an example of a failing business model. During the class, they were taught a set of tools to analyze that business model and develop a strategic plan to affect positive change for the company.

Through analyzing where an organization is, and figuring out where they want to go, the students were then challenged to prioritize what steps to take and how to communicate that plan to their organization.

One of the challenges in communicating this vision is that the National Guard is mostly made up of traditional Guard members who drill for one weekend a month and two weeks a year during their annual training.

Outside of drill weekends and annual training, Guard members typically pursue careers and education within the civilian sector. During National Guard training, their individual missions and training revolve around maintaining proficiency in their skill sets. So how would a traditional Guard Soldier or Airman understand the larger picture of an organization without the continuity of doing their service-related job every day?

"There needs to be involvement, and not just from the headquarters or senior leadership, but from throughout the entire organization," said Army Col. Jeff Ireland, the chief of staff for the Montana National Guard. "If we can get the employees excited and show them that what we're doing is going to help us help them, then there's going to be success."

Leadership and those tasked with redesigning the future are an often changing and evolutionary element of the military. By involving all levels of the organization in the strategic planning process, the collective vision of an organization gains a sense of continuity that could not exist without a solid communication in place to instill those core values.

"I can take this process of strategic planning and apply it to my foxhole right now," said Maj. Tim Brower, assistant professor of military science at the University of Anchorage Alaska Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program, Alaska Army National Guard. "By doing that, it's going to make the ROTC program better. It will be nested with the guidance that I receive from higher levels of command, and in turn, will be conveyed to the next generation of leaders."