First Person

David Wennergren on the role of teams in driving change

David Wennergren, a former Defense Department executive who is now vice president of CACI International’s Enterprise Technologies and Services group, recently shared his thoughts on leadership and change management with FCW.

Here is what he had to say about pushing the Navy to reorganize its shore bases into a single command:

I brought with me a few independent brokers, honest brokers to meet with the commanding officers of all the bases and the functional leaders there so that they would actually have skin in the game of making the choices about their future.

I brought enough external voices that could help force [the commanding officers] out of their comfort zone — idea generators coming to work with the people who actually have to own the problem.

After that process finished, there [were] gelling and the hard conversations. We got to the place where we made a set of recommendations that they could do and get done.

Fast forward two years later. Now I’m the deputy chief information officer for the Navy. I’m back in San Diego for a completely different purpose, but I end up at this briefing with all the base commanders.

Two years is like forever. It’s different people. Nobody knows that this is the Wennergren who was out there meddling a couple years ago.

They brief me on all the things they were getting done in regionalizing and consolidating the shore installation management functions and how proud they were of what they had accomplished, the $40 million a year they had saved and the more efficient operations and all that kind of stuff.

When we left the meeting, the guy who traveled with me said to me, “Weren’t you annoyed that they didn’t realize it was you and a few other people helping force them to do it and you were in the middle of the change?”

I said no, I was actually delighted, because that’s the art of this light touch. If the change leader is the only person who can make it happen, then it will only last for as long as that person personally has their hands on the wheel.

The only way change can actually stick is if the people who have to live the change have their own skin in the game and force the change to stick.

We forced them to think outside the box, so to speak, but come up with a set of recommendations that they could implement, and once we left they were able to take the ball and run with it. That was the only reason why it actually worked.

About the Author

Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group