Surprise! What Agile Can Learn from the US Navy

I thought I knew one or two things about Agile. But in only five minutes, I changed my mind. After just a short period of hearing Mark’s true stories about his role as a Navy aviator collaborating with the Navy SEALs, I realized he had something concrete to teach the Agile community. Which is . . . how to make it real, in practice, on the ground! As it turns out, collaborating with Navy SEALs to catch bad guys can make you better at Agile.

This is the piece that so many organizations struggle with in their Agile transformations (making behavior change stick, not catching terrorists). They spend two years and $500,000 on a new Agile operating model and transformation, only to discover that the old behaviors and crappy results persist.

I have been on a relentless journey to help organizations find antidotes to that. Mark had some incredibly valuable insights to offer on this question. So today I had the privilege of interviewing Mark Mhley, founder and CEO at Re4ormed LLC. Re4ormed is a veteran-owned small-business in Maryland that helps veteran-owned and military-spouse owned small businesses become more resilient, sustainable, lean, and agile. 

Among his many roles in the US Navy, Mark, was Top Gun Instructor and the Chief of the Strike Operations Division, Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Mark attended the United States Naval Academy, as well as the Air Force Command and Staff College and Auburn University for international relations.

A couple weeks ago, Mark and I happened to meet by chance in a public seminar at Toyota Connect with Nigel Thurlow, on the Toyota Production System. This excellent course involved several interactive activities, and I was lucky enough to be sitting next to Mark and swapping stories.

He immediately caught my interest with his true stories of creating and sustaining adjust and adapt teams of fighter pilots, Navy SEALs and more. He tapped into my sneaky suspicion that the military in some cases may be doing agile more effectively and sustainably the civilian sector. (Mark both agreed and disagreed with that by the way, and qualifies his answer in this interview).

The most enjoyable thing for me about the interview, and the biggest learnings, were:

  • Mark’s true stories of what his military experience teaches us about agile transformation,
  • Ways he has leveraged his military experience in his entrepreneurial activities,
  • Stories about cross organizational failures and how the military did tightly focused after action reviews (retrospectives as we call them in agile), then took training out of the classroom into the field to develop actual skills over time versus simply theoretical frameworks

There are many gems in this interview for agile transformation and sustainability, so enjoy.

Mark Mhley interview: What the Navy knows about agile that agile doesn't know about itself!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top