Seven Steps Toward NMETL Advocacy
A Systems Thinking Approach for Fleet Integration
David K. Brown
The NMETL Advocate
Navy Warfare Development Command
Seven Steps Toward
Admiral Mullen took over as CNO in July 2005, he directed Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) to conduct a “strategic
review” that, among other products, would produce “NMETLS” for emerging missions and capabilities, which
include standards compatible with joint readiness reporting requirements. – “What?”
What exactly is an NMETL and where did they come
A Navy Mission-Essential Task List (NMETL) is
a comprehensive command and mission specific list of Navy Mission-Essential Tasks (NMETs). More Jominian in concept, but demanding
of the Clauswitzian Coup d’oeil in application, “NMETLs allow a commander to quantify the level and scope of effort
required to achieve mission objectives.” From a War College perspective, the “METL” actually is a “Nature
of War vs Character and Conduct of War” principle. System encompassing NMETLs clearly state mission requirements on which all
continuous improvement processes can focus. Navy Leaders responsible for alignment, setting expectations, driving continuous
improvement, and incorporating lessons learned and best practices, should understand the NMETL concept and its applications
to our quest for “Cost-wise” readiness.
In December 2005, the CNO message
entitled “Anchoring Sea Enterprise” listed five key fundamentals for sustained efficiency and effectiveness:
Senior leaders must drive transformation by setting aligned expectations.
must create a continuous improvement culture by defining and measuring outputs, balancing risks and ensuring accountability.
Navy-wide alignment of organizations and processes must share best practices, leverage core competencies,
and become more efficient and effective.
4. All must embrace best practices
and employ lessons learned in a continuous improvement process.
must develop “business acumen.”
Leaders must become knowledgeable about the systems and processes leading to greater efficiency
This message also stated five steps in the Way Ahead
for success in Sea Enterprise:
Know your business.
2. Dig into your processes.
3. Focus on efficient delivery of value.
4. Create a culture
in CNO Guidance for 2007, he exclaimed, “Focus on “Execution!” Admiral Harvey enjoined as he took over U.S. Fleet
Forces in July 2009: “Be brilliant on the basics. Maintain Standards!” and I heard him say: “Focus on the Funda-METLs.”
To those who know, the concept of mission
analysis and the system of Navy Mission-Essential Task Lists (NMETLs) embodied in the Navy Warfare Training System, cover
and align all of the fundamentals of Sea Enterprise and include the five steps for sustained success. NMETLs can be the “aligning” Holy Grail!
DOD Transformation can be visualized as running on a four-phased “continuous improvement engine” fueled
by lessons learned (Figure 1). DOD Transformation’s website described it thusly: “Transformation is foremost a continuing process that does not have an end point. It is meant to create or anticipate the future….
The overall objective of these changes is simply – sustained American competitive advantage in warfare.”
The Defense Readiness Reporting System and all new joint capabilities require METLs or MET-like descriptions for
expressing mission performance requirements. The Navy Warfare Training System (NWTS) employs NMETLs as the basis for fleet
training programs. However, NMETLs are considerately more applicable, comprehensive, and enlightening than just being used
for Fleet training!
What plans would the historical Hannibal, Caesar, or Napoleon or a modern
Nimitz, Burke, or Roughead make to move and maneuver, gather situational awareness,
employ their capabilities, sustain, command and control, and protect
their forces? When you break it down, their “tasks” were not that much different from what we must do today- just
the systems, and our tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) have changed to meet the new threat or operating environment.
In new DOD terminology, these six areas
characterize the “Elements of Defense Transformation” and also represent the “Nature of War” based framework of the
Universal Joint Task List (UJTL). Tasks are described to a “universal” understanding
across organizations and missions. Using conditions and standards, we transform mere tasks into “METLs” to fit
the circumstances- the character and conduct of war.
Operations to the GPRA
The strategy-to-task mission analysis process described in the UJTL reflects a growing understanding of the new,
wider definition of jointness (now "integrated") and offers a pathway for the executive branch’s combined
response to meet the requirements of the Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. Congress enacted the GPRA to solve perceived problems with the federal government’s
performance and accountability. Designed to improve the American people’s confidence in their government, the GPRA established
strategic planning and performance measurement across all departments. The GPRA systematically holds Federal agencies accountable
for achieving program results. The GPRA specified that Executive Branch entities would Set program goals, Measure
program performance against those goals, and Report publicly on their progress. The combined effects
should be to raise the accountability and promote the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government. Many think-tanks
and leaders began to develop systems to track and display progress such as Balanced Scorecards and “Dashboards.”
The METL process reflects a proven method to fill in the sections of these new tools to meet GPRA as well as align integrated
mission performance requirements and pursue evidenced-based management! That will really lead to “One Team, One Fight!”
“Accountability” “Transparency” “Cost-wise Readiness” “Efficient
Excellence” “Metrics that Matter!”
on Seven Steps
Navy leaders must become “NMETL Advocates” by following the seven-step
method outlined in the following chart:
NMETLs and the NWTS are universally applicable to driving continuous improvement and applying evidenced-based practices. NMETL
Advocacy can be simple and fun! Understand the background and the framework for METLs. Learn the mission analysis and systems
thinking process. Drive for the standard. Appreciate conditions. Practice critically and creatively. Grow your confidence
in your “coup d’oeil” and apply NMETLs-based systems thinking routinely and innovatively for success.