Mary Ann Rockey - Navy: Steady ship

Mary Ann Rockey - Navy: Steady ship<@VM>Online Extra Q&A: Mary Ann Rockey

Career highlights

1984: Logistics management intern in Norfolk, Va.

1995: Program manager, Computer-aided Acquisition and Logisitcs Support Program.

1997: Program manager, Navy Total Ownership Cost Reduction.

1998: Deputy branch head, Acquisition Logistics, Total Ownership Cost, and Technologies Branch.

2000: Head of the Technology & Innovation Cell, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

'True change is often characterized by a few false starts. You can't let those stop you.' -- Mary Ann Rockey

Henrik G. de Gyor

Rockey's IT work keeps Navy logistics, and other areas, on course

In the summer of 2001, the Navy was considering a Web portal through which widely dispersed senior Navy leaders could collaborate and chat. On Sept. 11 that year, the need became urgent, and the job was handed to Mary Ann Rockey.

Rockey, deputy chief of Naval Operations and the technology and innovation cell leader for logistics, and a small support staff used a set of Web tools she had developed for another initiative, Navy HQWeb.

HQWeb is a knowledge management and action-tracking system originally developed for Navy headquarters, Rockey said. The application suite is approved by the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet program.

A senior Navy leader had seen the success of HQWeb and the benefits of expanding the portal for use in other areas across the Navy. Rockey's team rolled out the Task Force Web-compliant Executive Portal on Sept. 19, adding more modules weekly until the system was fully deployed.

It's personal

The mission and the work were personal for Rockey and her staff, in part because two of the people working on the HQWeb team were killed in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.

'The rest of the team really wanted to do something to help,' she said.

So they took the modular design used in HQWeb and quickly created a capability for three- and four-star leaders, Rockey said.

The Navy used reservists to teach senior executives and their front offices how to use the Executive Portal, Rockey said.

Now senior Navy leaders can go on the Executive Portal over a secure Defense network to conduct instant messaging, post information normally saved for morning meetings, get status reports and link to other Defense and intelligence agencies, Rockey said.

Rockey and her team's work with HQWeb and the Executive Portal won the Navy's coveted E-Government Award in both 2000 and 2001.

Those accomplishments are typical of what her boss, Mark Honecker, described as Rockey's 'serious and lasting contributions to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations throughout her 20 years of government service.'

Honecker, the director of logistics planning and innovation, said Rockey 'has done so much in the IT world for us, not just the logistics community but the Navy and the broader DOD community.'

Honecker also cited the effort Rockey made to reduce the number of legacy applications to make way for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. In May 2002, the logistics and readiness area had 15,000 apps'more than any other single division within the Navy. Today that number is 2,700, and the work is far from over.

Teamwork matters

'It's the ability to pull a team together to get something done. I think that is a skill that has helped in almost everything that she's done,' Honecker said. 'In a lot of these cases, there's an idea that comes up and there's not a team waiting in the wings to do this.'

There are 24 functional area managers within the Navy, each governing a different area such as logistics, personnel, administration and finance.

'She took the effort to get her arms around what our portfolio was,' Honecker said.

Rockey said the Navy is moving toward more centralized enterprise purchases, and she's establishing requirements to do acquisitions centrally.

Honecker said Rockey showed her leadership abilities by handling the application reduction from a cultural and change management point of view.

'When Mary Ann takes on these projects, they're not just IT projects to her,' Honecker said. 'They're change management projects and she manages it like that. She understands this is a change management issue as much as it is an IT issue. I think that's a big reason for her success.'

That, and an ability to persevere. 'True change is often characterized by a few false starts,' she said. 'You can't let those stop you.'Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to move up to the manager level?

I'd say don't think that just because you are not a senior manager yet that you can't make a difference. Effective senior leaders rely on the informed, thoughtful advice and action of their staffs. They can't know everything in every area so your ideas count with them when you can package them in a way that makes sense to them.

I'd also say, don't listen to the 'nay sayers' who say it can't be done or that it has been tried before and failed. Some things are important enough that you continue to work the issue even if efforts have been less than completely successful in the past.

