There are many operative processes regularly employed in the 21st century that are decidedly at variance with traditional ones. The increasing trend towards globalization is affecting nearly every industry, including the armed forces. As such, it is no longer advantageous to continue conducting operations and managing resources in a manner that does not reflect contemporary organizational practices specifically designed to accommodate the myriad opportunities and challenges of globalization. If managed properly, the boons of diversity, heterogeneity, and the multitude of skills and experiences from various realms of the private sector can enable the armed forces (and the United States Navy in particular) to transform from a static form of leadership to a dynamic, decentralized one that significantly enhances its efficiency and effectiveness as an organization.
The principle obstacle in achieving this objective is also the primary strength of the U.S. Navy. Like all of the armed forces, it is governed by a strict hierarchical system based on discipline where only those with the proper rank and clearance as expressly denoted by military law are enabled to speak and act when appropriate. The benefit of such a system is that it allows for clear, dependable lines of organization and that is critical in times of national security. However, its rigidity does not fully exploit all of the advantages present in the diversity of personnel and their experiences that could actually assist in the improvement of managerial and operational processes. The use of Kotter's 8-step approach for organizational transformation can induce the sort of changes necessary for the Navy to preserve its hierarchical structure while utilizing more of its personnel resources through a decentralized form of leadership that reflects contemporary values and organizational advantages.
The U.S. Navy is an excellent organization to transform from a conventional form of leadership to a decentralized one due to a variety of attributes. Chief among these is the efforts of its Equal Opportunity and Diversity program. This program has been instrumental in achieving the goals of the Workforce 2050 plan, which has targeted this date as that by which its attempts to increasingly diversify its workforce should be completed. The Navy has been actively recruiting a diverse group of individuals to its ranks for quite some time, and appears to recognize the value of a heterogeneous group of personnel. This fact is evinced through its deployment procedures, which are responsible for stationing troops in a different location around the globe every six months. Thus, even within the ranks of the Navy, the organization seeks to diversify and vary the experiences of its personnel.
Additionally, the Navy is one of the branches of the armed forces that has previously made diligent efforts to capitalize on the assortment of perspectives, skills, and experiences its troops may have. It currently attempts to utilize knowledge management, which is an informal series of processes in which one seeks to employ the individual insights of personnel into the management process. This fact is demonstrated through its slogan of "be fair with wisdom," a catchphrase identified with seeking the input of a multitude of people in reaching decisions. Finally, its policy of "Intrusive Leadership" routinely calls for leaders to have a significant amount of insight into the value of his or her subordinates based on their experiences and knowledge.
As the following overview suggests, the Navy has made efforts towards more fully utilizing the capabilities of an increasingly diversified body of personnel. However, in order to fully benefit from the resources that such individuals inherently bring to an organization, a decentralized style of leadership is required. This type of leadership encourages the input of virtually everyone in an organization in the decision-making process. When applied correctly, it does so in a manner that is well stratified and as organized as any other aspect of the armed forces. The Navy is currently attempting to achieve the ends of decentralized leadership -- which are to achieve a synthesized process of decision-making whereby all of an organization's human resources (or personnel assets) is involved. Nonetheless, it is attempting to do so within its typical chain of command, which presents inherent circumscriptions in the way it is practiced and, consequently, with its efficacy. A truly decentralized style of leadership accesses personnel input at every level -- between the upper echelons of leadership, as well as between the lower ones. Moreover, the Navy chain of command is still primarily used as a process of disseminating orders. A decentralized form of leadership will utilize such a chain of command to solicit input, at appropriate intervals and in an organized fashion, which informs those orders and the decisions responsible for them. It will allow for sailors to utilize their experiences and insight to inform the lowest ranking officers, and for those officers in turn to use those same resources to enhance the decision-making process for senior officers. It will facilitate this process in a way in which the Navy sacrifices none of its discipline and organization and fully access the diversity of knowledge and experience it has at its disposal.
Kotter's 8-Step Approach
Kotter's 8-Step Approach to organizational transformation can play an integral role in converting the U.S. Navy from a traditional form of leadership to a decentralized one. The first of these eight steps is to create a sense of urgency within an organization that the desired change needs to take place expediently. One of the hallmarks of the Navy is quality management, in which this branch of the armed forces routinely engages in benchmarking -- the process of comparing an organization to a similar one to gauge one's efficiency and effectiveness. By comparing its efficiency and effectiveness to organizations both within and outside the armed forces, the desired urgency for decentralized leadership can be achieved. The notion of tactics as discussed within the Marine Corps defines the term as the science of winning battles augmented by maneuvers to gain advantage (MCDP 1-3, 1997, p. 3), and emphasizes key concepts in tactics assist in achieving a decision (MCDP 1-3, 1997, p. 15). Once Naval personnel realizes that decentralized leadership is merely a strategic method of achieving its core organizational goals, urgency for decentralized leadership can readily be created by benchmarking with organizations in the private sector which uses this form of leadership to achieve their core organizational goals.
Step two in Kotter's methodology is to form a group of elite leaders within an organization that can induce the effort towards decentralization. In the Navy, this should ideally requirement at least one representatives from each of the levels of officers, as well as the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations. Step three in Kotter's model is for the aforementioned individuals to develop a single vision for change and specific strategies for doing so. That vision encompasses increasing the Navy's effectiveness and efficiency through a decentralized form of leadership. Quite simply, the goal is to become better organized and achieve more, faster. The principle strategy for implementing this vision involves training personnel as to the new form of leadership that the Navy will employ. This training will stress collaboration and utilization of the aggregate knowledge and experience at the disposal of the organization.
Kotter's fourth step requires communicating the vision on an organizational level. The Navy will utilize several methods to complete this step. Initially, meetings will be held involving upper level management denoting the change in leadership. Additional strategies for this step will include creating an atmosphere for the exchange of input and ideas, which will principally be facilitated by written declarations of the virtues and process of decentralized leadership -- personalized by those in leadership positions -- in areas in which their subordinates can view them (Sewell, 2008). The fifth step is to create broad-based action, which typically necessitates removing impediments from achieving the desired end. The Navy will have to do so by promoting subordinates to positions of leadership, and removing those who fail to effectively embrace or actuate effective decentralized leadership. New methodology frequently encounters rigidity and obstinacy, particularly from those who are used to a more established tradition (as some longstanding officers may be).
Step six is to systematically create short-term goals that can be completed to demonstrate the value in a transformational change. The point of this step is to increase credibility in decentralized leadership. This objective can best be realized by engaging in a series of mock-combat situations in which officers use the input of their subordinates in a stratified means by which subordinates have a representative who takes the most valued of input and transmits it to his superior. Victories should be well rewarded and demonstrated on an organizational basis, allowing representatives to see the advantages of decentralized leadership.
Step seven is to continue the momentum achieved via early achievements and recognition for them. Doing so for the Navy involve promoting those subordinates who have been found to have skills and knowledge that routinely have been used by supervisors. It also involves…