Thursday, 16 March 2017

On Tradition And Why We Need To #KeepEvolving

On Tradition And Why We Need To #KeepEvolving

Long time no blog! I've been kept very busy since taking the helm of Commanding Officer at 2947 and am thankful for a great team supporting our mission and direction. 

I've been thinking a lot about what makes cadet organizations fly or flunk, and my mind keeps going back to the most dangerous phrase in organizations:

"Because We've Always Done It That Way"

Business, non-profits, government organizations, community groups all face the same challenge; the inability to adapt to change and evolve with the ecosystem.

I'm not kidding when I say that NCOs are the backbone of a military unit, because organizations really are animals. They are organic entities with each member being a muscle fibre, a tendon, a bone, a neuron. And as organic entities, they must adapt to their ecosystem and evolve to survive.

Over the past 10 years, there have been numerous changes to the ecosystem that we exercise no control over. These include funding cuts and redistribution, reorganization at the RCSU level, realignment and restructuring of the Army Cadet training programme (re: NSCE to Master Cadet), and even the overall shift of our technical focus to Expedition training.

With this change, there is an even greater amount of people who throw their arms up saying "we don't like this change", "you're taking the army out of Army Cadets", "things were better back in the day", the list goes on.

Now, I want to reiterate: this is a change in the ecosystem our corps live in.

Change will happen, whether you like it or not. When the water is rising past your hips do you cross your arms and say no, or do you learn to swim?

"Change Will Happen Whether You Like It Or Not"

Organizations that refuse to evolve will drown, while the ones that do become stronger and more agile in their new ecosystems.

Many corps will refuse to evolve for the sake of tradition. Now, I'm not an opponent of tradition by any means, frankly I consider myself a culturally traditional person.

Tradition has its time and place; it builds the corps' cultural identity, promotes esprit de corps, and gives members a sense of pride and belonging. None of this should compromise the corps ability to maintain an agile and competitive position.

Here are some things that many cadet units do wrong for the sake of "tradition".

Tradition Should Not Contradict Orders and Directives

Dress, drill, training directives, the list of instructions and regulations that are contravened for the sake of tradition is endless. 

Many ask, why does it matter if we do things differently? Everyone's having fun and nobody gets hurt.

The answer is that it breeds bad habits, and it breeds a culture of disobedience. The military thrives on compliance, regulation, and exactness. These values are what we want to instill in the young people that we train so that they can follow instructions, give direction, think fast, and lead with a strong foundation.

Divergence from something as simple as dress instructions has shown a contagion effect impacting other operational areas: poorly coordinated training, negligent administration, and ultimately a disservice to the young people in our care.

Tradition Should Never Impact Business Practices  

Running business processes the same way without seeking optimization is a death sentence for any organization.

Whether it be the back office, the classroom floor, or FTX site, we must keep evolving to find better ways to do things. There is a business approach/philosophy of continuous improvement called Kaizen (Reference for more info) which seeks to improve on every minute detail.

One interpretation of the philosophy is to seek perfection, while knowing perfection is unattainable; it is eking that 1% improvement every single day.

Corps who do not seek novel ways to improve their administration, coordinate their training, or deliver instruction for the sake of tradition (or "this is how we've always done it") will see themselves falling 1% behind every single day. It may not seem like much, but 365 days later other units have more than tripled your performance.

Always seek better ways to do things, whether it be building business intelligence, fundraising, training, etc.

Personal rant: a lot of people complain about the functionality of Fortress. A well-maintained Fortress profile for your corps gives an incredibly powerful amount of business intelligence in the form of metrics and statistics. Go clean up your Fortress accounts. 

Tradition Should Embrace, Facilitate, and Celebrate Change

Do you know how many traditions came to be? Most traditional Chinese foods came from somebody eating something 1000 years ago and not dying. They come from any circumstance, either grandiose or inconsequential. 

The story of "cutting the ends off the ham" is a great example. 

