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NEWS | July 5, 2023

NSWC PCD logistics division uses Appreciative Inquiry to build culture, impact fleet

By Jeremy Roman, NSWC PCD Public Affairs

Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) Integrated Logistics Support Division (E50) recently experimented with a novel management approach used by major companies to more fully engage the division’s workforce, refine their culture, and enhance their impact to the warfighter.

The management approach, called Appreciative Inquiry (AI), is a way of creating organizational change by focusing on identifying and doing more of what is already working, rather than focusing solely on problems and trying to fix them. The key feature of AI is that it uses existing strengths, achievements and successes – the aspects of people’s work that they are proud of, that motivates them, and that are getting good results – as a foundation for a credible vision of the future, and a launching pad to reach that future vision. 

The department first learned about AI through a government management workshop attended by NSWC PCD Expeditionary & Maritime Systems Department Head Stephen Hunt. AI is being used by other organizations in the Navy, but E50 was the first NSWC PCD division to try it.

“When I was first introduced to AI, I was initially skeptical that it was some sort of trendy, flavor-of-the-month management theory,” Hunt said. “But the more I learned about it and the science behind it, the more I realized its potential value. I applaud Division Head Peter Halvorson and his team for being the first to try it at the lab, and I am looking forward to seeing their results going forward.”

Nearly 100 logistics personnel across the six E50 branches (including one branch remotely located in Orlando) attended an AI exercise created and facilitated by Rhonda Hoeckley, a senior analyst for New Venture Research Corporation, at the request of Mr. Halvorson.

“After seeing a presentation on AI, I thought it could be of value by helping me and my team identify the things we are currently doing right and doing well,” Halvorson said. “As division head, I can then continue, expand, and build upon those things to help make the division a better, more motivated, and more fulfilling place to work.”

Each session began with a short brief on the AI concept, its history, usage across major organizations, scientific basis, and value. It then incorporated both group discussions and individual questionnaires designed to challenge participants to reflect on their impact.

“[We wanted participants to see] the value and science in Appreciative Inquiry, and that it is not just some pop psychology positivity trend,” said Hoeckley. “Once they understood, Mr. Halvorson’s team did a great job looking closely at what they did well, and recognizing their strengths. The discussions were very valuable.”

The department looks to incorporate its findings to impact the force behind the fleet.

“Logistics is the largest part of any system that is developed and fielded, and logistics efforts [technical manuals, provisioning, training, product support, configuration management, reliability, maintainability, etc.] directly impact the fleet every single day,” said Halvorson. “Maintaining a happy, more energized workforce will enable my team to provide better support directly to the fleet, its currently fielded systems, and to the programs currently developing new systems.  I appreciate my team being open to the AI process, and I plan to use what we learned from it to make E50 better for all of us.”