In 2009, The United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) needed to transform their operating model. Responsible for developing, coordinating, and deploying all U.S. Army Aviation operations, training, and doctrine, USAACE’s operational effectiveness was crucial at this moment in time. The war in Afghanistan was intensifying, and the United States Army was being called upon by the U.S. Secretary of Defense to increase the number of trained pilots. Failure to deliver would have been catastrophic, not only impacting national security but creating longer deployments for current pilots, in turn taking an enormous toll on their families and the pilots themselves. They needed to undertake an operating model transformation that produced more well-trained pilots per year while increasing their efficiencies. Kotter was commissioned to empower individuals throughout the workforce, building a culture of collaboration through participation in the change effort.
Through this operating model transformation, The Army Aviation Center of Excellence was seeking to:
- Create a leadership culture across levels and functions
- Update processes that were exacerbating their current challenges
- Change the behaviors of thousands of people
- Clear their backlog of trainees
- Transform their culture away from one of blame-shifting and stymied collaboration
The installation’s operating budget was set to increase by 50% the following fiscal year. Poised to quickly add people, aircraft, and facilities to increase flight training, leaders at all levels quickly realized that added resourcing alone would not be enough. Meeting their mission was constrained by a culture of inefficiencies that had grown over decades. Policies that had once made sense were now getting in the way of getting the job done. Kotter worked with USAACE to engage all ranks and departments to knock down barriers and identify solutions to enable more positive change. As a result, USAACE helped increase participation in the change effort and empowered people at the lowest levels to make sound decisions. Doing so increased collaboration across different departments within USAACE, producing a better organization that improved the quality of life for soldiers and their families.
In just 18 months, the base met its goal of operating model transformation by successfully processing the backlog of pilots through the training program, meeting the U.S. Military’s pressing need for more pilots, and garnering the 2013 Commander in Chief’s Award for Installation Excellence and the 2013 CSA’s Communities of Excellence Gold Award.