A young girl was watching her mother bake a ham for a family gathering and noticed her mom cutting off the ends before placing it in the oven. 
“Mom, why do you cut the ends off before baking the ham?” she asked. 
“Hmmm…I think it helps soak up the juices while it’s baking.  I’m actually not sure, though. That’s just the way your grandma always did it, so I’ve just always cut them off. Why don’t you call grandma and ask her?” 
So, the little girl phoned her grandma and asked “Grandma, mom is making a ham and cut off the ends before placing it in the oven. She said that it’s probably to help soak up the juices but wasn’t sure. She said you’d know because she learned how to cook from you.” 
“That’s true. I do cut off the ends of the ham before baking. But I’m actually not sure why either. I learned how to cook from my mom. You should ask her.” 
So, the inquisitive little girl called her great grandmother and asked “Great grandma, mom and grandma said they learned how to cook a ham from watching you. Do you cut off the ends of the ham to help it soak up the juices?” 
The great grandmother chuckled.  “Oh, no sweetie.  I just never had a pan big enough to hold a whole ham, so I always had to cut off the ends to make it fit.” 
A tradition that may have made sense generations ago, but provides no business value now (or even waste like in the story above!) should be discarded and forgotten. 
On the flip side, a tradition can be started just as easily. Especially one that is meant to celebrate and facilitate change in the organization. 
Recognition for being a changemaker (see Zenkai in article about Kaizen above) is a simple tradition that can be started with little to no effort. 

In Summary (tl;dr)

Change will happen whether you like it or not. 

A large part of my job as Commanding Officer is to build a culture that can adapt to and celebrate change. This is not just to ensure that 2947 remains competitive, but also so that we build young leaders that can tackle these challenges in the real world.

Keep adapting, keep improving, and #KeepEvolving Orcas. 

Duty Above All

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Being Successful on Your Summer Course

Hi everyone,

Lt Ng here back on the blog after a long hiatus. I just wanted to summarize a few points and add more detail to what we covered at the Summer Training Success Workshop. 

Remember that we have three goals at Summer Training. They are (in order of importance):

  1. Stay safe and have fun
  2. Learn lots and bring that knowledge home
  3. Going above and beyond in academic achievement on your course

In order to maximize our enjoyment and success on course we need to remember a few key things:

Three Things At All Times: Pen, Paper, Watch

This is the holy trinity of preparedness, not only in summer training, but also at our training at home and life outside of cadets. 

Always have a pen and a notepad in your pocket. If you are given a task, immediately whip out your writing materials so you can take down all details. This achieves two things:
  • It gives you a remember of all critical items of the tasking, because you will forget them at some point. Especially if the task is long or a few hours away.
  • It lets the person giving the briefing know that you are paying attention and are motivated to complete the task well. 
Your watch is your compass, it is your lifeline. If a tasking requires you to be at a location for a certain time, you can measure that. If you are given a deadline, you can measure that. 

If you can't measure something, you can't manage it. Pure and simple. 

Be Better Than On Time

Timing is incredibly important in military life. If you are late by a minute, you might as well be late by three hours. It makes no difference, late is late. 

Aim to have things done early. Five to ten minutes early is great because it gives you breathing room to fix things. 

Ie: Your WO tells you to form up on the road at 0900. You arrive at 0900 and realize you forgot your pen. You run back inside to get your pen, good job you are now late. 

Never be late.

Expect the same from the people whom you lead. Let them know what your expectations are, ask if they understand, and talk them through it if they don't.

Communicate Everything. Absolutely Everything.

Ask your platoon staff if you don't understand something or require more clarification. 

You can't just assume everything will take care of itself.

Remember that when you are at summer training, nobody will be responsible for you but you. Your parents will not be there, older siblings won't be there to look after you. That means, that you have to ask questions if you don't know how to do something. 

Don't know how to iron? Ask a staff cadet to teach you. If they aren't able to, ask someone else. 

