Don't Mess with Mister In-Between: Enabling Army's People Capability through the Defence Transformation Programme
By Chief Human Resources Officer Colonel Dave Russell
Army's Recruiting Advertising Agency Saatchi & Saatchi ran a television ad in 1990 promoting their company, with very affirmative images, set to the Johnny Mercer song 'Ac-Cent-Tchu- Ate the Positive', and famously sung by Bing Crosby. The chorus line in this song was 'Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mister In-Between'.
Chief Human Resources Officer, Colonel Dave Russell (WN-10-0077-003).
You have heard it from many sources that the Defence Force is undergoing significant change. The Human Resources Management (HRM) Change Programme is one stream of the Defence Transformation Programme (DTP) which will have considerable impact on us all. It is time to move beyond the 'in between' fixes the Defence Force has made to its HRM practices in the past and look at how we are going to take HRM business into the future.
As the various DTP communiqués have stressed, the Defence Force cannot continue to do business as it has done in the past. We will not have the resources to do business that duplicates functions, is bureaucratic, has paternalistic HRM support mechanisms and requires adherence to inflexible prescriptive HRM regulations. In our past we have played around with Mister In Between, centralising Army's administrative centres but retaining regional control, co-locating single Service HR agencies within Personnel Branch while retaining single Service HRM outputs, and even centralising some of the Defence Force HRM functions (e.g. a Defence Force Psychology unit) while still retaining single Service structures and practices. So how do we move from the Mister In-Between approaches of the past? The DTP HRM Change Programme will see us move to a centralised HQ NZDF People Capability Branch that will subsume the single Service HR agencies for personnel policy, workforce planning, recruiting, career management, psychology, well being and chaplaincy. The immediate advantages will be efficiencies in back room support, greater commonality and consistency in HR practices, increased stakeholder exchange of ideas/ initiatives, and pooling of resources across the Services. It will retain single Service input into what is needed by the Services but will speed up the development and implementation of new policies, processes and procedures. We all need to acknowledge that the three Services are too small to duplicate our own HRM functions when we can become an organisation that shares ideas, makes more efficient use of resources, and maximises the strengths we have within the three Services across the whole of the Defence Force.
The new HRM operating model will require our single Service HR advisors to be centralised into a Defence Force HR directorate that will provide support, advice and solutions to commanders on all HR related issues. Commanders will continue to have immediate access to HR advisors but these advisors will be from a central Defence Force organisation that will have a regional focus. Advice will be provided to enable improved and less prescriptive decision-making.
The implementation of the DTP HRM change programme of work is in Army's best interest. We have to understand that its primary goal is to liberate us from some of the administrative burdens we currently manage that actually do not require command input. This will enable us to focus on achieving our operational outputs and ensuring our combat edge is enhanced.
The DTP HRM Change Programme will address a number of our policies and procedures, to enable all of us to work smarter and more efficiently. We need to eliminate some HR functions from our personnel administrators' duty statements that can be done centrally through automation or service centre engagement. In the longer term this HRM change will require individual service personnel to take a greater responsibility for self-administration. While the Defence Force will provide the tools, there is no better agent to deal with some HRM functions than the actual person who is most affected. In the more dispersed operational environment junior soldiers and leaders are making decisions of impact so why shouldn't we trust them, and empower them, to make similar decisions at home? There is an opportunity here for our Administrators to be innovative. They can assist in shaping their own portion of the battlefield by locking in their operational roles and redefining trade training and business as usual functions, such as information management and advice to command. Preliminary operations are underway; an interim Training and Education Directorate was set up at the Defence Force College in late February to look at options for common training and education delivery across the NZDF, and a new NZDF Chaplaincy Directorate was set up at the beginning of this month. New centres of expertise for psychology, work force planning, personnel policy, and recruiting will become part of HQ NZDF in the next month or so.
One of Chief of Army's messages has been 'leadership through influence'. He acknowledges that Army does not need to own everything in order to receive the service it requires to meet its outputs. The HRM Change Programme has the potential to optimise the people capabiility for Army through a central HRM organisation that can develop, implement and manage smarter HR policies that better suit our people.
We need to maintain the HRM Change Programme momentum and accept that while new HRM structures and practices may be introduced quickly, many of the underlying processes and procedures behind these will still need to be developed and that we in the HR sphere will have an opportunity to shape these processes. It therefore behoves all HRM stakeholders to take advantage of the significant and exciting opportunity to shape the HRM environs and influence how we do HRM business in the future rather than dwell on or worry about the unknown and what might never be. We have a duty to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in order to enable Army's people capability into the future - let's stop messing with Mister In-Between!