Skunk Works…Innovating from the Outside-In…


My team went through a major change initiative starting in 2006 that involved merging with ten organizations with geographic and functional responsibilities. While each conducted the same mission by collecting, analyzing and disseminating information to support leadership decision advantage, in many respects…each felt it was unique and did their mission differently. Each had learning functions that ranged in size of 1 to over 40…so this was the environment and scene my team faced in building a global learning enterprise that leveraged my organization’s learning capabilities, while integrating their capabilities.

What my team came to find out that in order to integrate effectively and efficiently…we would have to change from the “Outside-In.” What this meant is that in many respects, while trying to integrate and align these various learning capabilities, changing how we conducted business at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) would be possible by changing how we operated with our new customers. For example, within DIA’s schoolhouses we used different course evaluations with some standard questions, but in large part no common standards. One of the first initiatives with our learning integration efforts was to develop and accept a common set of evaluation questions. This move precipitated a similar discussion internally.

We accomplished this and other key initiatives by treating our effort as a Skunk Works…Made famous at the height of the Cold War, Lockheed Martin created a group that revolutionized and transformed airborne reconnaissance.

Our internal Skunk Works supported change management during the integration and alignment period. By leveraging a world-class best practice in defining a common set of skills, knowledge and capabilities for all organizations…we were able to integrate learning and align existing solutions at a quicker pace. It allowed our new customers to see that while their organizations had different responsibilities, the challenges faced, the work they did and the type of human capital capabilities needed were very similar.

The lesson for Human Capital Management (HCM) leaders, creating a team within your HCM organization that has the green light to try creative and disruptive new approaches can enable change across the HCM organization. That can lead to new efficiencies and effectiveness in meeting customer needs and in our case…accelerating major change initiatives…from the Outside-In.

Cheers,
Keith

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