The most successful cadets on course, the happiest cadets on course, are the ones who are the best communicators. 

Be Responsible, Be Responsive, Be Better

Always have a handle on everything you own, and everything you've touched. 

Write your name on all pieces of kit with a black sharpie. Write your last name, initial, Company, Platoon, and 2947. 

If something goes wrong, remember it is your responsibility if you are directly involved, and it is the team's responsibility if you are not. It is an individual effort to cover all of your bases, and a team effort to cover everyone else's. 

When an instruction is given out, pay attention and respond loudly and proudly. Give a loud  "Yes Sergeant" "Yes Warrant" "Yes Ma'am/Sir" when an instruction is given. 

2947 prides itself on producing cadets who can do what they were told, do it quickly, and do a damn good job at it.

Remember that doing what you're told is only half the equation. Taking the initiative and going beyond is the second. 

If your staff tell you to make your bed. They will think it's the Four Seasons in Downtown Vancouver when you are done. You will make the bed, then sweep the floor under the bed, straighten your shoes, and clean up your general area. 

Apply this to every task.

Another way for us to "Be Better" is to help out our teammates. More help is always better. Seek out ways that you can help your platoon out, whether it be doing extra to clean your barracks, volunteering during classes, or giving people tips on making their uniforms look good. 

Have Fun and Help Others Have Fun Too

Last and most important is to have a good time. Include others in activities if they seem to be having a hard time adjusting. 

Summer training will be some one of the best moments of your lives, if you let it be. Remember that people are going to be what makes the experience unique. 

Stay safe, don't do anything that will make you miss out on training sitting at the doctor's office. While you're waiting for the nurse with a sprained ankle, your friends are at the water park, or doing sports, or on the range. 

These are the best tips that I can give you. Talk to your NCOs if you ever need help, and have an excellent summer!


Monday, 28 September 2015

September Recap

Hi Everyone,

September was a short month due to a late Labour Day, and it feels like it went by even faster! We've completed all the preparation to dive deeper into our training program now, with our first FTX coming up this weekend! 

For those who are new to the cadet program and new to 2947, welcome! You're on your way to becoming part of 2947's 40-year history of creating Canada's best young leaders. The learning curve is going to be steep, especially if you are a late joiner entering directly into a higher star level. However, I am confident that you will adjust quickly and become a star player in the Cadet Corps.

Since we are early into our training year, I encourage everyone whose best friend is not currently in the Corps to bring their best friend in! Training, learning, and embarking on adventure with your closest friends will make your experience here that much better. 

We have many exciting opportunities kicking off. The Marksmanship Team will be announcing their roster in the coming few training nights, the Drill Team is actively recruiting members to join its Championship winning lineup, and we are actively working to build up our Music program. If you are interested in any of these opportunities please contact the below:

  • WO Lau-Marksmanship
  • WO Fu-Drill
  • WO Zhang-Band
Remember, you have some of the most talented experts in the field leading these programs. All of which will open up more learning experiences for you to get 110% out of your time at 2947.

That's it from me for the month of September. I'd like to wish everyone a happy and safe start to October, and am excited for what types of training we will be offering this month!


J. Ng
Training Officer - 2947 RCACC

Friday, 28 August 2015

Summer 2015 Recap

Summer Training 2015 in Review

I have just read over all your course reports from summer training, and can't express how proud I am of all our cadets who attended summer training this past summer. You have not only impressed your peers, superiors, and instructors at summer training, but have shown Cadets, NCMs, and Officers across Western Canada what you are made of.

We have had another amazingly successful summer. MWO Christy Chow successfully completed the Maple Leaf Exchange with flying colours, and MWO Yolanda Jin has been recommended to coach the National Rifle Team next summer. 

