Name: J. Kevin Moran
Title: Vice admiral; commander, Naval Personnel Development Command, U.S. Navy
- Moved the Navy’s traditional classroom-based training toward a blended learning program, which includes simulations and e-learning.
- Put together a Navy mission-essential task list, which details the necessary skill sets needed for specific job functions and has conditions and standards that sailors must meet.
- Implementing a metrics system based on fleet readiness, individual performance and cost savings.
- Introduced an integrated learning environment architecture, which includes an LMS to help sailors map out career growth.
- Facilitated the collaboration between the Navy’s internal subject-matter experts and third-party platform vendors to develop content.
Learning Philosophy: “It is a covenant of leadership. (The chief of naval operations) often talks about that covenant: What he means is that these young men and women raise their right hands and solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. In turn, we want to give them every opportunity we can to improve themselves professionally and personally. We want to build an environment in the United States Navy where the sailor can improve him- or herself as fast as their God-given skills will allow.”
When the CNO (chief of naval operations) of the U.S. Navy commenced a new strategy to take the military branch into the 21st century, he placed the issue of manpower – what he termed the “war for people” – at the top of a revised list of organizational priorities. He eventually developed a new human capital strategy, “Sea Warrior,” to support his overall agenda of modernization. A large part of what he envisioned was a “Revolution in Training,” a sweeping change in the way the Navy viewed the delivery and focus of its learning programs. This initiative placed the educational emphasis on sailors rather than hardware. The CNO tapped decorated Vice Admiral J. Kevin Moran to spearhead the effort to recruit, train and retain Naval personnel in order to protect a nation on the battlefields of tomorrow.
“The first thing we had to do was understand this new Revolution in Training and core functions of this training organization, and then we had to rearrange our organization to deliver on the vision,” Moran said. “What (the CNO) always envisioned was that we would be the employer of choice. The vision is brilliant. When we bring this thing to life, we’re going to have an environment where sailors can improve themselves and advance in this organization. It’s that environment that I’m so excited about.”
In many ways, Moran was the ideal candidate for the new position. He had served as the executive officer aboard two surface ships; held command positions for the Navy’s southeastern U.S. region as well as the amphibious ships arm of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet; received a master’s degree in international relations and strategic studies from the War College in Newport, R.I.; and graduated from the advanced management program at the Harvard School of Business. The CNO named Moran commander of Task Force Excel, part of the Navy’s Revolution in Training program, which eventually became institutionalized as the Naval Personnel Development Command.
“I’m responsible for individual training, for delivering the skill sets necessary to prepare that sailor to go on to team training,” Moran said of his role as head of the Naval Personnel Development Command. “About 30,000 sailors go through individual training a year. That includes most of the Navy’s individual training, except for nuclear power, the health profession and flight training. We teach everything from anti-terrorism force protection all the way through to the technical skills necessary for sailors to do their jobs on the various platforms.”
To get the ball rolling on the Revolution in Training initiative, Moran had to ask a lot of reflective questions regarding the delivery of learning and development in the Navy, such as “What needs to stay in the classroom?” “What content can be delivered Web-enabled?” and “Where could simulations be implemented?” In order to bring the Navy’s professional education up to date, he began implementing learning solutions that included modalities like e-learning, coaching sessions and simulations in addition to the traditional classroom-based method.
“If you had looked at us a few years ago, you would have seen a very traditional – you might even say conscript-like – organization, where you came into class on a Monday and four weeks later, you’d graduate,” he explained. “We have quickly moved away from that type of thinking and delivery of content with the Revolution of Training concept. Now we’re applying the science of learning. What we’re trying to do is build blended learning solutions.”
The learning programs offered by the Naval Personnel Development Command cover a broad spectrum of professions within the Navy, from electricians and avionics technicians to cooks and military police. “There are about 92 ratings in the United States Navy,” Moran said. “Those ratings are particular skill-sets groupings of those sailors.”
