Leadership Team Workshop | 1–2 Dec 18

Each quarter the team of volunteers that helps coordinate DEF at the national level gets together to refine processes, review goals and increase our impact. This workshop’s notes are recounted by Morgan Plummer, our Executive Director.

Hey DEF Network!

I hope this note finds each of you well; I wanted to provide some additional details about what was discussed during our recent DEF National Leadership Team (LT) Workshop that occurred in Arlington, VA on December 1st and 2nd. I hope you find this information illuminating and that this helps provide some more context both for what the LT does as volunteers and the types of things we’re thinking about!

We went into the workshop with the intent to discuss each of the following topics; we made some pretty good headway on each!

After we discussed some business processes to make the LT (and DEF as a whole) more effective, we conducted an assessment on our Calendar Year 2018 organizational goals. Then we built out new organizational goals to achieve in 2019. Although DEF has already become a very different organization over the last year, we decided that we wanted to ‘roll-over’ some tasks from 2018 since there was still some remaining work to be done. The group went through several, iterative exercises to arrive at the DRAFT Goals below:

Develop Successful Systems and Processes that Enable Organizational Scaling; as DEF continues to grow, we want to make sure we build the systems and processes we need to keep pace with our member growth and ensure an awesome experience for everyone.

Develop Feedback Mechanisms Between the LT and the Community; we need to make sure that the LT is always working on providing value directly back to the membership that it serves, and we need to build systems that make sure that’s always true.

Reinforce Cultural Norms and Standards of Conduct; as DEF’s membership continues to grow and change, it’s worth taking the time to reinforce DEF’s value proposition, culture and community norms to help transform individuals into a vibrant community with shared expectations of one another.

Develop a Sustainable Business Model; DEF was able to achieve some extraordinary financial goals in 2018, but we’ll need to build out some enduring models for event and organizational sponsorship to ensure future success.

Strengthen the Network through Broad and Deep Engagement; we’ve grown our membership by exponential factors in 2018; now we want to deepen our engagement with certain segments to make sure we’re achieving maximum impact.

Increase the Value of National Programs to Members; DEF v3.0 reinforces the idea that we need to transform community ideas into impact and that our National Programs are among the major benefits that we confer back to our members. We need to make that notion a reality in 2019.

I also introduced the idea of a DEF Congress; a standing, deliberative and advisory body that would help ensure a more direct connection between the work of the LT and the wants, desires and needs of the DEF Community. In general, the group seemed to be against this notion without knowing more about how it would function, who would serve on it, and what measures would be taken to avoid adding additional layers of bureaucracy to DEF. Many, though not all, seemed open to piloting the idea with a discrete set of tasks to assess its potential value.

Additionally, there was substantive discussion about whether DEF has set its first principles and whether those cultural norms are widely understood. In general, the group seemed to hold the opinion that first principles have been decided (i.e., the identity of DEF is clear) but that we need to do a much better job of communicating culture to and within the community. This led to the creation of a CY19 Goal to address this specific issue and insistence that I share my full, DEF v3.0 Vision with the community at the earliest opportunity.

…we need to do a much better job of communicating culture to and within the community.

Finally, the group received a status update on our current National Programs including what was formerly Cloud Advisory, the Firestarter Fellowship, and Gutenberg. The group then provided feedback directly to the program leads that included questions, needed points of clarification, and suggestions for improvement. I also provided some general guidance to the National Programs team that included the pre-requisites for launching a National Program and ensuring a solid connection between each program and the community it is meant to benefit.

We’ll convene again in January 2019 to flesh out the objectives and tasks that must be done to accomplish our DRAFT goals and should have the agenda and dates identified soon. If you think you have something meaningful to contribute to how DEF is operating, I hope you’ll consider joining us!

My thanks to everyone that showed up in December and a very special thanks to Ben Bain, who served as our facilitator.

Keep disrupting,


The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that inspires, connects and empowers people by convening events, forging partnerships and delivering tangible solutions. Our mission is to promote a culture of innovation in the U.S. national security community.

If you are a military member or veteran, government employee, entrepreneur focused on national security, or just find the idea of helping solve tough problems enticing, we’d love to have you join the DEF Community!



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