Navy Making a Difference in Life/Work Integration

Story Number: NNS090620-09Release Date: 6/20/2009 11:57:00 AM
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By Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Zimmermann, Task Force Life Work Public Affairs

NEW YORK (NNS) -- "Burn the boats!" This was the direction given by director, Navy staff, to attendees at the 20th anniversary and awards event for the Families and Work Institute (FWI), June 15.

The Navy has earned a valued seat at the table in the national conversation about life/work integration, and Vice Adm. John Harvey's words were a final motivation to industry leaders, who came together to honor achievements and get their "marching orders" for the future. He sat on a panel of chief executives whose moderated discussion was the keynote of the evening.

"We need to be motivated by what is possible - a 'game changing' event," said Ted Childs Jr., a strategic diversity advisor, member of FWI's executive leadership council, and chair of the event. "Today we look for executive leadership that will create the possibility for explosive, destructive changes!"

Destroying the barriers and changing the paradigms were themes present throughout the various speakers' remarks.

"We have to reject the model that life and work just don't fit together," said Doug Conant, president and CEO, Campbell Soup Company. He went on to tell attendees that they need to "make the workplace work for everybody - individually."

Harvey agreed whole-heartedly, and said that for the Navy, "We need to figure out what we can do to be true to [our Sailors] so they can be true to their career and family."

Like the other executives on the panel, he specifically mentioned women, and how important they are to the Navy. He said that the Navy was very interested in ensuring that women are able to pursue both life and work-related goals, without penalty.

"They are going to be able to be a woman, be a naval officer and have a family," Harvey said. "It is a strategic imperative for the Navy to figure this out and make it work - for the future of our Navy."

This is part of the Navy's diversity strategy, valuing the uniqueness of all our people, and seeking to recruit, develop and retain a representative cross-section of our nation. That is a sound strategy, and one echoed by the corporate business community.

While the Navy's 'marketplace' and 'clients' may not be quite the same as those of corporate America, their employee talent pool is the same, and the guidance the panel members gave to attendees holds true across the board.

"Lead from the front, make it personal, be the change," said Conant.

Harvey related the story of how in 1529, Hernando Cortes landed at Veracruz, bent on moving inland for the conquest of the Aztec empire. Wishing to prevent retreat and ensure that all his Sailors pursued the same goal. Cortes order his captains to 'burn the boats,' forcing the Sailors to move forward and take the desired action.

Referring to the 20-year anniversary of FWI and the ensuing work of its members and supporters, such as the Navy, Harvey said, "We've admired the problem for 20 years, we know where we have to go and what we have to do. So burn the boats!"

In 2008, the Navy won the Work Life Legacy Award from FWI, story at:

For information about Navy initiatives in area, visit the Task Force Life Work Web site:

For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate, visit

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