The Importance Of Difficult Conversations

By February 11, 2020Faces of the Force
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Carl S. Polcyn


TITLE: Logistics management specialist
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Product Lead for Ground Mobility Vehicle, Joint Project Office for Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in logistics; Level I in program management
EDUCATION: B.S. in business administration, Ferris State University; Advanced Acquisition Certification, Naval Postgraduate School

by Susan L. Follett

“The hardest thing in the world is to change the minds of people who keep saying, ‘But we’ve always done it this way.’ ” So said pioneering computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper—and Carl Polcyn, logistics management specialist for the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support.

“One of the biggest challenges I face in my work is helping others realize that improving the existing processes is a necessary part of government business,” said Polcyn, who is part of the Product Lead for Ground Mobility Vehicle within the Joint Project Office for Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. “With the need to accomplish more with fewer resources, it is important that we process-map, remove waste from processes, plan, budget, schedule, benchmark, etc. Leveraging the Continuous Process Improvement and Lean Six Sigma concepts is one way we can achieve a self-sustainable agency and meet our customers’ needs at the same time.”

Polcyn became a member of the Army Acquisition Workforce in 2011, starting in the Program Management Office for the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and supporting a rapid fielding in Afghanistan. He came to acquisition from a career in restaurant management and, surprising as it might seem, found that there’s a fair amount of crossover between the two. “Both positions involve urgency to get the customer—or Soldier—what they need. And while it’s very rewarding to see satisfied customers, it’s also a complex process, communicating with customers and teammates in a fast-paced environment.”

Polcyn supports the Army Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) fleet, which is fielded under urgent materiel release. It’s a nine-passenger tactical vehicle providing speed, mobility and transport capabilities for airborne infantry brigade combat teams, cavalry regiments and military intelligence units. The Army awarded its first order in May 2018 and fielded the first Army system to a company-sized element in the 82nd Airborne Division in September 2018. Ground Mobility Vehicles will allow Soldiers greater mobility across an operational area, and enable early entry forces to envelop, infiltrate and penetrate in or across multiple domains.

“The project management team is currently administering other-transaction authority contracts for performance and reliability testing as part of a Better Buying Power initiative to reduce cost through market competition,” Polcyn explained. “My role is to provide my expertise in event planning, government-furnished equipment integration, fleet management and logistics testing, to assist the team with the successful execution of its contracts.”

He’s excited to be part of developing a sustainment system for a new platform. “There’s so much that goes into that strategy—budget forecasting, metrics on fleet performance, Army businesses’ practices for obtaining those metrics—and lots of questions to answer. Our job is to identify the data to help support the decisions for the strategy, and I’m glad to be able to play a part in that.”

It’s a relatively new role for Polcyn, and one that he was able to move into as a result of what he learned through the Inspiring and Developing Excellence in Leaders (IDEAL) program that he completed in September 2019. “I recently met with Ron Parks, my supervisor and chief of the Logistics Branch, and John Ziegler III, product support manager, to discuss my career path. Leveraging some of the communication tools from the IDEAL training, I explained I was interested in more responsibility and challenges—to leverage my experience to better support the Soldier and the organization. The GMV Program workload is increasing, requiring additional personnel to manage tasks and events, and the supervisors were able to coordinate my transfer to the GMV team.”

In addition to improving his communication skills through IDEAL, Polcyn noted that he learned emotional intelligence: how to monitor his own emotions as well as the emotions of others to the benefit of the team or organization. “Another valuable learning point was improving my influence in my organization by increasing my face-to-face time with team members in my organization,” he said. “And, having learned how my values and work ethic can trigger an emotional response, now I can express that as a passion to support the Soldier—without creating a conflict. It’s easier to express what I really want.”

He has taken steps to pass along what he learned. “During a weekly team meeting, I shared my experience and promoted the IDEAL training. Lt. Col. Johnathon Nelson, product director for Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Systems Integration, requested that I schedule a lunch-and-learn session to generate a group discussion about one of the concepts I learned.”

The overall purpose was to improve the effectiveness of our team, he explained. “As a team, we talked about what leadership and organizational trust meant to us, as well as our strengths—caring for each other—and weaknesses—needing more clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. My goal was to help team members recognize leadership characteristics and to improve the effectiveness of communication when we disagree by sharing the facts, experiences and path forward on an issue.”

He added, “Often when we disagree, we choose not to understand each other, letting a conversation turn into an argument or, worse, not speaking up when important information could be shared. A dialogue helps us understand each other’s point of view and creates an organizational environment where sharing information is encouraged; that will help us better manage a product for the Solider.”

Polcyn was quick to thank several people who helped make the event a success. “Kristine Faria, acquisition education and training manager with the Army Director for Acquisition Career Management Office, was very helpful with training materials. Lt. Col. Nelson and Capt. Andrew Folse offered assistance to fund the event; and Ron Parks, helped with reviewing content and providing valuable feedback about time management.”

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