Think Tank Thursday Helps Workforce Connect and Engage –

Photo by Amy Forsythe
24 May 2023 | Amy Forsythe Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity
Making time for innovative ideas and creative solutions is a priority when it comes to making Marines more capable at a special technology unit on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Dedicating a time and place for learning and exchanging ideas was the catalyst for creating Think Tank Thursday or ‘T3’ as it’s often referred to by members of the command. The initiative was created to showcase all the specialized knowledge, technical skills, and experience throughout the workforce at Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity.

The bi-monthly series was created in May 2021, and it’s been gradually gaining steam as a way to connect, engage and inspire the workforce. Gathering members of the workforce to brainstorm about new technologies and stay informed about the work everyone is doing is often difficult to do within large, busy organizations.

The sessions are hosted for two hours every other Thursday afternoon in the command’s largest conference room at the MCTSSA compound located on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Jona Lee, workforce development lead, was instrumental in implementing the initial program two years ago by soliciting and scheduling presentations.

“Finding the right process of introducing new concepts and technology was an important aspect to make this a successful endeavor,” Jona Lee, workforce development lead.

MCTSSA has about 450 members with a mix of U.S. Marines, federal employees, and contractors. “It’s a dedicated time set aside for all workforce members to connect, engage, learn something new, explore other career pathways and grow their professional network,” Lee added.

Encouraging and offering team members regular time for innovation and learning is a long-standing practice at large tech companies and non-tech enterprises alike. “Our T3 initiative is an opportunity for employees to share their knowledge and hone their presentation skills,” said Jennifer Kays, Senior Principal Engineer for software engineering.

Kays and Lee coordinate the T3 sessions by scheduling speakers and promoting the events within the command. They’re building forward momentum to make the T3 events productive, engaging, and informative.

Just like other large tech organizations, similar initiatives have gone by different names with perhaps the earliest example being 3M’s “15% Culture,” which dates back to post-World War II. Since its inception, Google has encouraged its employees to innovate with the 20% rule, providing employees with the time and space built into their busy schedules to learn, grow and connect.

Past MCTSSA T3 presentations have included representatives from Google, other outside technology companies, academia, and military experts from outside the command as well as from within. For example, current Executive Officer Lt. Col. Matthew Browning provided a T3 presentation regarding the Navy Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, or NMESIS, for which he was the project officer at Program Executive Officer Land Systems before his assignment to MCTSSA.

The goal of hosting T3 sessions is to provide MCTSSA’s workforce with a better understanding of industry best practices, provide exposure to emerging technologies, and increase employee situational awareness regarding Marine Corps, Naval, Joint, and Coalition initiatives that MCTSSA is directly impacting in our daily operations. One of the implied goals of conducting T3 sessions is to encourage technical discussions with visiting subject matter experts, and to inspire internal dialogs between and among our engineers and analysts through increased communications opportunities.

“I believe that as our workforce realizes the incredible impact their efforts are having across the Department of Defense, they will be motivated to collaborate and establish teaming relationships to become even more effective. The T3 program is a direct enabler in raising awareness and providing such motivation,” Fritz Doran, MCTSSA’s Technical Director.

“Presenters love having a live audience in the Command Center to interact with, but we understand that in person participation isn’t always possible, so we also offer the option to view on Microsoft Teams or watch at a later time,” Kays added.

The success of T3 presentations at MCTSSA is a result of detailed coordination and employee engagement which can be difficult at times when everyone is already very busy. Despite competing time requirements, the program has turned into a staple in the monthly battle rhythm and an engaging way for employees to maximize their contributions to the command which is known for “Making Marines More Capable.”

MCTSSA provides 24/7 global technical support for command, control, computer, communications, cyber, and intelligence (C5I) systems; and conducts engineering, testing and evaluation, and supports experimentation on C5I systems and amphibious platforms to inform acquisition decisions and make the Fleet Marine Force more capable.


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