Tag Archives: Rear Adm. Joe Mulloy

A Commander’s Intent

5 Jun

To find yourself in the presence of Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, is like landing in the pages of a history book and running through the vivid frames of a film about the future all at the same time.   A decorated warfighter and a visionary leader, Admiral Willard has a way about him that is unlike that of any person I have ever met or had the pleasure of working for in my life.  It is no secret that I am a BIG fan – and not just because he is a Top Gun pilot and was in the movie, though it does keep me ‘star struck’ – but because he possesses, among other things, the one trait that many executives seem to leave behind a few rungs down the ladder on their way up:  Humility.

The first time I was asked to brief  “a four star” was in October of 2007.  We were gearing up to execute the plan to become a Maritime Headquarters with Maritime Operations Center (MHQ with MOC).  I had my one slide ready, was nervous to no end, and had practiced what I needed to say several times in my head in an effort to TRY to not look like an idiot in front of MY boss, Rear Admiral Joe Mulloy (who is quite arguably the smartest person on earth), and THE boss.  No pressure…

Right before the lead action officer (AO), CDR Eric Kennington, introduced the briefers, Admiral Willard interrupted to inject some direction.  He said (paraphrasing here), “Before you brief me, I don’t want you to tell me what’s good.  I want you to tell me what we are doing differently now than what we were doing in the past, and tell me what is not working so that we can fix it”.   This statement caught me completely off guard and I had to think quickly about how to ‘retool’ my voice over, which I did simply by injecting more “executive level honesty”.  Here was the Commander of the Pacific Fleet essentially saying to his staff, “Don’t B.S. me – be honest because I want to know how we can do better”.  Tell me how many leaders at that level ever say or ask that and are genuine about it?

Every meeting I have attended with Admiral Willard since then has had me in awe of this unexpected humility.  In one meeting, I remember him saying to one of our newer staff members (a lieutenant commander), “Hey, if you know something I’m saying is wrong, speak up.  Some of you guys have been in school more recently than I have.”  Granted, very few people will actually counter or correct what he says, but when they do (respectfully), you can tell he appreciates it.

At our recent KM conference, Admiral Willard made mention of the fact that I “pushed back” on him during a particular meeting, and several attendees came up to me during the conference and asked “How did you DO that?”  That question was the impetus for this blog entry.   The reason I could “do that” was because I have a leader who is willing to listen, who wants more honesty and less ‘smoke’, and who sets the tone for open dialog when it is appropriate.

As a KM advocating for the good work other KMs can do for their organizations and bosses, I encourage leaders at every level to show the same level of humility that Admiral Willard shows in his engagements.  If a four star admiral, soon to be Commander of the entire Pacific AOR can do it, why not you?  By being open to learning and hearing what’s good AND bad about your organization (and your own ideas), you will gain more knowledge and become more effective in your endeavors.  Your knowledge managers are there to help you do just that.

Photo Credits: MC1 Sarah Murphy, CPF N00PA


A Tin Can and a String

31 Jan

Not too many months ago, I had a conversation with our Chief Knowledge Officer, Rear Admiral Joe Mulloy, about the concerns of our Commander with regard to capturing processes.  One of the pearls I harvested from this meeting was that getting things done was the paramount objective, even if we had to do so “with a tin can and a string”.  In other words, it wasn’t the tool that mattered so much as it was our ability to carry out the process, and capturing the steps in that process so that it could be executed regardless of the tools available was what we needed to do.  In my travels, I often repeat this story because I believe it helps to illustrate where our responsibilities  as knowledge managers lie.  As a KMO, my role is not that of “tool guru” – been there, done that, bought the binary t-shirt.  A KMO, in contrast to ITs or IMOs, looks at people and processes and works with the ITs and IMOs to figure out better ways to capture, generate, display and apply knowledge using technology. 

In my opinion, the problems we seem to encounter as organizations have almost nothing to do with the tools, but rather with the operator’s ability to generate actionable knowledge from the semi-organized information those tools allow us to capture and display across several disparate systems.  Regardless of the obvious people factor, we continue to throw tool after tool at the humans like researchers put objects in front of chimpanzees, watching and waiting for some kind of brilliant result.  I often wonder if the proliferation of tools is what keeps us struggling to make sense of what the information REALLY tells us…

I am frustrated by this realization that tools abound in the Navy, but that personnel, programs and training focused on leveraging those tools does not.  Until we can strike a better balance between our investments in people and technology, in both how the former can better leverage the latter and how the former can produce smarter versions of the latter, we may very well be better off with the tin can and a string.

Holiday Wishes

24 Dec

Last week, the CPF N01KM team held our biannual conference in San Diego.  It was the first time I was able to meet with the team together since assuming the KMO role and our focus was vision, strategy, team and “collective knowledge”.   The team was able to brief our Chief Knowledge Officer, Rear Admiral Mulloy, via VTC and it was fantastic to hear how much this relatively small group of people has accomplished over the last year. 

Our reach as CPF N01KM expands beyond COMPACFLT into every level of the Pacific Fleet, into other Navy commands and now into the Joint world.  Every day, individuals from over 665 commands world wide use the Enterprise Knowledge Management system (NIPR and SIPR)  and our metrics and user success rates continue to grow.  From the electronic qual card process at VFA-122, to Secretariat taskers at BUMED, to the COT process that crosses electronically from the Far East to DC, to our newest command processes at JTF Capital Medicine — there are so many success stories we can share to illustrate how applying KM principles using the eKM tool suite and other collaborative systems is helping people get things done more effectively and efficiently every day. 

In addition to the eKM support provided from Yokosuka, Bremerton, San Diego and Hawaii, our PACFLT Knowledge Management Advisors provide KM process assessments and training to C3F and soon C7F staff when called upon.  

There are MANY reasons why I am so proud of our team, but above all, it’s their commitment to service and support that really steals the show.  From Rear Admiral Mulloy and I to Scott, Mark, Jamie, Arlana, Calvin, Dale, Beth, Hilary, Liann, Clinton and Eric – THANK YOU for all the hard work put in and for the dedication you show each and every day. 

And from our entire CPF N01KM team serving you across the Pacific AOR, have a wonderful holiday and a joyous new year!


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