We've had numerous awards over the summer as well:
  • Aman Prakash Rohit - Top in Course, Basic Fitness and Sports
  • Luis Arce Guerrero - Top in Platoon, Basic Musician
  • Jing-er (Joyce) Li - Top in Platoon, Basic Expedition
  • Hecham Hammou Al-Younis - Top in Platoon, General Training
We also have been honoured with the announcement that MWO Christy Chow was named the Top Cadet in British Columbia. 

2947 has a solid history of sweeping awards every summer over the past 20 years, and its all because of you. You are the ones with the boots on the ground, you are the ones who face and overcome challenges, and you are the ones who can proclaim "I am from 2947, I will show you what I'm made of". 

Congratulations again to everyone who attended summer training, we'll be seeing you in two weeks!


J. Ng
Training Officer - 2947 RCACC

Sunday, 18 January 2015

CO's Corner-January 2015

CO's Corner
18 Jan 2015   

Greetings and welcome back to a new year!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas break filled with fun and family and that you are returning to us energized and enthusiastic about the months ahead.

Now in my third month with 2947 RCACC, I find myself honoured to have been given the opportunity to work with you all. It has been my pleasure to be in command at a time when so many cadets became eligible for promotions or awards, not the least of which were the two MGen Howard Awards presentations to MWOs Jin and Chow.

The talent and dedication I see in all of you on a weekly basis is extraordinary and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

There have been a lot of changes since I started – some big and some small – and I want to thank everyone for their commitment to the corps during this (sometimes) difficult transition. 

I can already see things improving now that we have a super-enthusiastic sponsoring committee and that will bring on a lot more changes and opportunities as the year progresses. The future is bright for 2947!

To conclude, I wish you all the best in the new year and look forward to the many adventures we are going to have during our time together.


C.L.W (Christopher) Hamilton
Commanding Officer

Monday, 3 February 2014

Working Relationships - The Senior Levels

That Burning Question

I always hear the same concern from my cadets, that one burning question about their future in their program, especially among the intermediate to senior levels.

Where am I going to end up at the end of my career?

Many cadets have a very focused, singular goal in mind. That is that they want to be the RSM (or equivalent if in another element) of the Unit by the time they age out. And by no means is that a bad goal, it is an excellent goal in fact. I encourage all my students/trainees/cadets to shoot high. However, in this quest to become the best, we often lose sight of the value that we can contribute when we end up in a position other than what we had orginally aimed for.

The reality is that there can be only one RSM/Cox'n/SWO, and when this reality dawns on the cadet, competition becomes fierce. If I could, all my seniors would be the senior cadet of the unit. I truly believe that I work with some of the smartest, most talented, and most purpose-driven young adults in the country. However, being the senior cadet of the unit requires a very special skill set which I will explain later in more detail.

One thing that we must all remember though, is that just because when an individual is selected for the position, it does not mean that you are "worse" than they are, nor does it mean that they are any "better" . It all comes down to fit and how well the individual fits the requirements of the role.

I can not stress enough. Do not devalue yourself. In the following model I propose, I try to define the relationships between the senior positions in the unit.

The Relationships Model

The following model is, in my ideal world, how the senior positions in a medium to large cadet unit should be defined.

Each of the above positions has a defined role, and by extension, that is the critical value that they add to the organization. Note that it is the NCO positions that are in the middle, and for a reason. NCOs are the movers and shakers of the organization, they need to be empowered to make independent decisions on their own, while being given feedback, support, and guidance from officer staff.

The RSM provides the strategic road map for the unit in conjunction with the CO. They should always be answering the questions: Where do we want to be

  • In 1 year, 2 years, 3 years?
  • Beyond my term as a cadet?
  • What do I want the future of this unit to look like?
They are focused on Transformational Leadership, how will they make this unit better and stronger? How can I lead and support my people to achieve the goals that I have set? That is the purpose of this role, and it takes a very unique perspective and personality to be able to do the job well

The CSM should be handling the day-to-day activities of the unit to ensure that they are completed; are the cadets being informed on training? Are section commanders and warrant officers giving adequate guidance and feedback? Are people actually improving? These are topics and concerns that need to not only be answered on a day to day basis, but also asked. Asked to their subordinates, and asked to oneself in a reflective manner.

