By Ms N. Howie

How does a future focused NZ Army adapt and evolve to remain a partner of choice now and into the future? First ask the questions- what is the most important resource in Aotearoa New Zealand? What is NZ Army’s key strength? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is more than just force elements, it is the people and culture and skills that have the greatest value and warrant investment to maximise the benefit of that value. In that respect here are some observations about how Army can remain a relevant, viable, and valued partner.

Play to our natural strengths. Courageous, easy-going, adaptable, and clever. These are some of our national personality traits, and we know this, but we fail to promote these traits for fear of being accused of manufacturing tall poppies. Army must push past this fear and promote our strengths with partners and how they can benefit relationship building for both partners and adversaries.

Leverage our common culture and our size. To own, influence, and shape the environment, shared cultural mores can be used to build partnerships for mutual benefit. Our common culture with our Pacific neighbours and our relatively small size is an advantage we have over some of our larger coalition partners when it comes to relationship building in the Pacific region and further afield.

Even when we have an obligation to assist our neighbours, our size and commonalities provide a level of local reassurance to build trust and confidence in a non-threatening way. Army must leverage off these to enable sustained regional presence and security. And our people are a key part in that process.

Maximise the resource already available. Use or reapportion the skill sets already available in-house. Army must also recognise talent and people capability to fight attrition and retain talent. This could be done by ensuring there is career development and succession across all Army personnel and offering opportunities to get out of a physical or brain comfort zone.

Encourage diverse thinking. As with our culture we have many differing viewpoints of life – from how we are raised, our belief system, identity, or plethora other aspects of life and experiences. Diversity of thought can also be cognitive; the way a person thinks or learns and uses differing methodologies to bring out their creativity. Because Army’s natural outward facing state is order, consistency, and similarity, curiosity, creativity, and diversity of thought must be fostered by Army to encourage innovation.

Arrange organisational cross-pollination. A modern Army needs quality trained personnel, good alliances and partnerships, and innovation which pushes for left field or blue sky thinking. In the same way that cross-pollination by bees improves horticulture, organisational cross-pollination can benefit Army. Putting together a mix of personnel from different, and unrelated areas can lead to fresh thinking and innovative ideas. A sharing of knowledge in this way is educational and cheap and can lead to a general uplift in skill for an organisation.

A way to incorporate organisational cross-pollination is to have more cross service and cross agency secondments and multi-disciplinary ‘Tiger Teams’ for problem solving, and make sure civilian personnel are included.

Undertake organisation wide skill search. Gather up the skills and background of enlisted and supporting personnel. Personnel may have a richness of skills not apparent or directly aligned with current roles. This is a way accessing skills without an increase in headcount.

Utilise Army’s civilian workforce which is frequently overlooked. Anecdotally we know many civilian personnel are ex-enlisted so Army should use these people and their skills. It is a waste of valuable resource to preclude those who are civilian or have a hidden skill set because they are not regular or reserve force.

As a small military force, NZ Army has to find different ways to ensure it is a valuable and viable partner of choice that complements its coalition partners. The best way to do this is to invest in, understand, utilise, appreciate, and better the quality of we already have – he tangata.