Modern war fighters in focus

Published on CMDR Fenn Kemp (author), LSIS Nina Fogliani (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra

Topic(s): Strategy, HMAS Brisbane (D41)

General Entry 351 Taylor Division march to the parade ground during their Graduation Ceremony held at Recruit School of HMAS Cerberus, Victoria. (photo: LSIS Nina Fogliani)
General Entry 351 Taylor Division march to the parade ground during their Graduation Ceremony held at Recruit School of HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

The questions of ‘What exactly is a warfighting culture? What does a professional war fighter look like and how can this be measured?’ have been discussed at recent workshop in Canberra.
The Navy Captain Leadership and Innovation Forums convene every six weeks to address complex topics that impact Navy leadership, and this iteration was hosted by Commanding Officer of the future Navy destroyer Hobart, Captain John Stavridis.
Corporate Anthropologist, Michael Henderson, studies workplaces for a living and is a leading expert on workplace culture.
He told the forum of Navy’s senior leaders, a clearly understood direction was critical in shaping Navy’s modern workforce.
He says the Royal Australian Navy places challenging demands on both managers and personnel.
“Navy is what we call a high-performance culture,” Mr Henderson said.
“While some civilian workplaces might be able to describe their own internal cultures as ‘the way we do things around here’, Navy’s culture needs to ask, ‘WHY we do things this way’.”
Mr Henderson says the more personnel understand the purpose of a task, the better the outcome.
“Taking the time to explain a task can lead to less friction, hesitation, doubt, and contradiction in getting the job done,” he said.
Creating an informed and positive workplace culture has been a key priority for Navy leaders in recent years.
The Royal Australian Navy values of onour, honesty, courage, integrity and loyalty have been re-enforced by the New Generation Navy program, with all Navy people now well aware of Navy’s ten Signature Behaviours which are focused on people, performance and professionalism.
Echoing key elements of New Generation Navy, Mr Henderson told the audience a clear set of values are critical in shaping a modern fighting force.
“As well as a sense of purpose, a ruthlessly professional performer needs to have a sense of identity and values,” Mr Henderson said.
“These shape the capability you need, the behaviours you want and the environment you are aiming to achieve.”
Captain Stavridis said the forum provided grounds for a fascinating discussion.
“Mr Henderson’s comments on culture fit well into our efforts to achieve the aims in Plan Pelorus,” he said.
“We need to stay on task to make Navy an adaptable and agile fighting force that embraces innovation. Understanding what a modern war fighter looks like is crucial to achieving this,” Captain Stavridis said.
Mr Henderson says Navy’s cultural change program, is an acknowledgement that times have changed.
“I am reminded of the famous Lord Tennyson poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, which immortalised a real-life massacre of
600 English cavalrymen who rode blindly into an ambush with no clear purpose during the Crimean War.
“As the poem goes, ‘theirs not to reason why'. In a modern high performance culture, the understanding of WHY is a key factor!”