Name: Frank J. Anderson Jr.
Company: Defense Acquisition University
- Envisioned and implemented a new learning paradigm, a Performance Learning Model, to fully meet the entire career-wide learning needs of the workforce.
- DAU’s distance learning program was singled out for providing a superior e-learning model, an improved learning environment that best leverages technology to enhance learning and drive down costs.
- Created more learning opportunities to customers, forged more than 60 alliances with educational institutions and industry, and increased annual online course graduates from 630 to more than 12,000.
- Led the complete re-engineering of the program management career field, resulting in a reduction of annual student training weeks from 36,120 to 10,000, returning 300 annual employee work years to the job and saving the Department of Defense $17.4 million per year.
- Online instructional time at DAU increased from 15,750 hours to more than 1.6 million. Likewise, the number of course graduates at DAU increased to more than 50,000 per year.
- By successfully adoption a customer-centric corporate university model, completely transformed the DAU.
Learning Philosophy: “We are in a world where the span of knowledge is the shortest that it has ever been. So what you taught your people that was relevant for years may not really be relevant any longer. A learning organization must develop a capability to deliver new knowledge, new information, with the speed and agility that was never required before.”
“An army marches on its stomach” –Napoleon
When French general Napoleon Bonaparte uttered that famous assessment, he was right, but not entirely right. Food is essential to a military unit, of course, but so are clothing, computers, office supplies and communications systems. Oh, and little things called weapons and munitions. An army, Napoleon might have said, marches on the strength of its supplies.
Like everything but trouble, supplies don’t just appear. Any large military contingent comes with a corps of acquisition technology and logistics specialists, specially trained to keep everything marching forward. The U.S. military, under the control of the Department of Defense, is no exception, employing a community of acquisition and logistics experts of about 130,000 souls expected to fill nearly 3.7 million seat hours of training this year.
As learning executives, you control large workforces, so you already know that the knowledge required to keep those military and civilian personnel working sharply and efficiently doesn’t just happen.
That’s where Frank J. Anderson Jr. and Defense Acquisition University (DAU) come in. Anderson, the DAU president who was recently named “Leader of the Year” in HR Events’ CUBIC Awards, is charged with delivering the workplace training for the Department of Defense’s acquisition technology and logistics workforce.
“That’s training for those people who support equipment in the workplace, that’s for all the people worldwide who acquire things for the Department of Defense military bases, overseas and in the states. That’s buying weapons systems, but it’s also the acquisition of food, military unique clothing, common-use things from computers, pens and everything that’s required for the department to operate and the services that go along with supporting these activities,” Anderson said.
“We deliver the training for the folks who are involved in that business. That includes engineers, quality assurance, contracting, the people who run these large programs, the financial managers who are involved in developing budgets and keeping these activities funded. It’s a very large undertaking.”
Working from his offices at Fort Belvoir, Va., the retired brigadier general has spent the past three years overseeing alignments and realignments to make that large undertaking more efficient and effective. The Department of Defense spends between $80 and $100 million on these services annually, so efficiency is necessary.
“In 1998, about 2 percent of our learning was delivered in a distance learning format. Today, depending on how you look at it, about 40 percent is e-learning,” Anderson said. “About 60 percent of our student grads are touched by e-learning in 2002. We’re forecasting about 70 percent of our student grads will be touched by e-products in 2003.”
“When you look at that, we’ve completely reorganized the university. We’ve made a major shift in how we deliver, probably faster than any other corporate university in America. These are not soft skill courses we deliver. These are all hard content. This is all hard skill, core functional training.”
Anderson and his staff are also working to modernize the content, looking at all materials to ensure it delivers the skill sets required for the crucial functions. Curricula are set up in 14 functional areas, including program management, purchasing, contracting, financial management and engineering.
“We prepare people to excel in the workplace,” Anderson said. “It’s a fairly significant undertaking, and we’ve gone through all the growth pains that most organizations would go through if you take on that kind of major change.”
Change is nothing new, of course, to a man who spent 34 years in uniform, primarily in the acquisition, logistics and technology management positions he now helps train. In his last assignment, Anderson was commandant for Defense System Management College, the largest organization in the Defense Acquisition University of five campuses. But even then, he knew the value of education.
