Depth, Breadth, or Both?
In 2008, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics & Materiel Readiness issued the groundbreaking DoD Logistics Human Capital Strategy, a document which “describes the vision for the Logistics functional community, enabling pillars, outcomes, benefits, the implementation approach and a timeline of key actions and tasks. It was written in a collaborative effort with the Logistics functional community across the Services, Joint Staff, DLA, and USTRANSCOM.”
The document articulated a “vision of an integrated, agile, and high-performing future workforce of multi-faceted, interchangeable logisticians that succeed in a joint operating environment. The bedrock of this vision is competency-based management of the DoD’s logistics workforce, manifest in the creation of a logistics career roadmap with a common lexicon and set of core logistics competencies and proficiencies,” and going on to state that “the HCS will benefit DoD logisticians, and the Services, Agencies, and COCOMs. For individuals, the HCS provides a clear career roadmap and development framework with consistent expectations and application of competencies and skill requirements, in addition to enhanced opportunity for cross-functional development, flexibility, and growth. For the Services, Agencies, and COCOMs, the HCS improves logistics synergy which, in turn, provides better capabilities for current and emerging mission requirements. In addition, the HCS provides an enterprise system that will enable identification, development, and utilization of the desired competencies to meet mission needs.”
One aspect I personally find intriguing and which readers are encouraged to consider is the recognition of various levels of professional expertise, breadth, and depth within the DoD logistics workforce, and the vision of achieving the right mix in the future. The strategy discusses four top-level workforce categories of logistics personnel (maintenance support, supply management, deployment/distribution/transportation, and life cycle logistics) and identifies three broad groups of logistics personnel working within (and across) these four workforce categories. These three groups are defined as:
· “I” People – Deep knowledge, narrow expertise in functional segment, with limited knowledge of other functional segments or fields.
· “T” People – Broader knowledge across a field, possibly with depth in some but not all logistics segments; some knowledge of business or other fields; some development assignments and training.
· Enterprise Logistician – Multi-faceted logistician with expertise in many segments and knowledge of the logistics process end-to-end; knowledge of business
The challenge, of course, was – and still is -- achieving the right mix of these so-called “I,” “T,” and “E” Logisticians. The human capital strategy acknowledges this, articulating a future-state vision where “ultimately, the ….(intent is)to achieve the right mix of function-specific subject matter experts and multi-faceted Enterprise Logisticians. Historically, the logistics population was predominantly comprised of personnel possessing a deep level of knowledge in one specific area demonstrated by a narrow range of expertise within one function field; these personnel are classified as “I” people. As careers progressed, some logisticians expanded their knowledge of logistics to include a second or third functional field; those with this expanded knowledge are known as “T” people illustrating they possess broader knowledge with depth in some, but not all, logistics fields. Multi-faceted logisticians with expertise in many segments and knowledge of the logistics process end-to-end are designated “Enterprise” logisticians; the Enterprise Logistician or “E” person goes beyond the “I” and the “T” people. The future logistics environment necessitates a DoD logistics workforce comprising all three types of people; as depicted in Figure 2 of the DoD Logistics Human Capital Strategy, however, the most significant growth in the coming years will be in both “T-” and “E-”type logisticians.”
So why do I share this with you? To provide some food for thought; for example, what kind of logistician am I? What kind do I aspire to be? Regardless of whether you are a DoD civilian or uniformed military member, I would contend the strategy does not advocate an “inch deep and a mile wide” approach any more than personnel who are a “mile deep and an inch wide.” What it is saying is the desired future state vision is a cadre of expert logisticians who excel in at least one of the four workforce categories, coupled with an increasing population who build on (and seek to expand) that expertise into one or more of the other three workforce categories. Encouraged you, therefore, to first become a subject matter expert and a skilled practitioner in your primary career field, then aggressively seek to become more multi-functional and knowledgeable in other logistics domains, with an end goal of becoming one of the Enterprise Logisticians, a “multi-faceted logistician with expertise in many segments and knowledge of the logistics process end-to-end; knowledge of business.” You’ll be the better for it, your organization will be the better for it, our functional community will be the better for it, and ultimately, the Department of Defense will be as well.