Change manager

Navy's Hoffman overcame organizational intertia to implement smart card, e-gov, IT investment certification

BARBARA HOFFMAN: Navy Department


1993 Worked with Naval Sea Systems Command and the program manager on the management and execution of the NAVSEA Materiel Management and Business Process Improvement initiative

1995 Vice chairman/secretary of the Professional Development Council at Indian Head, Md. As a member of the PDC, gained valuable insight into what it meant to be a team player and a future leader

1996 Selected to participate in the Women's Executive Leadership Program, a year-long program providing intensive leadership training and the opportunity to work with senior Navy leadership

1999 Key member of the DON Smart Card Team responsible for analysis and implementation of the smart card

2001 Completed master's of science in technology management

2003 Chairwoman of the DOD IT Process/Functional Board of the Business Initiative Council. BIC was a personal initiative of the secretary of Defense to improve the department's business operations by identifying and implementing business reform actions that reallocated savings to higher priority efforts.

2004 Moved to current position as team lead for investment and performance management, improving lifecycle management and visibility of the Navy's IT assets at the enterprise level.

Barbara Hoffman

Barbara Hoffman, investment and performance management team leader for the Department of Navy CIO, is described by admiring colleagues as a risk-taker who doesn't make enemies.

And Hoffman took one of her biggest professional risks when she was among a handful of officials in any service who early on recognized the need for an ID solution beyond the traditional laminated building pass, said her boss, Robert Carey, deputy CIO for policy and integration.

Through the efforts of Hoffman and Carey's office, the Navy acquired 50,000 of the Defense Department's Common Access Cards. In all, about 4 million DOD personnel are using these smart cards around the world. The CAC initiative is now part of DOD's Identity Protection and Management Program, which is implementing the administration's Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12. HSPD-12 requires all federal employees and contractors to use a single credential for access to federally controlled physical locations and digital information systems.

Carey said the evolution of the smart card was 'a massive change management effort.' The techies loved it, but the 'this is my green ID card' guys didn't.

And then there were none

Many traditionalists 'basically rebuffed it,' he said. 'But Barb was very calm and cool and collected, and nipped off [objections] one by one by one. We've turned the corner'we're on the way to getting the CAC used in the Pentagon.'

Cary praised Hoffman's talent for overcoming institutional inertia: 'She has that uncanny ability'courage in the face of adversity. You have to find that common denominator with this wide group of folks to get them to move in a unified direction.'

Bob Wagner, one of Hoffman's co-workers, agreed. 'Her enthusiasm is contagious and is one of the reasons for her success in getting people to overcome their resistance. There are a lot of rice bowls that end up having to be overturned in her area, and gaining consensus is key to her success.'

Carey added that her attitude is: 'We've got to get the right people in the room, and we're going to talk through this.'

Hoffman described herself as involved but not a micromanager.

'Throughout my career in government IT, I have either been a part of, or led, very small IT teams,' she said. 'As a team leader, this has allowed me to truly support the concept of individual empowerment. I have, over my career, empowered team members at every level to be responsible for key elements of the overall task at hand.'

Being instrumental in smart-card/PKI technology is only one of Hoffman's achievements, which include:
  • Leading the Navy Department's implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002, along with its identity, records and knowledge management projects

  • Aggressively helping eliminate redundant Navy databases, legacy applications and networks for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet

  • Instituting and developing the DOD Business Management Modernization process, and integrating it with the Navy's enterprise software, hardware and networks.

Another area where Hoffman's impact was especially valuable, Carey said, was implementing the precertification of Navy IT investments that met the Fiscal 2005 National Defense Authorization Act criteria.

'We were the authority that said to the deputy secretary of Defense through the secretary of the Navy, 'These investments have all met your criteria'now the money can be spent,' ' Carey said.

When potential portfolio items arrived, Hoffman 'got various levels of the Department of the Navy to perform very discrete functions. Her attitude was, 'We don't have a process, and not only do we need one, but it's going to involve a whole lot of layers and they all have to work together.' And they did.' Hoffman's ability to get people to work together has been consistent throughout her career.

'I have held several positions in which I have encountered resistance to change,' she said. 'The best way I have found to overcome these issues is to involve all key stakeholders in the process from the beginning, thus ensuring their buy-in along the way, no matter how painful the process.'

And Hoffman's leadership style wins converts. 'She projects personal power, not positional power,' said Carey. 'She knows when to ask for advice and when to run with the ball. She understands that sweet spot very well.' Subordinates and junior staff want to do a good job for her, colleagues agree.

'She's a great communicator and a person of great passion, very capable of building coalitions and alliances, which is what's required at the pinnacle of the Navy Department,' Carey said. 'There is very little 'I say, you do' anymore. There is very much collaboration and teamwork required'because a lot of things in the IT world are complicated.'

Carey also credited Hoffman with finding and eliminating unnecessary systems. 'Working in this area,' he said, 'where you're getting decisions to cut funding, or eliminate systems that you don't directly hold the purse strings to, requires some ability to really change minds from the standard way of doing business.' And that is Hoffman's forte.

About the Author

David Walsh is a special contributor to Defense Systems.


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