The one thing they have in common in terms of training, though, is that all of their career development paths are being mapped out on a single master file: the Navy mission-essential task list. “There’s a new defense-readiness reporting system coming online called DRRS,” Moran said. “It is based on a joint mission-essential task list. Those mission-essential tasks have conditions and standards associated with them. The Navy is busy taking that joint mission-essential task list and mapping it down to its units, building a Navy mission-essential task list. Now the challenge is how do you connect the conditions, tasks and standards on this list to content that we deliver?”
In order to help align sailors’ professional education efforts with both their individual career goals and organizational objectives, Moran and his team have implemented a human capital management tool where various subject-matter experts determine the necessary skills and knowledge required for certain job tasks. Information is gathered through job task-skills analyses, and then that data is run through an algorithm. This produces what Moran called a “skill object tool.” “It has the knowledge, skills, abilities and tools needed for an individual to do his or her job,” he said.
The Navy’s mission-essential task list is mapped on a five-vector model, which addresses individual development from professional, personal, professional military education and leadership, certifications and qualifications, and performance perspectives. Additionally, there are four skill levels in the arrangement: recruit, apprentice, journeyman and master. Naturally, all of this involves a substantial investment of time, energy, deliberation and resources. “It’s a way of running training like a business,” Moran said in reference to the well-known book by David Van Adelsberg and Edward Trolley. “It’s building a lot of databases and then understanding how to connect those databases and chunks of information. We now have a way to identify the requirement, which is fleet readiness, all the way down to what we should be delivering.”
Fleet readiness, as well as effective techniques to measure it, is imperative to the Revolution in Training program, Moran said. “The metric that we’re interested in delivering is fleet readiness. The fleet’s bottom line is that they want a better-prepared sailor. How do we convince the fleet that this is the right way to go? We show them improved performance in the fleet, and then we show them the data that supports that. That has worked very well. We’ve stayed in close connection with the fleet. We’re still, in fact, in the crawling stages. But some of the early successes demonstrated to the fleet that we have produced a better sailor, or we would not have been allowed to move forward with those initiatives.”
Another important piece of the metrics puzzle is cost savings, which is thought of largely in terms of time to competency. With the prevalent time-is-money mentality in the Navy, getting sailors back to their posts quickly is a key goal of the educational initiative. “We want to make sure that a sailor goes to the fleet with the skills necessary to do his or her job to deliver fleet readiness, and we want to do that training as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Moran said. “This means a minimal amount of time in our part of the organization.
“Time spent in a classroom comes out of what is called the individual’s account,” he added. “That’s a bundle of money. If I reduce the time to train, I save the Navy money and can return that money to ‘big’ Navy to do other things with. Over the five years of the defense plan, I owe the CNO $2.2 billion back out of those individuals’ accounts. (The Navy spends approximately 14 percent of its total annual funding, about $10 billion, on training.) If I reduce the time required to train, I save the Navy money.”
The Naval Personnel Development Command also has moved toward gathering individual performance metrics, Moran said. “Much of what we did in the past was if you passed the final, you passed the course and you went out into the fleet with a particular certification,” he said. “It’s not good enough anymore to just pass the test. We want to really understand whether or not that sailor is ready to perform his or her job. We have various organizations in the Navy that actually go out and look at performance. Now we just want to get all of our performance metrics the same, understood and agreed-upon, and then we can connect it to the content. We want to have some of those performance-based metrics embedded in our hardware.”
When all of the various elements of the Revolution in Training are fully realized, the benefits to the Navy – and, more importantly, its sailors – will be considerable. “That is the human capital strategy,” Moran said. “Not only do we want to improve them professionally – to be a better technician or better troubleshooter – but we also want to improve them personally. We never want them to stop learning, from the time they enter the United States Navy to the time they leave, whether they stay in for one tour or 30 years. That’s what (the CNO) means when he says, ‘Win the war for people.'”
Brian Summerfield is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.