This is My Squad
Providing the Change at Every Leadership Level
By Command Sgt. Maj. John A. Bamba & Staff Sgt. Oly A. Magofna
Joint Multinational Readiness Center
April 23rd, 2021
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In August 2019, shortly after assuming the role of Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA), Michael A. Grinston launched his initiative titled “This is My Squad” (TIMS). This program places unit pride at the forefront and directly complements Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville’s number one priority — its people (Brading, 2020). This article discusses the challenges in implementing a new organizational program, and offers solutions to ensure unit buy-in at all levels of leadership.
Grinston defines a “squad” as a group of select individuals who know you well, and who you care about deeply. It is not just a group of Soldiers. A squad can be your family or even a close group of friends (Grinston, 2020).
The TIMS initiative is a philosophy bridging the gap between unit cohesion and readiness. It is designed around the closeness of special operations teams and the bond they form within their units. The pride and closeness of these units leads to more discipline and ownership. The idea behind TIMS is not only will units take more pride in their success, but it will also lower sexual harassment/assault cases, lower alcohol-related incidents, eradicate racism, and prevent suicides because units will now take better care of and protect each other (Rempfer, 2019).
Leadership is much more than just a position. The U.S. Army defines it as the activity of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation (Department of the Army, 2019b). For the SMA’s initiative to stick, leaders at all levels must embrace the philosophy and implement it both at the formal levels of leadership (actual chain of command) and informal levels of leadership (junior Soldiers and NCOs who hold strong influence in a unit) (Stincelli & Baghust, 2014).
While TIMS is a great program centered around caring for Soldiers, if it is not implemented correctly it won’t last. John Kotter, Harvard professor and author, developed an eight-step model for implementing change throughout an organization. For this article, we will focus on the three most important steps and examine how they apply to the U.S. Army: Form a strategic vision, enable action by removing barriers, and instituting change (Kotter, n.d.).
Form a Strategic Vision
One of the most important methods of relaying a strategic vision to an organization is communication. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring vision of the future” (Clayton, 2015, para. 5).
Clear and consistent communication is essential in garnering buy-in for TIMS. Three platforms readily available for communicating this vision are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. What’s great about these platforms is leaders’ messages can travel directly through an entire organization within minutes. They can provide direct communication from the Army's Chief of Staff to its most junior Soldiers and are a way for an organization to be accessible to the public.
Enable Action by Removing Barriers
Removing barriers and empowering junior leaders is also a fundamental step in implementing change (Kotter, n.d.). Ownership must be given to squad-level leaders both in garrison and in combat to promote decentralized command — a foundation for mission command (Department of the Army, 2019a). Squad leaders are the key to enforcing policy down to the individual Soldier.
The final step is perhaps the most critical component for TIMS to be effective over the long-term. According to Kotter, “Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, making sure they continue until they become strong enough to replace old habits” (Kotter, n.d., para. 8). Grinston is already doing this by consistently Tweeting relevant TIMS information and sharing his TIMS initiative at every leader engagement activity. But it’s not all on him, we as leaders, must embrace and share this initiative to ensure it is promoted down to every Soldier. The world must know every squad looks out for its Soldiers and will not let them down.
For TIMS to be effective, there must be significant buy-in and ownership from every leadership level within the U.S. Army. Doing this will ensure TIMS is a long-lasting initiative proving to the world the U.S. Army cares about its most important asset — its people.
Brading, T. (2020). ‘The time is now’ to transform the Army, says CSA. Army.mil. https://www.army.mil/article/239925/the_time_is_now_to_transform_the_army_says_csa
Clayton, S. J. (2015). Change management meets social media. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/11/change-management-meets-social-media
Department of the Army. (2019a). ADP 6-0: Mission command: Command and control of Army forces. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN18314-ADP_6-0-000-WEB-3.pdf
Department of the Army. (2019b). ADP 6-22: Army leadership and the profession. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN20039-ADP_6-22-001-WEB-0.pdf
Grinston, M. (2020). Fires Conference. Fort Sill, OK.
Kotter, J. (n.d.). The 8-step process for leading change. https://www.kotterinc.com/8-steps-process-for-leading-change/
Liu, Y. (2015). The Review of Empowerment Leadership. Open Journal of Business and Management, 476-482. DOI:10.4236/ojbm.2015.34049
Rempfer, K. (2019). 'This is my squad’: SMA Grinston talks about his push to build cohesive units. Army Times. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/10/17/this-is-my-squad-sma-grinston-talks-about-his-push-to-build-cohesive-units/
Stincelli, E., & Baghurst, T. (2014). A grounded theory exploration of informal leadership qualities as perceived by employees in small organizations. International Journal of Business Management and Economic Research. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262485686_A_grounded_theory_exploration_of_informal_leadership_qualities_as_perceived_by_employees_and_managers_in_small_organizations
Command Sgt. Maj. John A. Bamba serves as senior fires enlisted trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. Bamba has held every leadership position from Howitzer section chief to battalion command sergeant major in the Field Artillery. He is a graduate of the Sergeants Major Course, Class 67 and holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Louisville.
Staff Sgt. Oly A. Magofna serves as a battalion fire direction observer, coach, trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. As a Field Artillery (FA) NCO, he has served in FA battalions in Korea, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and Fort Hood, Texas. He has deployed multiple times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve.
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