Lead with the best version of yourself.

Operationalizing People First: A Gated Framework


by Aaron “Butch” Pucetas

Current Army doctrine describes the progression of teams and organizations through three stages: formation, enrichment, and sustainment (Figure 1). However, I further posit organizational culture, environment, and context are factors that constantly influence teams/organizations as they progress through these three stages. The purpose of this article is to propose a gated individual progression framework based upon the Army’s team/organization progression model and modern social science theories. This gated individual framework will improve leaders’ awareness and assessment of their Soldiers’ skills and behaviors; helping leaders align resources to promote healthy individual progression.

Within each stage of the team/organization progression model, the leader and their subordinates complete various activities. For example, key activities in the Formation stage are Reception & Orientation, Providing a Clear Structure, Goal-Setting, Begin to Build Trust, Understand how to Collaborate, and Learn to Communicate Effectively.

Once the team satisfactorily completes these activities, they progress to the next stage of the progression model, with the ultimate goal of reaching the Sustainment stage. It is important to note that the activities list is not all-encompassing; it should be considered as the “main ideas” within the framework so leaders can visualize and assess their team’s progression.

Progression of Teams and Organizations

Figure 1

Army doctrine does not clearly specify a holistic individual progression model, although one can use FM 7-22, Army Career Tracker (ACT), Individual Development Plan (IDP), and other sources to understand some of its concepts.

Much like teams and organizations, it may be useful to frame individual development through the stages of formation, enrichment, and sustainment. However, it is much more difficult to provide the activities associated with each stage due to the varying theories of individual development (Bee & Bjorklund, Erikson, Jung, Kegan, and Levinson) (Figure 2). Individuals from different ranks, age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, and other variables may progress at different rates and have vastly different activities at each stage. Therefore, it is up to the leader to use their knowledge and experience to assess and help individuals as they progress along the three stages.

Figure 2

Applying a “Gated” Perspective to Individual Development

It may be valuable for leaders to frame individual development in a similar way to the Army’s Integrated Weapons Training Strategy (IWTS). For each weapon, system, crew platform, small unit, or echelon, the IWTS contains a series of six tables used to train, build, sustain, and assess their proficiency. Each table progressively builds on performance demonstrated during previous training events (tables) within the strategy. Much like IWTS, one can apply this gated perspective to individual development by using Army doctrinal sources and social science sources as a guide. Specifically, this gated framework (Figure 3) was designed from the synthesis of various sources (ATP 6-22.6; CALL Handbook 21-14; FM 7-22; Bee & Bjorklund’s Eight Domains of Adult Functioning; Wrench, Punyanunt-Carter, and Thweatt’s Stages of Friendship; Monroe’s 4 Stages of Friendship Pyramid; and Lopata’s Seven Stages of Professional Relationships).

Figure 3. Individual Development Domains

Instead of the six tables of the IWTS, this framework utilized FM 7-22’s Base, Build, and Peak periods as “tables” across the domains of adult functioning. Leaders can utilize this gated individual framework to improve their awareness, understanding, and assessment of Soldiers’ skills and behaviors. Based upon their assessment, leaders can modify training plans and align resources to promote healthy individual progression. In theory, this individual growth will lead to team and organizational growth; creating a better Army. The proposed tables for each domain are below in Figures 4-7; tables for Physical, Cognitive, and Spiritual Domains can additionally be found in FM 7-22.