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Leadership expert focuses on the Navy

A Binghamton leadership expert is among those helping the Navy reconsider how it does its job.

Francis Yammarino, distinguished professor of management and director of the Center for Leadership Studies, and other researchers have been given $160,000 to do the initial work on a database that will account for Naval personnel and their skills as well as numerous tasks the Navy may undertake and what kinds of people are needed to fulfill them. Jobs in the Navy will be redefined and reclassified as part of the effort.

The changes are driven by the changing nature of the Navy’s mission, equipment and technology. The new vision of its operations must take into account that the Navy doesn’t just fight wars anymore; it also participates in peacekeeping and humanitarian activities.

“In addition, the enemy has changed,” Yammarino said. “It’s no longer one major super-power, but often various groupings of terrorists.”

The project potentially could bring $200,000-$300,000 in research funding to Binghamton each year for at least four or five years. Yammarino, who has worked with the military for 20 years, has partners at SkillsNet in Texas as well as at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Central Florida. While SkillsNet focuses on doing the development and database work, experts at the three schools will focus on the basic research and how best to build teams in

this new environment.

When they’re done, a Naval officer will be able to go to a computer, answer a series of questions about the tasks he or she has been assigned and receive a list of people appropriate for the mission and the skills they have. He or she will also get a list of necessary equipment that may be used to adapt a ship to the mission.

“The thing that makes all of it work is leadership,” Yammarino said.

When it comes to a warfare mission, for example, a team of six or eight people may be given a certain task and asked to go in, do it and get out.

“If something happens to the leader, the question is ‘How do you fill that void?’” Yammarino said. “You have to build these teams in such a way that you can still accomplish your mission.”

The team concept helps build in the right redundancies, said Yammarino, who believes the military is way ahead of the private sector in its understanding of teams.

He said this project may eventually be part of a much larger reorganization of the entire Department of Defense. After all, every branch of the armed services must confront many of the same challenges in terms of changing missions and equipment.

“There’s going to be tremendous payoff,” Yammarino said. “Ultimately, this will save a lot of money and a lot of lives. It’s taxpayer money well spent.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08