But what about this TSM character? I will explain the nature of this role in further detail

The TSM - Misused, Misunderstood, Misrepresented

The TSM goes by many names; Training Sergeant Major, Standards Sergeant Major, HQ Sergeant Major, Regulator, etc. But no matter the name, this position is nearly always viewed as a dead-end by cadets and officers alike. Cadets placed in this position typically feel that they are at the end of their rope as far as their career goes, and really this view of what I believe to be the most dynamic position in the cadet unit is justified when officers turn it into a "Make Work" position that adds little value.

As shown in my model above, the TSM is the NCO which is in charge of "Enablement". But what do I mean by this term, which seems quite out of place in a military environment? Enablement is the crafting and provision of the tools which will take you from Point A to Point B; which will achieve the vision of the RSM and Commanding Officer.
It is taking a step back from day to day activities and seeing where the gaps are. Taking this information, feeding it back to the CSM and RSM, and coming up with solutions to implement is where this position adds value

Therefore, it is important to note that treating the TSM position as a place to "dump" a senior NCO is not only a waste of that NCO's talent, but also a waste of the value the position can provide when filled with the right person

The TSM must be considered a Specialist in their field. They must be highly analytical, to be able to see gaps in performance or productivity where others don't. They must be highly creative, to come up with plans, strategies, training material, analytical materials, to solve the problems they find. And thirdly, they need to be excellent business communicators that can not only express the needs of the organization, but can also gain support from their peers and superiors to fulfill these needs.

"The TSM must be a considered a Specialist...They must be highly analytical, creative, and excellent business communicators"

One thing that needs to be stressed too, is that the position of TSM is, and should never be, a "dead-end" position. There should be no automatic pathway to move into the position of RSM from the CSM's position alone. Instead, the RSM's position should be filled by somebody that fits the requirements of the role, no matter their previous position. Experience must also be taken into account, among many other factors, but that is a discussion that needs to be left for another post.

What Now?

We need to shift the way we think about how these top positions interact, and the different types of value that they bring to the table. These jobs are not the same with just varying levels of supervision. They are highly specialized, as they are intended to be, and each drive a very specific value for the unit.

It is only when we realize the true strength that comes from having a defined purpose and scope of duties, that we can really create a successful and strong unit that stands out from the crowd and creates the type of cadets that we truly want.

J. Ng

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

What It Means to Be Competitive

What It Means to Be Competitive

Hello everyone, for my first blog post, I’d like to discuss my views on competition and what I find “being competitive” really entails.

Competition is a huge aspect of my life, and one that I feel everyone should be exposed to at an early age. Many do not really enjoy competition though, particularly Type B personalities. However, I still insist on exposure to competition and a competitive atmosphere because of one simple fact; competition will not go away but only increase as one gets older, especially in our society. You will always have to compete to get into the best schools, to apply for jobs, to advance in your career, in nearly every aspect of life.

I do not see competition as a means to “beat” other people though. To me, having an attitude like that is self-limiting, what is the point of competing when you’re at the top? I’ve summarized what it means to be competitive and the purposes of competition in a few simple points:

1. Being Competitive Means Having a Vision

As an individual, you want to make yourself stand out from the crowd, you want to be the best that you can possibly be. Once you are in a leadership role, you want to make your organizational unit the best out of all others. The most important way to achieve either of these goals is to set a vision.

When a vision is not set by the corps, by the team, by you yourself, there is no progress; you are treading water, desperately trying to keep your head up above the surface when you should be swimming to the next island.

Having a competitive mindset means to always set achievable goals, and striving to make those goals a reality.

