Organizations, Roles and Missions

Military organizations today must be able to process increasingly complex and voluminous information and quickly adapt to changes in the operating environment and tasking. They must do this within budget constraints, increasing congressional oversight and influence, and changing workforce demographics—all while maintaining trust with and accountability to the nation they serve. Military organizations are also increasingly interested in adopting successful practices developed in the private sector and leveraging the speed and innovation of the tech industry, though distinct differences between the motivations and constraints of the business world and those of the military can challenge this adoption.

Given these ambitions and constraints, military organizations must sometimes adapt their organizational structures and processes in order to continue to meet mission requirements. As a federally funded research and development center operating in the space of ill-defined and complex problems, we employ a tailored approach to each organizational transition. Based on the contingency theory of organizational design, our analyses are shaped to the particular circumstances and requirements of each organization. We also empower leaders with the tools and data they need to undertake subsequent organizational change on their own. In contrast, commercial vendors addressing organizational change typically apply proprietary models or templates with routine measures—yielding "black box" results without the underpinning of analytical insights about the organization.

We understand the mission and the conditions under which our military sponsors operate; CNA analysts have deployed alongside staffs and operational units and have embedded in support roles at commands throughout the globe. Through our analysis of numerous commands at multiple echelons and in a variety of roles, we have gained experience in common military organizational pitfalls and where and when business practices are appropriately applied.

Our Services

Organizational redesigns to improve efficiency, effectiveness, or address changing responsibilities
For many of our sponsors, the drive to reorganize comes from a need to get smaller, better, or do more or different things. We identify organizational challenges that must be mitigated to achieve these aims and propose structural and/or procedural options, along with evaluations and risk assessments of each, to include ease of implementation.
Organizational redesigns to increase adaptability
Commands and task forces situated at the operational level of war must function in complex, dynamic environments by effectively commanding and controlling disparate forces, managing information, and changing focus of effort as circumstances and priorities change. We assess the effectiveness of existing staff organizations and processes and provide structural and/or procedural options to improve staff adaptability.
Creation of new organizations
As demands from the DOD, Congress, and the geopolitical environment change, so too must organizational structures. We assist our sponsors in developing new organizations to meet changing demands by identifying appropriate roles, responsibilities, authorities, reporting chains, structures, staffing, and/or physical locations.
Right-sizing and aligning staff
Our unique approach combines manpower and organizational subject matter experts, economists, and resource allocation wargaming to explore and validate staff sizes and structures, and to describe decision space regarding appropriate military, civilian, and contractor mix or occupational specialties.
Business process development and assessment
In order to execute their warfighting responsibilities, all of our military sponsors must also attend to the "business" of running their organizations. This includes processes for developing and assessing budgets, as well as for manning, training, and equipping the force. We employ a critical, analytical perspective and a combination of quantitative and qualitative information to examine business process effectiveness and offer recommendations for improvement, or devise new processes and implementation plans. In all cases, we are focused on process outcomes, rather than process improvement for process’s sake.

Our Approach

We help sponsors define and communicate their value.
Through our assessment of the "as-is" organization we provide an independent look at an organization’s strengths, challenges, and value to the larger military mission. We do this via: 1) extensive discussions with organizational leadership, action officers, "customers," and key fans and critics; 2) review of organizational history and historical billet files and budgets; and 3) examination of formal documentation such as MFTs, SORMs, command briefs, and other instructions. To these data, we apply qualitative and quantitative analytic techniques and software, combined with appropriate insights from business and government literature and theory. Through this process, we provide leaders with the language and concepts to communicate the organization’s niche and value.
We draw from diverse disciplines.
Rather than limiting our focus to other military services in the same line of work, we expand our search for best practices and alternative organizational approaches to include military, government, or corporate entities experiencing similar dynamics—even if their products or services are dissimilar. In our experience, it is these dynamically similar—but topically different—organizations that provide the most useful insights and original approaches. Recent examples include applying European and Japanese government experiences with "agencification" to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Training Command as well as leveraging construction industry insights for the Navy’s shore enterprise. CNA analysts have a diversity of academic backgrounds and first-hand operational experiences that bring varied perspectives to addressing organizational challenges.
We engage sponsors.
Organizational culture and institutional knowledge are complex, and data gathering alone can miss institutional subtleties. Thus, we use in-progress reviews throughout our analysis to receive crucial insider feedback on preliminary findings and progress—to ultimately arrive at options that are relevant and accurately reflect the organization and its issues.
We describe the decision space and make it actionable.
Ultimately, there is rarely one "best" organizational option. Our job is to effectively scope and describe the options available to leadership that will address challenges and organizational goals, each with different value emphases and risks. Inherent in this task is the description of specific, actionable recommendations and risk mitigations.

Team Members

Margaux Hoar, Director
Jeff Chilton
Dave Zvijac
Ariel Klein
Alison Vernon
Diane Vavrichek
Simone Robers
Leigh Rowland
Kelly Diaz

Designing and Testing Purpose-Built Organizations
Overcoming pathologies in military organizations