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Professionally Developing World-Class Product Support Managers

Professionally Developing World-Class Product Support Managers

Bill Kobren

Partially to whet your appetite for more information, and partially to help get the word out to our workforce about the important topics being covered, over  the last several days, I’ve been highlighting some of the many outstanding articles in the newly-released March-April 2012 Special Product Support-focused issue of Defense AT&L Magazine.


Today I’m taking a slightly different approach, since the article I want to share is one which had the opportunity to co-author with our sustainment performance learning director here at DAU. The article, entitled “Professionally Developing World-Class Product Support Managers”, addresses a topic which we view as not only very timely, but vitally important. Yes, Congress crafted legislation which the President signed into law in the FY10 NDAA establishing the product support manager position and responsibilities. The Department of Defense issued implementation policy in Directive Type Memorandum 10-015 in October 2010. The Services has issued their implementation policy and assigned personnel to perform these duties. DAU has been rapidly developing and providing new training to ensure current and future PSMs know what their duties and responsibilities will be. But as we say in the article, “we have a once-in-a-generation chance to implement and execute something truly important. We also have a small window of opportunity to get it right. Policy only gets us so far; to achieve the desired outcomes, successful execution of the requirements is, in many respects, more important. And to successfully achieve the desired product support and life cycle outcomes articulated in statute and policy, we must have the right people, with the right skills, provided the right authorities, afforded the right resources, and with the right mix of experience, expertise, leadership, training, and education.”


In the article, we propose ideas to assist current, and perhaps more importantly, future PSMs to better “understand how acquisition and sustainment intersect, why life cycle management is so critical, and how to design for supportability from the earliest stages of program development.” We also seek to articulate one possible human capital model for professionally developing world class future product support managers by proposing a “Notional Product Support Manager Career Pathway” to help get young acquisition professionals not only to take notice of this important position, but also to encourage them early in their careers to not only set their sights on, but preparing to become one.


At the end of the day, human capital professional development is not something intended only for good budgetary times, but is particularly important in austere times. We must each resist the temptation to “eat our seed corn” by focusing only on today’s mission without regard to investing in the future. This short-sighted perspective risks leaving our current workforce not only burned-out and frustrated, but ill-suited and unprepared to meet the challenges and demands of tomorrow. Just-in-time training has its place, but in the case of a PSM, anything less than a career’s preparation risks being akin to an afterthought.” Professional development REALLY matters!