Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wooten takes charge at PMA-274

Gaddis becomes NAWCAD commander

Photos by Rick Thompson
Then-Capt. Donald Gaddis receives the Legion of Merit from Program Executive Officer, Air ASW, Assault and Special Mission Programs Rear Adm. Steven Eastburg.
David Wooten became program manager of the Presidential Helicopters Program (PMA-274) recently, relieving Capt. Donald Gaddis. At the same ceremony, Gaddis was promoted to rear admiral and took office as NAWCAD commander, with NAVAIR Commander Vice Adm. David Venlet administering the oath.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air Programs Tom Laux was the guest speaker, saying his subject was ‘‘four ships”: ‘‘partnerships, relationships, hardships, and leadership.”

According to Laux, ‘‘We rely on our industry partners to build aircraft, so a significant part of the responsibility of any successful program manager is to manage the government’s side of the partnership.” Gaddis, said Laux, has ‘‘been a standout in making our partnerships work. You’ve made sure that our documentation was straight, including the contract specs, funding profiles, security plans and test requirements. Your vision of success has been a clearly defined path for the partnerships to follow.”

Naval aircraft have gotten more complex, meaning the number of people required to design and support them has gone up. Laux said, ‘‘You (Gaddis) recognized that you had some outstanding talent on your team, and you worked on the relationships within the team and with stakeholders and customers to enable your program to succeed. You have set up for success all your government and team relationships, and caused the right excitement to happen.”

After speaking of the hardships of life as a naval aviator, Laux went on to leadership. Gaddis, he stated, ‘‘arrived with virtually no knowledge of the program,” but he ‘‘knew how to lead.” Said Laux: ‘‘You knew how to keep your cool while being verbally assailed by those who didn’t want to hear your message. You knew how to assemble your facts and connect with stakeholders, assuring them that you and your team had looked at all the possibilities for a way forward before recommending the path that’s going to get the job done.”

Looking to the future, Laux said Wooten brings ‘‘a well-earned reputation for innovation as an acquisition leader. I couldn’t be happier that you (Wooten) were the selectee for this challenging yet rewarding position.”

Gaddis, meanwhile, spoke of the ‘‘extremely high degree of complexity in what we do at NAVAIR. Requirements and technical solutions are challenging. To use the machine metaphor, the outputs don’t match the inputs.”

He continued, ‘‘We often make time-constrained decisions, or worse, no decisions at all, and they have unintended consequences. Like the power of compound interest, we pay for those decisions multiple times over.”

Gaddis said, ‘‘There are no quick fix strategies, like simply changing from cost-plus to fixed price contracts, arresting what many perceive as runaway technical authority, or blaming everything on requirements creep. None of these are new problem-solvers.”

Good acquisition ‘‘takes good communication and collaboration from all players to be successful and it must be done in a trusting, open and transparent work environment,” Gaddis said. ‘‘It’s the only way it works.”

He concluded, ‘‘PMA-274 is a complex job, not easily understandable by those demanding everything on one PowerPoint chart, but we all love our jobs because we’re doing something important for our country.”

With that, Gaddis relinquished command of PMA-274 to Wooten, who told those attending, ‘‘My whole career has been based upon the concept that what is best about an organization is its people.”

He continued, ‘‘Many organizations profess to consider their employees their most important asset, but all too often their policies, procedures and managerial practices contradict that view. Such contradictions and outdated leadership practices inhibit improvements in productivity, sap motivation and reduce efficiencies.”

According to Wooten, ‘‘Leadership practices must keep pace with the changing work force. The work force of today is better educated and its value systems, career expectations and basic work habits are drastically different from those of the previous generation.”

Employees will be attracted to organizations which ‘‘practice imaginative and enlightened management,” said Wooten. ‘‘If organization leaders do not take a personal interest in the integration of human resources planning with other aspects of the planning cycle and develop a coordinated process, they will soon suffer the program management penalties.”

Instead, Wooten pointed to the management style of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who as an Army general was political ‘‘in the best sense of the word. He knew how to get people to work together as a team. Eisenhower empowered others to do their best. He never forgot that his boss was the American people.”

The lessons of Eisenhower’s leadership included, said Wooten, keeping your word, having an ego without damaging somebody’s self-esteem, being prepared for opportunities, being a team leader, doing your best, being a great communicator, being a decision-maker, knowing your priorities, and showing sensitivity and compassion.

‘‘Nice people do finish first. By your willingness to delegate to others and empower them, you increase your own power,” Wooten said. ‘‘The success of PMA-274 in the future will be dependent upon the folks who make up PMA-274, not me.”