True change is often characterized by a few false starts. You can't let those stop you. Sometimes it is a matter of timing. As an example, our efforts to improve the way we manage our software applications in the Navy really became much more 'doable' with the deployment of our Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. With NMCI as the catalyst, the time was right and we are driving the success from there.

Q: What's the best advice you received, and from whom?

I've had the good fortune of receiving some great advice from many fantastic leaders in the government. My current bosses, Mark Honecker and Vince Walls, are great to work for and always make themselves available to discuss problems and provide advice.

Probably the best advice I received was from Karen Meloy, who is now a senior executive with the Naval Supply Systems Command. It wasn't really advice, but more an observation of her leadership style.

She would walk around just about every day and talk to all the people who worked for her. She'd ask what they were working on and discuss their problems and ideas. It was such a win-win situation. She had a good idea of what people in her organization were working on and could guide them if necessary. And, it really made a difference in people's motivation level. It only took about a half-hour or hour of her time ' but it had huge payoffs.

For some folks who were working more routine matters it was their only time with the boss. It made them feel important because the boss took the time to chat with them even though they were not working on the boss's number one project.

Q: Why government service?

Making changes in government is not an easy task ' but it can be done. I have had the opportunity to work with some very dedicated, conscientious, innovative people who do great work for our government, employees and industry partners. The 'systems' within government often makes change difficult. That's what makes working for the government so interesting ' you have to find ways around, through and over the roadblocks that sometimes get put in your way.

I enjoy trying to find smarter, better ways to do things and then figuring out how to make it happen. Sometimes it's like working a giant, complex puzzle. I have a very basic belief that you can make a difference and you can help government run better and more efficiently. When you focus a team on an effort, provide clear direction and support, it is amazing what you can accomplish.

Working in DOD and the Navy, when we make government run more effectively and efficiently, it makes a difference for our sailors and Marines as well as the taxpayers we serve. I see being able to make a difference in our nation's future as a benefit to government service. If I didn't feel what I was doing was making a difference, it would be time to go open that coffee shop at the beach!

Q: How important is mentoring in developing a good manager.

I think mentoring is very important. I have been on both sides of mentoring. It has been important for me in my career and those I have had the opportunity to mentor have moved up the ladder.

I really think that when you can include executive shadowing as part of a mentoring program it is even more effective. With shadowing, the prospective leader doesn't just hear what you have to say, they actually see how things are done.

When I worked the manufacturing technology program, I had an executive development candidate who shadowed me for several months. She said that was more helpful to her career than any discussions we could have had. I know my boss, Ariane Whittemore, has had Presidential Management Interns shadow her at times. Seeing how things are done is a very powerful way to learn.

Q: What part does fun play in your work?

One of my bosses, Mark Honecker, is always asking if we are having fun. And most of the time the answer is yes. He is a big believer that work should be fun and I am also. It is nice to work for a boss like that and I've learned a great deal from him. Attitude plays a big role in work being fun.

Working together as a team creates an atmosphere that can lend itself to fun. A team approach can be both fun and productive. When work is fun ' it feels a lot less like work. When work is fun, people are usually much more productive. Work becomes something you want to do instead of something you have to do.

Q: How do you balance work and home life?

I think it is important to actively balance work and home life. I enjoy work and I enjoy doing my best to make a difference. But I don't want it to be completely consuming. I may bring home some reading in the evenings, but for the most part evenings and weekends are family time.

Teaming and leadership support are critical factors in being able to balance work and home life. It is my feeling that you can get a lot more done in a team structure than you can yourself. A team is far more flexible also: If one person needs to be out, the rest of the team pitches in. And it is much more fun to work in a team environment.

Today I'm leading a team that includes full- and part-time government employees, military personnel, industry partners and reservists. When you leverage the talent of all those smart people you don't have to have folks sacrificing all of their home life.

Navy leadership is also very supportive. The director and deputy director of our division, Mark Honecker and Vince Walls, believe it is important to maintain a balance between work and home life.

Sometimes it takes effort and planning to balance everything. For example, I sometimes try to fit in gym time by taking a document I need to read with me and read it on the stationary bike ... I guess that's time management at its best!

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