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An agile defence strategy: lessons to learn from the front line

2014-12-17_13-51-53Since 9/11, Australian military forces have adapted to a much wider range of threats, embracing the flexibility necessary to be effective in many scenarios, from the Solomon Islands to the Ukraine.

The proliferation and diversity of threats demands a different strategic capability. A new PwC paper — Agile Defence, Sustainable cost reduction on the path to greater agility — outlines how the broader defence establishment and supporting structures can better respond to this different era. The paper draws on insights from defence leaders around the world as well as lessons learned in the digital world, where agility has become a byword for success.

It also shows how the concept of agility helps reframe challenges and opens up new ways to deal with problems, including lower cost approaches — either to meet lower budgets or to enable new investment to enhance mission effectiveness.

The increasing mobility of people, technology and information suggests that the need for speedy, tightly focused responses to threats is growing. This means traditional support capability has to adapt to this new globalised risk.

We have seen in the digital and project management world just how powerful this approach is, and the innovation it delivers. The challenge is applying this thinking to structured hierarchical organisations. We now have experience and lessons from the commercial world, such as banking, or structured industries such as airlines, of the success of this approach.

[pullquote] “… it emboldens the people who matter most — your own workforce — to take control of their destiny …” [/pullquote]

This experience suggests there are some early approaches, which generate quick wins — especially in organisational support processes, manpower management and logistics.

My experience is that agility thinking by its own nature begins to let the genie out of the bottle, and empowers organisations wanting to rethink their role and strengthen their capability to respond to tightened budgetary and performance demands of stakeholders.

Most powerfully it emboldens the people who matter most – your own workforce – to take control of their destiny and reshape the organisation to be effective and successful embracing opportunities and defeating threats.

In his foreword to the paper, former NATO Commander and US Forces Afghanistan Commander, General John R Allen writes the new fiscal and operational environment “will require an unprecedented agility to adapt to change, while embracing cost savings”.

“The challenge, then must be: it’s not how much you have to spend, it’s how well you spend it,” said Allen, who was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to be his special envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State.

Through discussions with military leaders from around the globe the paper identified five key characteristics (described as threads) that define an agile agency. These are adaptability, innovation, collaboration, visibility, and velocity. The paper explores these and lays out a pathway to build these threads into the DNA of agency culture and capability.

Agile Defence — Sustainable cost reduction on the path to greater agility can be downloaded from the Australian PwC site

Author Bio

The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.