The armed forces of Great Britain — the Royal Navy, Army and Air Force — enjoy a reputation as three of the world’s premier militaries, thanks in large part to their servicemen and women’s skills and professionalism. But like many organizations in the commercial world, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) faces numerous challenges to increase efficiency and deliver value at lower cost, including its training.
The MOD must deliver individual training in the most efficient manner to fulfill the military’s goals while ensuring its training meets recruits’ needs and aspirations. Any effort to transform training alters how the three militaries provide instruction. Despite intricacies, the MOD tried to convert much of its instructor-led courseware into Web-based instruction that is more effective and accessible to younger learners.
Once the ministry issued this directive, it had broad support thanks to an energetic program that proved the viability of the training transformation concept and provided a precise blueprint to achieve it. Ultimately, the project was shelved, but the story of how the ministry undertook this task is instructive for any organization looking to harmonize and consolidate courseware and introduce advanced learning methods and technologies.
The MOD Gets the Contract
Roughly 30 percent of the British military’s total training budget is devoted to specialist technical training — instruction in electronics, vehicle maintenance and electrical engineering via more than 1,000 available courses. The other 70 percent involves training in groups for new recruit basic training and individual skills within teams. The three military services conduct their technical training activities at nine separate academies and colleges throughout the U.K., serving more than 6,000 students daily.
In 1999, in response to government requests, the British defense secretary launched a review of all training in the country’s armed forces. The report, issued two years later, concluded that defense training needed to be more integrated and the military’s training consolidated.
The secretary’s review resulted in a formal plan to modernize the development and delivery of technical training. Known as the Defence Training Rationalization (DTR) program, the initiative sought to reduce manpower in training delivery, align the training estate with modern objectives, reduce time required for individual technical instruction, and meet front-line command training standards.
A bidding process ensued, and in 2007, the MOD awarded preferred bidder status to a public/private partnership called the Metrix consortium.
The consortium’s membership included the Raytheon Co., an organization that has provided training-related services to government organizations and businesses globally, including the U.S. military (Editor’s note: The author works for Raytheon).
DTR was structured as a 30-year contract, and Raytheon’s specific role was to redesign curriculum and content, the hands-on portion of training rationalization. But unlike most training modernization initiatives involving businesses, Raytheon’s assignment was unusual. As the preferred bidder process moved toward final agreement, the MOD and Metrix decided to enter into a preliminary contract to test and prove the concept of training transformation within each military service. Only upon final DTR contract agreement would the program be implemented.
In short, Raytheon was told to fully test the solution, but not to put it into practice before actual students. Even though government experts believed a large volume of the technical training provided separately by the three services was similar, they would not fully adopt rationalized courseware changes until the concept had been proven.
Their reluctance was based on several concerns, the first of which was fiduciary. None of the DTR program’s disparate elements could be executed until the client was assured it could be accomplished on time and on budget. The ministry also needed to know that courseware rationalization could be accomplished within a framework that respected the unique ethos and styles of operation within each military branch.
Working closely with military training specialists, Raytheon UK staff along with Raytheon Professional Services LLC (RPS), the Raytheon training arm, conducted training analysis and course redesign across a test group of 16 engineering courses totaling approximately 400,000 man training days per year. The goal of the 20-month project executed during 2009 and 2010 also included delivery of 225 hours of modern interactive courseware with new digital content.
RPS used Catapult, its own Web-based training development tool, to allow MOD to review the training products throughout the development cycle. This enabled RPS’ military partners to provide comments and suggestions at specific points in the process to maintain the ethos and styles of operation within each military branch.
The results of the test project were dramatic. The ministry was able to verify that the training transformation approach would provide the savings that had been promised if Raytheon’s proposals were fully implemented. Among the specific accomplishments were:
• For the courses analyzed, a 34 percent reduction in the time spent by individual students undergoing technical training was found. This surpassed the 25 percent potential reduction Raytheon promised at the outset.
• New training content was added to meet missing learning objectives.
• A positive change management culture was developed within the training environment to transform delivery methodology.
• Potential return on investment could be realized within three to five years with ongoing annual savings thereafter of approximately £6 million to £10 million.
Achieving these goals could be considered a military victory of sorts for the ministry and the training professionals at RPS since it reflected teamwork, dedication and the effectiveness of internal procedures.
For example, part way through a feasibility exercise, Raytheon specialists advised that additional efficiencies could be gained beyond simply harmonizing MOD courseware. Courses also could be compressed by replacing selected components of the instructor-led training with Web-based interactive courseware. Doing so would shorten the time trainees needed to complete their assigned courses.
This reduced classroom time, and when multiplied throughout the military, would deliver significant savings in reduced overhead — instructors, facilities and infrastructure. It also would improve service personnel productivity since they could move to their front-line assignments more quickly.
Further, instructional courses could be made more relevant by removing courseware components deemed unnecessary for performance. Lastly, it was suggested that training budgets could be reduced further by delivering more instruction to personnel at their home bases via virtual classroom training and other learning technologies, which also reduced time in the classroom.
To perform certain aspects of the test project, RPS employed its internally created method and tool set, the Architect Process. This method identifies the specific skills and knowledge that personnel need to succeed in their jobs, then breaks down this information into specific training objectives. Finally, each course module is constructed based on perceived needs.
A Change in Direction
The ministry and its Metrix partners never got a chance to implement the DTR program. In October 2010, just as elements of the project were getting under way, the MOD terminated its relationship with Metrix. It concluded that a proposed college in Wales that would consolidate the military’s disparate technical training facilities could not be constructed within the required timescale and budget. The entire program was thus brought to a halt.
One important objective remained: To provide tangible evidence that the military’s specialist training courseware could be modernized as Raytheon promised.
Specifically, the MOD leadership requested Raytheon take training transformation from theory to practice by implementing it fully within another test situation. Only by doing so could the MOD demonstrate the efficiencies the DTR program claimed. That evidence was deemed critical to garner support for any training transformation activities that might launch in the future.
The government said instead of demonstrating through design and analysis that a 25 percent improvement in content could be reached, RPS needed to take a single, full course development project to completion. Further, it directed RPS to create 194 hours of interactive courseware that could be integrated into other courses on which the customer had been working. Lastly, the MOD felt that completing the mission in this final test would expand the culture of change that was gradually sweeping through the military training organizations.
The test was successful. RPS was able to complete its revised mission within a collaborative atmosphere that benefited from solid governance and a partnering culture established between Raytheon and the MOD. As a result, the ministry now has proof that training transformation can proceed with the trust and confidence of Britain’s three military services.
Capt. Bob Rusbridger of the Royal Navy, who at the time of the DTR program was the sponsor for all defense training and more recently became involved in the effort to modernize the delivery of military training at reduced cost, said: “The program clearly demonstrated the benefits of training transformation, and while it highlighted the investment in time and effort required to deliver the solutions, it also showed the significant potential for savings across the training enterprise.”
David J. Letts is vice president and general manager of Raytheon Professional Services LLC. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.