While mission-driven entrepreneurs must passionately push a good idea through the H4X® Innovation Pipeline to build a validated prototype, an organization must exert a greater amount of pull on this prototype to establish it as an integrated solution.
Throughout our work, BMNT has identified the only common factor that seems to pull innovation projects into sustained government programs: serendipity. A good idea will survive from inception through adoption if the right people connect the right funding and the right acquisition vehicle to the right authorities at the right times. But serendipity is not a strategy for ushering solutions through an organization repeatedly and scalably. So, in 2019, we developed the H4X® Transition Workshop using exercises designed to find what impedes transition and devise plans to remove the impediments, making the “pull” a little lighter.
Turning mission-driven entrepreneurs’ ideas into functioning, adopted solutions requires the ideas’ survival through the biggest impediment we’ve identified: the proverbial “Valley of Death” – the middle ground of bureaucracy that notoriously stalls projects into obsolescence.
Unfortunately, there are no flights across this notorious chasm, no magic springboard from Prototype to Program of Record. Instead, we’ve begun to build a bridge to guide the adoption of the most promising innovations. We use techniques and exercises that help a team quickly understand and navigate bureaucratic processes and gain buy-in across the community of key stakeholders who are critical to getting a solution adopted.
Below are the initial results of the H4X® Transition Workshop from two Air Force teams, the Air Force Services Center (AFSVC) and the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR):
AFSVC needed to implement Service-wide an innovative software prototype developed by one of its Airmen to reduce check-in time and improve the accuracy of personnel reporting across its global installations. In three days’ time, AFSVC gained stakeholder buy-in through:
- Identifying and ranking six courses of action for leadership to consider;
- Drafting a Concept of Operations – a document describing the characteristics of the proposed system from multiple users’ viewpoints; and
- Developing a comprehensive list of desired features for the future software solution.
Because of this groundwork, AFSVC received a $1.5M contract to fund Aviture, which will provide bespoke software development services based on the validated prototype to improve contingency lodging and Air Force personnel tracking worldwide.
The NTTR needed to combine an existing enterprise system for coordinating time and resource schedules with several individual systems that manage specific range support functions, including funding, logistics, and equipment to improve visibility into range availability and decrease coordination time and effort. After two days’ work in an H4X® Transition Workshop, the Chief of Scheduling presented his Commander with:
- A prioritized timeline for integrating nine directorates – servicing the entire US military, and multiple departments, agencies, and state governments – into a central scheduling software framework;
- A schedule for the CSE developers to document the directorates’ programming requirements to achieve their successful integration; and
- A temporary manual process for immediate implementation to make improvements while the final solution is being programmed and fielded.
The Commander immediately approved the course of action. By implementing this plan, the NTTR will improve scheduling for its ranges, which maintain its users’ comprehensive national readiness against near-peer adversaries. “What we’ve done here in two days would have taken me three quarters of a year,” the Chief of Scheduling said. “There’s something even more valuable than what I just briefed, and it’s intangible. I have a synergized effort across the NTTR – we broke through the stovepipes.“
These exercises are not an “easy button” by any stretch of the imagination, and both customer groups have significant time and tasks remaining until a solution is fully integrated. However, dedicating just a few days to building a coalition around a clearly-defined plan and jump-starting the customers’ progress provided the confidence and momentum needed to seed future success in implementing solutions. The H4X® Transition Workshop has proved to be the critical tug to begin the organizational pull needed to bridge the Valley of Death.