2. Competition Means Knowing Where the Bar is Set

Exposure to competition means exposure to experience. When you exclude yourself from competition, you are limiting your perspective to your own little bubble. It doesn’t necessarily mean that one should be a copycat and do whatever the flavor of the month is, but it means that thoughtful observation and reflection should be made.
"When you exclude yourself from competition, you are limiting your perspective..."
“What is it that makes that team/individual win all the time?”, “Can I adapt that to my own style?”, “Have I been doing things wrong?”, these (and more) are questions you should be asking yourself. Being competitive and seeing what you’re up against lets you know where the bar has been set; what the standard of excellence really is. Performance that you may have deemed good for yourself may just be average (or even below!) in the grand scheme of things.

There are countless, I reemphasize, countless cadet units that have never fielded a team to drill competitions. You can instantly tell by the standard of performance that they have set for themselves. You do not lose face when you come back from competition empty-handed, especially if it’s your team’s first time ever. In reality, you’re the biggest winner because you’ve gained the most exposure and experience out of every team there.

At last year’s Provincial Drill Championships, there was only a single team that represented the Northern BC region. They competed in the small team division but their performance fell quite far behind all others. But in the end it didn’t matter. Competing for the first time means swallowing your ego, putting your best effort in, and making learning your primary objective.

3. Competition Means Ownership

Ownership is expressed two ways when competing, both of which are important. When you compete you should own the competition itself (I call this external ownership) and own your performance (I call this internal ownership).

External ownership is a state of mind to deliver your best performance, regardless of all external factors. It is a very hard concept to put into words. It is a mixture of confidence and charisma, being able to fill the area with your presence. When a team owns the drill floor, the range, the court, the ski hill, they don’t care how strong the other team is. They don’t care what mistakes they’ve made in the past. What they care about is making the competition theirs, they own the area, they own the podium.

Internal responsibility is a reflective experience and comes after the active portion of the competition. It is once again, ownership regardless of all external factors. Owning your performance is looking at where you have made mistakes and where you could have improved. It is assuming responsibility, which is vital to developing strong leadership skills. Say for example, you are a section commander at the local unit, you need to own the performance of both yourself and your section. It is being responsible for every small detail that can be improved upon, and taking action to improve them.

4. Competition Means Constant Improvement

No matter what one competes in, whether it is a formal competition or an ongoing process, competition means constant improvement and constant evolution. The question is then, how? One needs two things, a willingness to find new strategies and approaches to find that extra 1% of improvement, as well and a coach with an eye for detail and alternative ways of implementing these strategies.

For those that are unfamiliar with it, I’d like to introduce the concept of kaizen. This is a Japanese philosophy of constant, perpetual improvement, no matter how small. When on the range, it can mean shooting 1 point higher on average every practice. If you are a runner, even one tenth of a second faster on each practice soon adds up.

I’d like to take this concept further, and the end goal of performance to be perfection, yet knowing that perfection is impossible to attain. It may be hard to understand and apply for some younger readers on here, but it is putting the value in the journey itself that makes the improvement worthwhile. The goal of shining your boots every day isn’t just to have extremely shiny boots, it is to make you a more disciplined and hard-working person. It isn’t the end result that matters as much as how much you improve each time.

The last point that I’d like to make is on the idea of constantly evolving. That means constantly accepting and adapting to change as it occurs, not just in the rules of the game (as in formal competition), but in what life throws at you. The greatest resistors to change in any organization are always the first ones to be left behind. Instead, lead the curve, and be ahead of the game.

Ultimately, competition has little to do with your competitors and almost everything to do with yourself. It is game in which there are only winners, yet has no real ending. The intent of competing should always be to better yourself, no matter your level, and to raise your standard of excellence on a continuous basis. Never settle for good enough, because there will always be “better”. Own your performance so that you can own the podium.

Responsibility and adaptation go a long way and separates the elite from B-Grade competitors. Always remember, sometimes you medal, sometimes you don’t, but regardless you should always be learning, because that’s what matters the most.