HCSP: A road map to get where we want to go

Managing a human system—especially one as large as the acquisition workforce—is challenging. That makes the HCSP’s clearly defined goals, periodic re-assessments and strategic nature even more essential. (Image by USAASC/akindo/iStock)
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From the director, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center

Community-built plan to take care of the acquisition workforce and, by extension, the Soldiers it serves 

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

—Lewis Carroll

Hesitant as I am to juxtapose “Alice in Wonderland” and the Army Acquisition Workforce Human Capital Strategic Plan (HCSP), there’s a lesson for us here. Determining where we want to end up is why we developed the HCSP.

Although we have an incredible amount of activity at the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) focused on taking care of people—to get them scheduled for classes, assess competencies, provide targeted training, educational and experiential opportunities, ensure that we have programs that develop them as both functional experts as well as leaders—we’ve always known it’s necessary to have an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish at the macro level. The HCSP in effect codifies where we’re trying to go as we take care of this incredible asset, the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW).

We didn’t do that in a vacuum by having the USAASC team come up with ideas, analyze the data and decide what makes sense. The strategic planning was done with the full participation and cooperation of representatives and thought leaders from around the Army and the acquisition community. We had input from all the potential stakeholders about where they saw this community’s needs both now and in the future. We looked at the gaps between those two and developed very specific and targeted goals on how to close those gaps.

That’s what the HCSP does. There are five specific goals, to be pursued concurrently: workforce planning, professional development, leader development, employee engagement, and communication and collaboration.

The one that I typically emphasize first is communication and collaboration. The community that built the HCSP recognized that communication and collaboration was so important that it needed to be a stand-alone goal. It’s important to recognize that these are foundational activities, things that we must do really well at all times. That’s the only way to determine that we as a community are all on the same page, understand who’s responsible for what, where to get resources in particular areas and how to attack those problems together. It synchronizes the efforts of the entire community to make sure that we succeed.

One of my pet peeves is strategic planning documents that don’t have an accompanying action plan. Our HCSP contains a detailed implementation plan. It includes not only specific objectives, but also metrics to determine whether we’re achieving our desired goals. It’s important to recognize that the HCSP is a starting point: This is what we think we can accomplish and this is how we’ll know whether we have succeeded. But it’s a living document as well. We won’t just wait a year, check the data and say that we’ve reached our goal, or that we haven’t reached our goal and just keep going. We’re also doing periodic assessments of whether our metrics are the right metrics. It’s a constant analysis and evaluation.

We’ll learn more over time. Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with good metrics. I’m a true believer in having them mean something. I don’t like being the guy who grades his own paper and then decides to set the bar really low so I get As all the time. You need to determine what the target should be. And sometimes it includes activities that are outside your span of control, and yet you’re going to try to influence those, and you’re going to try to achieve success in those areas. If you don’t reach your target, all that tells you is there’s more work to be done. It’s OK to be making progress toward a lofty goal and recognize that we’re not there yet. What’s important is that progress is being made. Are we doing better at an increasing rate? Are we getting closer to our goal even if we haven’t hit that first threshold mark?

And of course when you’re talking about human capital, it’s a recognition that people are what our business is about. People get the work done. In the acquisition world, we’re providing capabilities to Soldiers, but that is done through the expertise of the individuals who are performing the day-to-day functions to get those capabilities.

There’s nothing more complex than human systems. It’s complicated work. It hits on things like education and training and certification. But it goes way, way deeper than that. It’s about competencies, including competencies in areas that we don’t know we’re going to need in the future. Those competencies evolve over time. If you were to talk to somebody 25 years ago about needing competencies in robotics, you might not have gotten a lot of traction. Who cared about robotics? But we know full well today how important a role autonomous systems or remotely controlled systems play in keeping our Soldiers out of harm’s way.

Everything that we understand about the capabilities that we have to put into place evolves quickly over time. That includes things like building people’s competencies in other areas: their leadership skills, their communication skills and their ability to work in teams. It’s a vast array of work that we do on the human dimension. So I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can use this effort and the structure that we’ve put in place with the HCSP to come together and recognize where we are going. If we don’t pay attention to our workforce in an integrated fashion, then we will have results that are both ineffective and inefficient.

If you’re motivated to do a good job because you have a sense of purpose of what we do and why we do it, then this Human Capital Strategic Plan means a lot to you. It shows that we care as a community about what we do for the Army as a force multiplier and that we recognize that no matter how good we are at what we do, we can always do better.

This article is published in the October – December 2017 Army AL&T magazine.

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