Applying Private Sector Management Tools to an Army Laboratory
The US Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center was at a crossroads in the early-2000s. It was considered part of the Army, but due to reorganizations and new government revenue planning models it had no guaranteed funding of its own. Instead, the Center was reliant on reimbursable customer funding to keep itself afloat. That meant that the Center’s 1,000 scientists and engineers had to learn how to apply entrepreneurial principles in a government setting. They had to go out and compete for work in order to retain their core competencies in military chemical and biological defense and grow their teams. A private-sector strategic and business planning process was essential to their success. Additionally, the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) of 2005 was on the horizon and installations were positioning for possible gains or losses. Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) needed a strategy to acquire new missions as part of this process, and defend itself from loss.
We adopted a traditional strategic planning approach: the senior leadership team developed its vision and mission statement, identified five-year goals and objectives, and assigned owners to each set of goals and objectives. This became the structure for the annual business plan, where activities toward accomplishing each goal were identified and assigned a measurement. Quarterly evaluations kept leaders on target and accountable. A five-year marketing communications plan was developed to boost the success of laboratory personnel in executing the business plan.
Members of the Profile Team participated in the development of subsequent strategic plans, including adopting a Balanced Scorecard organizational strategy, which was the preferred strategic planning model in the Army in the late 2000s. This involved leading a team of 16 strategists, conducting an environmental scan, reviewing existing documents internal and external to the organization, and creating the structure for the new strategic plan. While this was a new strategic planning modality, it still drove the annual business planning cycle for the center.
Over the course of the first strategic and business planning cycle, the organization tripled its revenue to $450 million and doubled its staff to 2,000 employees and contractors. Additionally, the laboratory enacted a very successful community and educational outreach program that worked to stimulate interest in entering government careers in science and to establish a positive reputation in the community.