“My background is not one that would be tied to a traditional education and training background. I came from the mission side. I’ve previously been a program director running a large weapons system. I’ve worked at the base level, buying things to support a base as a contracting officer. I’ve been director of contracting at the largest buying organization in the Air Force. I came from the mission side of the community and then moved into the training side,” Anderson said.
“That’s something our leadership and I believe is fairly important: that the person running a learning environment ought to know and understand your primary mission. That’s a part of maintaining linkage. Talking about this linkage between your learning organization and the mission objectives of the organization, I think that’s easier to do if you have someone leading your learning organization that comes from the mission side of the business.”
Anderson thinks that real-world background will be increasingly represented in corporate America.
“That’s a trend I think you’re starting to see with your larger corporate universities,” he said. “It helps you stay connected to why you exist. The reasons organizations invest, fund and create a learning structure is because of the fundamental belief that people represent your most important resource. In order to tap the capabilities of your people, you need to have a strategy to develop people that will link back to the mission of the organization.”
Keeping a workforce current on a rapidly evolving set of skills is no small challenge, even for a brigadier general.
“Knowledge today has a very short shelf life,” Anderson said. “You’re having to constantly go back and challenge whether or not the learning content you have in place is adequate to ensure that your workforce is prepared to excel in the workplace relative to changing market conditions, changing technology, changing marketplace positions. All of that is putting pressure on learning organizations to continually evolve their curriculum, while at the same time dealing with resource constraints.”
Anderson’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In addition to his being named “Leader of the Year,” Defense Acquisition University competed with private sector companies and won best overall corporate university (the award he most coveted), best virtual corporate university and best use of technology. But the award Anderson really remembers is the second-place honor for most innovative corporate university. Like the perfect perfectionist, he’ll be happy, he said, when they take first in that category as well next year.
“There’s a tendency to believe that, by definition, just because you are not government you are not innovative, that you’re slow to change,” Anderson said. “We take a great sense of pride with the recognition that we have received there.”
Recently named a member of the board of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Anderson knows he isn’t in this alone. In addition to his team of education experts, Anderson visited a number of corporate universities while implementing his changes, to learn himself from what works for organizations like Motorola.
“In the end state, we’re trying to ensure that people who may have to put their lives in harm’s way will have the right equipment at the right time and that it will do those things that it’s been advertised to do,” Anderson said. “In a sense, we’re on the business-side of war-fighting. The idea of shaping smart business deals is very, very important to us. We believe that the workforce is very talented, very capable, but they operate in a difficult business environment. With the right skill sets, we have people who should be able to and who do consistently make smart business decisions”
Defense Acquisition University faces a series of challenges to complete that mission, not the least of which is dealing with different cultures. In this case, that primarily means military cultures. The Army does things differently from the Air Force, which does things differently from the Navy, Anderson said, with each military branch driven by the specific mission and nature of that service.
“What we’re trying to do is to develop core knowledge, core expertise that’s required by all of these organizations and certain functional specialties, and then to work with those organizations as they need training to adapt a person to their unique work environment,” Anderson said. “Our mission is to create a learning environment for the workforce, which is broader than just delivering training.”
Anderson has been fortunate in his mission to have leadership support, right up to the Secretary of Defense’s office. He’s also engaged the education industry’s top thought leaders, including ROI guru Jack Phillips and assessment expert Donald Kirkpatrick.
Citing successes like student throughput being up 48 percent while faculty is down 24 percent, Anderson isn’t resting on laurels. Defense Acquisition University will continue to evolve its e-learning approach, and is looking at methods for delivering individualized, specific training to Department of Defense employees. None of that just happens.
“You have to prepare an organization to learn differently. The learning environment of the 21st century is going to be significantly different from the learning environment of the 20th century,” he said. “A challenge that you have is that almost all of your leadership today learned using 20th century learning construct. It’s important to engage your senior leadership so they buy into your strategy.”
Education is obviously mission-critical for Anderson and the Department of Defense. And like any great campaign, it takes vision and drive.
“Learning organizations cannot become islands, and that happens in a number of organizations. So what we want to do is to continue to convince our leadership that we are in fact adding value, that we make a significant contribution to their overarching, organizational goals,” Anderson added. “We want to ensure we are linked, and we want to invest a reasonable amount of time in our strategic planning process, understanding those technologies that will help us stay on the leading edge, instead of following those who are the leaders. We want to shape the future, not follow the future.”