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Combating the effects of turnover: Military lessons learned from project teams rebuilding Iraq

By Charles Y. Murnieks, Scot T. Allen and Claudia J. Ferrante


The literature concerning turnover has traditionally been composed of studies and analyses which assume that turnover rates are malleable, and can be reduced. We take the opposite position and contend that turnover rates for certain organizations are not variable, but rather remain fixed. Is it possible, then, to reduce the deleterious effects of turnover without reducing the actual churn of individuals? To answer this question, we draw from experiences of the U.S. military during Operation Iraqi Freedom, in order to learn from its methods of dealing with high personnel turnover during the management of projects. Specifically, we offer four best practices that reduce the negative effects of turnover, while allowing the rate itself to remain constant. These best practices aim toward sharing the knowledge and mental models critical for sustained operations, to insulate the organization against the departure of key personnel. Herein, we demonstrate how efficient operations can be maintained amidst high churn rates.Turnover Military Mental models Personnel rotation

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