HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- “Communications is absolutely essential to what we do here,” stated Albert “Chip” Marin III, the programs director of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, during his opening remarks at a monthly Project Review Board meeting at the Huntsville Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Dec. 12.
“Twenty nineteen will be the ‘Year of Communications’ for Huntsville Center,” Marin went on to state. “With everything you do, ask yourself, do we have the right information? Are the right people in the room? Who else needs to know and how can it be best communicated.
“Communications is the second most important thing we must do to be successful, second only to taking care of our personnel,” Marin said.
Following Marin’s opening remarks, program managers and Project Development Team leaders spent the day briefing the command team on current projects. From Alabama to Afghanistan, Huntsville Center is working and coordinating projects all across the globe.
“The PRB is the single most important governance board in the Center,” Marin stated. “Because it allows the command team to know when and where senior leader engagement is required to further a project or program.
“These monthly briefings provide situational awareness of the horizontal and vertical functional team members of the PDTs at all levels - from the project and program, through the branch-division-directorate, up to and including the Center's Corporate Board,” Marin said.
“This awareness allows for consistent messaging on project and program success and challenges, and allows senior leaders to engage in challenge resolution at an early stage,” Marin continued. “Challenges are discussed and a corporate way ahead normally formulated on the spot.”
The PRB also allows the Center to gage itself in the effective performance of delivering quality goods and services to its stakeholders. Marin stated that it is critical to establishing consistent messaging and strategic communications in and out of the Center.
For William Sargent, the director of Ordnance and Explosives, this marked his last PRB. Marin described him as a quiet professional, very quiet and unassuming but with an extensive depth and breadth of knowledge.
“This organization, and the Army Corps of Engineers as a whole, has benefited greatly from your dedication to the Huntsville Center mission, Marin said. “You will be missed.”
Sargent, who has been with the Huntsville Center since 1994, came from the USACE Alaska District, having served in that same district as a U.S. Army officer until 1992. Sargent stayed on with the district as a civilian until 1994 and then transferred to the Huntsville Center to become a part of the foundation of the emerging ordnance program. He will be retiring from federal service this month.
“In the big picture, as a director,” Sargent said of the PRB, “it gives me oversight on what the Center is doing outside of my directorate so that when I’m out talking to a stakeholder and questions come up, I know who I can get in touch with for other programs and projects that may assist with a solution.”
Marin laid out the importance of communications with internal staff members, communication with stakeholders and with headquarters.
Each presentation concluded with a list of lessons learned, many citing communications as a critical component. Marin emphasized the importance of sharing these lessons learned.
“It’s especially important to communicate the challenges and the failures,” Marin said. “We need transparent, open communications often. It’s critically important even when it’s not something we may want to hear. Being able to identify what needs improvement and what didn’t work is vital to ensuring future success.”
Proactivity in participating in planning meetings with stakeholders was cited as a lesson learned by more than one project manager.
Establishing more opportunities and resources for the open flow of communications has been a priority at Huntsville Center. One recent example of this is Skype for Business, now available for wide use by Huntsville Center employees.
Having the ability to communicate face-to -face electronically becomes a significant benefit when your organization operates globally.
“Communications is absolutely essential to our understanding of our stakeholder's requirements,” Marin said. “And in understanding how those requirements fit into stakeholder measures of success.”