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TriVector Services Welcomes Dawn Utley

on Friday, 02 February 2018.

TriVector Services Welcomes Dawn Utley

DISTRIBUTION A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.

Dr. Dawn Utley joined TriVector’s team to support an interesting initiative by U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), Weapons Development and Integration (WDI) Directorate.  The AMRDEC WDI’s mission is to provide our soldiers with the highest performance and greatest reliability weapons. 

AMRDEC has known for several years that a large percentage of their workforce was nearing retirement age.  About 3 years ago a plan was devised to form a think-tank to not only spur creative thinking and problem solving, but to also help transfer corporate knowledge between the experts and the general engineering population.  A small group of engineers seeking growth opportunities would be selected to work together in a team setting on a broad issue facing the Army and AMRDEC specifically.  They would gather information about the topic issue to define their parameters and the specific problem they would address.  They would have access to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to help define their problem and answer questions the team had about their potential solutions.  

This group of engineers, called a Daedalus team, dedicates 4 to 6 months spending 12 hours per week in the Daedalus Lab working on their problem goal.  Each Daedalus group is different, with different personnel and different topics.

The team building initiative seeks to encourage innovation into the process of developing the next generation weaponry while providing an opportunity to build the technology bench. This initiative provides feasibility analysis for future S&T investments. Innovation is measured by identifying team process characteristics through the use of collecting instruments and a monitoring plan. These are then used to evaluate the impact on individual and team performance innovation as a result of the team characteristics and development process.

As this plan unfolded Dawn was included to offer her expertise and research in engineering teams.  She helped the AMRDEC establish and she conducts 2 days of team training specific to engineers’ strengths and weaknesses at the beginning of each Daedalus cycle.  She then attends each meeting of the team to help determine and assist the group in their progress toward becoming a team.  She offers assistance as leaders emerge, as the group stretches their creative muscles, and gives advice should conflict or issues arise. 

The fifth cycle of Daedalus teams has just concluded.  The results of these five groups offer support for the Katzenbach and Smith model of teamwork.  First, when groups come together to form a well-functioning team; with a common (agreed upon and understood) goal, interrelated tasks (where they are dependent on each other daily), and exhibit trust and respect for one another (as individuals as well as professionals); the product exceeds the expectations of typical groups.  Secondly, groups that understand the stated goal, have enough respect for one another to trust the technical abilities within the group, and can work independently using their specific talents to contribute individually to the product are generally what the typical engineer experiences in the workplace.  This operational group does not measure up to the output of the true team but can generally offer an adequate or even good product. 

The third type of group is one that is somewhere in between.  This type of group is struggling with the goal – not everyone agrees to or fully understands the goal.  The group may try to form into a team but there is a lack of trust or respect underlying many activities.  And as a result of this, working together to create an outstanding (or even reasonable) product becomes frustrating and wastes time and resources.  This is the least productive situation for a group.

There have been many publications written outlining the essentials for good teamwork.  Good leadership, a common goal, trust and respect rise to the top of most lists.  The real question is how to instill these attributes within a group of people, and particularly engineers who have been educated and assessed to be independent problem solvers.  This is the challenge of the modern workplace as resources become scarcer and the problems more complex.   This is the challenge Dawn is helping the AMRDEC address.

“As both a Professional Engineer with practical engineering and consulting experience, and 30 years of molding future engineers at the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH), Dr. Utley is uniquely qualified to support this initiative. We are very excited to have Dawn as part of the TriVector family” said Dr. Joey Shelton, president of TriVector Services.

Dr. Utley holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Tennessee Technological University, an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Tennessee, and a Ph.D., in Industrial and Systems Engineering from UAH.   Research contracts and grants that she has helped obtain top the scales at more than $6 million, and she’s accredited with more than 100 various publications. 

U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center provides increased responsiveness to the nation's Warfighters through aviation and missile capabilities and life cycle engineering solutions.